Increasing mental health services and financial aid for the University of Hawaiʻi are being discussed at the state Legislature. And UH Mānoa’s undergraduate student government is drumming up student support for the bills.
The Associated Students of the University of Hawaiʻi (ASUH) hosted a testimony writing session at UH Mānoa Campus Center on Thursday, February 6. They provided more than 30 students in attendance with information and guidance on crafting messages for lawmakers in support of bills which back additional mental healthcare services on campus and lower tuition costs for qualified students. ASUH President Landon Li said the student government group has held testimony writing sessions in the past, but this session provided a different focus.
“I believe they were on different issues, some were just general education testimony. But this time, we’re doing kind of a targeted approach where we want to not only educate about the testimony writing process, but also about what legislative priorities we would like students to testify on,” Li said.
Bills being discussed call for appropriating funds for additional psychiatrist, psychologist and counselor positions across the University of Hawaiʻi. The International Accreditation of Counseling Services recommends a ratio of one mental health professional for every 1,000–1,500 students. UH Mānoa needs at least five more positions to meet the criteria.
Other bills seek to expand the Hawaiʻi Promise program, which currently assists approximately 1,400 community college students, who qualify for resident tuition, annually by providing the “last dollar” needed to cover education costs. These bills look to expand the program to qualified students with financial need attending four-year campuses at UH Mānoa, UH Hilo and UH West Oʻahu.
“We have been meeting with key legislators, such as the chairpersons of the budget committees and education committees in both the House and the Senate to make sure that these bills move forward and get hearings,” Li said. “We’re going to be at every single budget hearing in both the Senate and the House to make sure that the Promise program and the mental health care line items do receive student testimony and physical presence from the students.”