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Hawaii CC-Palamanui campus
(Photo by Thatcher Moats)

The University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges are the most affordable two-year public higher education institutions in the nation, according to the 2016 College Affordability Diagnosis by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education

“The community colleges are critical in providing access to higher education within UH,” said UH Vice President of Community Colleges John Morton. “As the study points out, we work toward being affordable and we are also committed to having cost not be a barrier for any Hawaiʻi resident attending the community colleges.”

Hawaiʻi ranked as the third overall for most affordable state when considering the percentage of family income required for residents to finance the full cost of a public higher education. UH Mānoa puts Hawaiʻi in 5th place among states in providing affordable access to a public research university education, and the state ranks 7th in affordable access to a public, four-year, nondoctoral institution through UH Hilo and UH West Oʻahu

“The University of Hawaiʻi is committed to improving the well-being of current and future generations through access to affordable high-quality higher education.” said UH President David Lassner. “This study reflects our campuses’ success in maintaining affordability across the UH System in the dynamic and challenging environment facing public higher education across the nation.”

Room for improvement

Like all states, Hawaiʻi lost ground on affordability of public higher education as state investment per student declined through the great recession. The study notes that Hawaiʻi ranks low among states in providing financial aid to low-income students. Most states operate substantial state scholarship programs, but the primary source of such aid in Hawaiʻi is a set aside within UH through which a minimum of 10 percent of tuition received is allocated to need-based scholarships on each campus.

The study also confirms that Hawaiʻi needs to increase the percentage of working age adults with degrees and certificates to meet its workforce needs. By 2020, 70 percent of jobs will require an associate degree or higher, and today only 44 percent of the workforce holds such credentials. UH is an active partner in the 55 by 25 campaign launched by the Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education that has set a goal to increase the number of Hawaiʻi’s working age adults with two-year or four-year college degrees to 55 percent by the year 2025.

“Increasing educational attainment in Hawaiʻi’s population is an imperative for our state and one of the highest priorities of the UH System,” said Lassner. “We have set ambitious goals to boost college completion and are working on multiple fronts through the Hawaiʻi Graduation Initiative to meet those goals.”

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