Driven by large enrollment gains at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, enrollment for the University of Hawaiʻi 10-campus system increased for the first time in a decade. The fall 2021 systemwide headcount credit enrollment of 49,773 students is a 0.4% increase compared to fall 2020. This bucks the nationwide trend of downward enrollment since 2010 that has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four UH schools saw enrollment increases: UH Mānoa, UH Hilo, Leeward Community College and Windward Community College. Overall enrollment at UH’s seven community colleges is down 3.2% less than the national trends of 9.5% decreases last year.
“This is no small feat. Turning against a national trend that has been exacerbated by the pandemic is a testament to our faculty, staff and administrators who have been working tirelessly to improve the educational experience for our students in extremely trying times,” said UH President David Lassner. “We are also proud of our students who have shown resilience and perseverance to continue their higher education pathways in the face of so many obstacles created by COVID-19.”
UH Mānoa sees largest enrollment increase since 2003
UH Mānoa saw its largest enrollment increase since 2003, with a 6% jump from fall 2020 to fall 2021. Enrollment is higher than 19,000 for the first time since 2014 with 19,098 students enrolled. UH Mānoa enrollment Is up across nearly every category including resident, continental U.S, transfer and international students.
The flagship research campus of the UH System also welcomed its largest first-time freshman class in history. The 2,939 new students represent a 34% increase from fall 2020 and the fourth straight freshman class with more than 2,000 students. The average GPA of the incoming freshman class was 3.68, up from 3.65 last year.
UH Hilo first enrollment increase since 2012
UH Hilo enrollment was up for the first time since 2012, with a 2.5% increase. There are 3,243 students enrolled at UH Hilo including 459 first time freshmen, the second highest since 2013 and only three students shy of last year’s record freshman class.
UH Hilo enrollment was also buoyed by a significant increase in transfer students (20.8%) and students who returned to finish their degrees after leaving school because of the pandemic.
UH West Oʻahu tops 3,000 students for fifth-straight year
UH West Oʻahu saw a 5.1% decrease to 3,008 students, just 160 fewer students compared to the record high reached in fall 2020. It’s also the fifth straight year enrollment has topped 3,000 students. Ever since the new campus opened in Kapolei in 2012, UH West Oʻahu has been providing much greater access to higher education to communities that were once among the most underserved in the state.
The returning student population remains strong year over year with 1,891 students in 2021, a 0.6% increase from 2020.
Community colleges outperform national peers
The 24,424 students enrolled at UH’s seven community colleges in fall 2021 represent a 3.2% decrease compared to fall 2020. In past recessions, community college enrollment increased dramatically as people sought training for new jobs. However, the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have been accompanied by decreased community college enrollment, nationwide and in Hawaiʻi. Concerns about health, child and family care, finances, navigating online learning, and future job opportunities have suppressed enrollment.
Nonetheless, two of the seven UH community colleges saw increases in enrollment. Enrollment is up 3.8% at Windward CC and 0.8% at Leeward CC. The Leeward CC enrollment of 6,413 is second only to UH Mānoa within the UH System.
Given high unemployment rates during COVID-19 pandemic while many jobs remain unfilled, UH Community Colleges have increased efforts to provide short term job training in targeted areas. UH community colleges provided 15,861 trainings in 2020-21 through its non-credit non-degree programs, many supported by federal and philanthropic funds. Free or subsidized training for unemployed or underemployed residents is actively underway through programs such as Oʻahu Back to Work which is sponsored by the City and County of Honolulu and has trained 550 participants since August 2021.
Early College continues to grow
Local high school students participating in the free Early College program increased by 3.4% over fall 2020. Across the state, 2,959 students are taking UH courses and earning college credits that also count toward their high school degree. The partnership between UH and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education is supported by the Hawaiʻi State Legislature.
Research shows that students who participate in dual credit programs such as Early College are more likely to do better in high school and then attend and finish college.
UH fall 2021 headcount enrollment compared to fall 2020
- UH System—49,773 students (+0.4%)
- UH Mānoa—19,098 (+6%)
- UH West Oʻahu—3,008 (-5.1%)
- UH Hilo—3,243 (+2.5%)
- UH Community Colleges—24,424 (-3.2%)
- Hawaiʻi Community College—2,248 (-7.5%)
- Honolulu Community College—3,210 (-5%)
- Kapiʻolani Community College—6,100 (-4.2%)
- Kauaʻi Community College—1,343 (-8.1%)
- Leeward Community College—6,413 (+0.8%)
- UH Maui College—2,724 (-7.2%)
- Windward Community College—2,386 (+3.8%)