Enrollment at the University of Hawaiʻi 10-campus system decreased slightly in fall 2022 while graduation rates continue to rise at the state’s only public higher education system. There are 48,373 students currently enrolled at UH, down from 49,773 students in 2021, a 2.8% decrease. Contributing to the decline in total enrollment is the record high on-time graduation rates for first-time, full-time freshmen at seven of UH’s ten campuses—UH Mānoa, UH Hilo, UH West Oʻahu, Honolulu Community College, Kauaʻi CC, Leeward CC and Windward CC.
“Our students, faculty and support staff have done an amazing job of maintaining focus on paths to graduation through the last two years of the pandemic,” said UH President David Lassner. “And as we graduate students more rapidly, our total enrollment will go down unless we bring in more new students each year.”
Enrollment dip tracks national trends
Enrollment fell by 1.1% nationally in fall 2022, according to preliminary data and has been trending downward since reaching a record high in 2010–11 after the Great Recession.
UH Mānoa (-0.1%) and Windward Community College (-0.1%) saw the smallest headcount enrollment decrease in fall 2022, while UH Maui College (-9.3%) and UH Hilo (-8.2%) experienced the largest. The biggest declines across the UH System were in transfer students (-12%), undergraduate students (-4.9%) and graduate students (-20% at UH Hilo and -2.7% at UH Mānoa).
First-time students increase for 2nd straight year
There were 7,201 first-time freshmen enrolled at UH campuses in fall 2022, a 2.7% increase from 2021 that followed a 6.4% increase from 2020. First-time students also increased, from 8,073 in fall 2021 to 8,185 in fall 2022 (+1.4%). First-time students include first-time freshmen at all UH campuses as well as unclassified and other non-traditional students enrolled at the UH Community Colleges. Up until last year, the number of first-time students had decreased nine out of the previous 10 years. The high number of first-time students in fall 2022 provides a solid foundation for UH enrollment as long as retention rates and student recruitment efforts remain steady.
UH Mānoa sees largest freshman class and highest graduation rates in its history
There are 19,074 students enrolled at UH Mānoa in fall 2022, just 24 fewer students compared to fall 2021 for a 0.1% decline. UH’s flagship campus welcomed its largest-ever freshman class of 3,106 students, exceeding 3,000 for the very first time. That’s a 5.7% increase from last year’s previous record high. The average GPA for this year’s freshman class is 3.69, up slightly from 2021. There were also increases in Native Hawaiian/part-Hawaiian students (12.8% of total enrollment vs.12.2% in 2021) and Filipino students (11.5% vs. 11.0% in 2021).
Related: UH Mānoa welcomes largest freshman class ever, celebrates highest graduation rate, October 2022
UH Mānoa’s four-year graduation rate is at 44%, a record high for the 12th straight year. Throughout that period, the percentage has gone up by 26.6. The six-year graduation rate also reached a record high 62.3%.
“This is tremendous news for the Mānoa campus as we continue to improve in multiple areas that ultimately have a positive impact on our current and future students,” said UH Mānoa Provost Michael Bruno. “I am especially proud of our graduation rates, but our work is far from over as we ensure that our students not only graduate in a timely manner but are ready to make a difference and contribute to our state and society.”
Full impact of UH Community Colleges
There are 23,409 credit students enrolled at UH’s seven community colleges, a 4.2% drop compared to a year ago. Enrollment fell nationally by 0.4% in fall 2022, according to preliminary data. Public two-year colleges across the country had seen about a 23% decline in enrollment from 2018 to 2022. UH community colleges experienced a 12.7% decline over the same period.
Along with credit certificate programs, two-year degrees and transfer opportunities to four year schools, UH community colleges increasingly provide short-term workforce training and non-credit programs, which are not counted in the official enrollment numbers required by the federal government. For example, there were 10,882 students served by the UH community colleges over the past year not included in the official enrollment numbers. About 5,150 of those students were enrolled in non-credit workforce programs of 15 or more hours, primarily apprenticeship programs in the skilled trades. About 3,080 were enrolled in community education programs.
“The community colleges will continue to develop and align non-credit workforce courses and programs with the credit side to provide students with a pathway to higher level degrees and upskilling opportunities,” said VP for UH Community Colleges Erika Lacro. “We have to continually adjust to make sure we are providing our communities and residents with the educational opportunities that are right for them while meeting the state’s workforce needs.”
The UH Community Colleges saw record highs in on-time graduation at 13.8%, a 3.7 percentage point increase from 2021, and success rates (including students who transfer to four-year schools) at 19.5%, a 2.5 percentage point increase from 2021. Six of the seven colleges saw increases in on-time graduation for first-time, full-time freshmen, compared to last year, and five saw increases in the success rate for first-time, full-time freshmen, with some campuses experiencing historic bests.
UH West Oʻahu
There are 2,913 students enrolled at UH West Oʻahu in 2022, down 3.2% compared to 2021. UH West Oʻahu avoided a larger drop in enrollment through a student recruitment campaign that included email reminders, postcards, social media posts, two-way texting and phone calls. The school estimates that the campaign resulted in 204 continuing students re-enrolling for the fall semester and 93 first time freshmen.
“The success of our touchpoint campaign is due in large part to a campus-wide effort by faculty, administrative and operational staff members joining the good work of our enrollment and student services team,” said UH West Oʻahu Chancellor Maenette Benham.
UH West Oʻahu also set a new record in its four-year graduation rate at 28.6%, a 5.6 percentage point increase from the previous high last year’s. The four-year graduation rate has been on a steady rise since 2013.
UH Hilo enrollment dropped 8.2% year-to-year to 2,977 students while setting a record high four-year graduation rate (30.1%) and maintaining relative stability in its six-year graduation rate (42.5%). UH Hilo serves many community college transfer students and achieved a record high four-year graduation rate (59.0%) for full-time transfer students.
Hawaiʻi Island’s only four-year university is up year-to-year in enrollment of Early Admit students with an 89% increase, and in first-generation students by 3.6%. UH Hilo had its biggest drop in enrollment in graduate students with a 20% decrease.
A new director of admissions will be charged with focusing on increasing recruitment, after a period of transition during COVID-19.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, UH Hilo is returning to our hallmark hands-on experiences; these will one again bring more students to our campus,” said UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin.
Record high early college enrollments
Early College courses in which local high school students take UH courses for college credit while earning high school credit are classified formally as “Early Admit.” This enrollment is at an all-time high systemwide with a 22% increase over last year. There are some 3,500 Hawaiʻi high school students currently enrolled with the majority of students enrolled in a UH community college and a Hawaiʻi public high school through a partnership with the Hawaiʻi Department of Education supported with state funding.
Data locally and nationally shows that high school students who earn college credits while in high school are more likely to enroll in college after they graduate, persist through college, and graduate with a college degree. The impact is even greater for economically disadvantaged, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Island students.
“Early College provides students with rigorous academic opportunities while they’re still in high school, giving students and their families the confidence and momentum to continue successfully into postsecondary education,” said Lassner. “This is particularly important for first-generation students—those whose parents did not attend college—and those who are underrepresented in higher education.”
Fall 2022 enrollment fast facts:
UH System total: 48,373 (-2.8% change from fall 2021)
- UH Mānoa: 19,074 (-0.1% change)
- UH Hilo: 2,977 (-8.2% change)
- UH West Oʻahu: 2,913 (-3.2% change)
UH Community Colleges: 23,409 (-4.2%)
- Hawaiʻi CC: 2,127 (-5.4% change)
- Honolulu CC: 3,069 (-4.4% change)
- Kapiʻolani CC: 5,828 (-4.5% change)
- Kauaʻi CC: 1,308 (-2.6% change)
- Leeward CC: 6,221 (-3.0% change)
- UH Maui College: 2,472 (-9.3% change)
- Windward CC: 2,384 (-0.1% change
UH graduation rates (*record high)
UH Mānoa 4 year: *44.1%, 6 year: *62.3%
UH Hilo 4 year: *30.1% (up 5 percentage points from 2021), 6 year: 42.5%
UH West Oʻahu 4 year: *28.6%, 6 year: 32.7%
UH Community Colleges:
- *13.8%—On-time graduation
- *19.5%—Success rate (including students who transfer to four-year school)
- 15.1%—On-time graduation
- 17.2%—Success rate (including students who transfer to four-year school)
- *18.2%—On-time graduation
- *26.5%—Success rate (including students who transfer to four-year school)
- 8.8%— On-time graduation
- 13.8%—Success rate (including students who transfer to four-year school)
- *17.9%—On-time graduation
- 24.6%—Success rate (including students who transfer to four-year school)
- *14.8%—On-time graduation
- *21.9%—Success rate (including students who transfer to four-year school)
UH Maui College:
- 12.7%—On-time graduation
- 18.1%—Success rate (including students who transfer to four-year school)
- *14.7%—On-time graduation
- 19.3%—Success rate (including students who transfer to four-year school)