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Hawaiʻi is among the nation’s best when it comes to community college students who transfer to a four-year university and earn their bachelor’s degrees, according to a report by the Community College Research Center. The 10-campus UH system is the sole provider of public higher education in the state.

The report found that 58% of UH community college students in 2015 who transferred to UH Mānoa, UH Hilo or UH West Oʻahu earned a bachelorʻs degree within six years. Hawaiʻi is one of only eight states to have outperformed the national average, and also had a 57% completion rate for UH transfer students from low-income families, 5% above the national average for this population.

“The data is clear that we are succeeding with our community college transfer pathways and there is still more to be done,” said UH President David Lassner. “It is a priority because the community college pathway to a four year degree makes higher education highly affordable and accessible.”

The data is clear that we are succeeding with our community college transfer pathways and there is still more to be done.
UH President Lassner

Those with a four year UH degree earn $2.8 million more over their lifetime, according to a University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO) study released in January 2024. A national 2024 report by The Centers for Opportunity and Social Mobility came to the same conclusion adding that four-year degrees continue to be associated with significant economic and non-economic benefits for individuals and communities.

“The University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges have worked hard to improve transfer rates to four-year institutions,” said Erika Lacro, UH vice president for community colleges. “A number of strategies around student support and better coordination with our four-year university partners have clearly helped improve the pathways to success for our students looking to pursue a four-year degree program.”

UH is requesting additional funding to expand the Hawaiʻi Promise scholarship program to UH Mānoa, UH West Oʻahu and UH Hilo, which will lead to more community college students being able to afford transfer to a four-year school to complete their bachelorʻs degree and attain the many associated economic and social benefits. Hawaiʻi Promise launched in 2017 for students at UH’s seven community colleges and only provides financial aid to those who qualify for federal financial assistance (Read more about the request).

Nationally, 16% of community college students transferred to a four-year school and earned a bachelor degree in six years. Hawaiʻi is 23rd in the nation at 13%. One reason Hawaiʻi is below the national average is that not all community colleges across the country offer career and technical education (CTE) (carpentry, automotive, culinary, welding, etc), which are two-year degree or certification programs. About 44% of UH community college students in 2023 were enrolled in CTE programs offered at the seven UH community colleges.

The Community College Research report was released in collaboration with the Aspen Institute and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center and looked at transfer outcomes of students transferring from a community college in the 2015–16 academic year. The findings are part of the 2024 Tracking Transfer reports, which offer a state-by-state breakdown of transfer outcomes, focusing on race/ethnicity, neighborhood income and age.

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