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Hawaiʻi hit record 22.3 percent unemployment in April, putting local residents and families at risk, and the University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO) estimates that the state’s total employment rate, as well as its unemployment rate, will not return to its pre-pandemic level until 2029, highlighting the importance of social safety net programs, and job re-training and education programs.

Unemployment website

To help prospective students who are furloughed or unemployed, the UH Community Colleges have announced the new Kūlia Scholarship for individuals whose employment has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. An associate’s degree from a UH Community College provides opportunities for different kinds of employment, advancement and more resiliency during tough times. An associate’s degree also makes an average difference of $360,000 over a lifetime of living and working in Hawaiʻi compared to a high school diploma, according to a 2016 UHERO report (PDF).

The Kūlia Scholarship will support individuals who are striving to develop new skills or earn a degree. 500 scholarships for one free class (up to 3 credits) at any of the seven UH Community Colleges are available, including fees and required books (valued up to $500). The UH Community Colleges have a range of programs and have already been ranked as the most affordable community colleges in the nation.

To be eligible for a Kūlia Scholarship, recipients must:

  • Be Hawaiʻi residents
  • Not have attended UH in the last two years
  • Be furloughed or laid off from their full-time job due to COVID-19 impacts

Priority will be given to those who are pursuing their first degree or industry-recognized credential. Applications are due by August 10.

“The past few months have been like no other time in history and we recognize the challenges that are facing our Hawaiʻi residents,” said Erika Lacro, vice president for the UH Community Colleges. “As employment situations are changing, the Kūlia Scholarship will help Hawaiʻi residents choose education as they consider their options going forward. Also, financial aid, such as the Hawaiʻi Promise scholarship, is always available to qualified students.”

The UH Community Colleges have also extended the deadline to apply for the fall 2020 semester to August 10. Applications to any of the seven UH community colleges across the state can be made online. High school students interested in Early College or Running Start classes should still follow their high schools’ deadlines for application.

Students choose UH community colleges for many reasons ranging from affordability and convenience to range of workforce preparation options. UHERO said “On average, for each $1 a UH student invests in their associate’s degree, they receive $13.84 in increased lifetime earnings.” Other research in the report points to other possible non-monetary benefits including life satisfaction, voting participation and the academic performance of graduates’ children.

Apply for the Kūlia Scholarship today.

Apply to a UH Community College today.

—By Kelli Trifonovitch

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