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Gino Paulino emigrated from the Philippines with his family when he was two years old. He is a Navy veteran who always dreamed of going to college.

“For me, going to college was a way to kind of put my foot in the door in terms of what I wanted to do as a career,” said Paulino.

He went to school under the GI Bill, studying at Leeward Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in social sciences in the spring of 2013. He wants to be naval aviator.

Paulino’s hard earned degree was one of 11,278 degrees and certificates awarded by the UH System in the 2013–14 academic year, a 13 percent increase over the previous year. It is also the highest number of diplomas and certificates ever awarded by UH in an academic year. UH Mānoa awarded nearly 5,000 degrees and certificates, while the UH Community Colleges awarded 5,200. UH West Oʻahu and UH Hilo awarded nearly 1,200 degrees total.

UH President David Lassner credits the dedication of the university’s 10 campuses. “It’s the result of their hard work across the state,” said Lassner. “We have a variety of techniques that we’ve used, such as 15 to Finish. We’ve created pathways for all of our degree programs, we’ve focused on advising services and altogether, what that’s done is helped all of our campuses focus on helping more students succeed and helping them succeed faster.”

UH awarded 11,278 degrees and certificates in the 2013–14 academic year, a 13 percent increase over the previous year.

“Universities and colleges, we were very much focused on access. Everyone should have the opportunity to get into college,” added Joanne Itano, UH System interim executive vice president for academic affairs. “The focus now has changed to completion. We need to get them out of college.”

The university’s Hawaiʻi Graduation Initiative aims to grow Hawaiʻi’s highly skilled workforce to maintain the economic vitality of the state and the nation. The initiative’s 55 by ’25 program is working to increase to 55 percent, the number of working age adults who have two- or four-year degrees by 2025.

“As we graduate more students, we also have to make sure that we’re increasing our enrollment on the front end by paying attention to recruitment and bringing in new students and reaching out to the communities that have been underserved for many years,” said Lassner.

“Coming from Hawaiʻi, especially on the west side of the island, having a college degree here means everything,” said Paulino. “Kids on this side of the island are growing up with this campus in their backyard and the idea that an education is not only accessible to them now, but realistic. It kind of plants the seed in the heads of the people that are over here, to kind of show them that it’s possible to have a dream.”

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