University of Hawai'i works to close college achievement gap

UH President David McClain and 18 other leaders of state college and university systems participate in "Access to Success," a joint effort of the Nation

University of Hawaiʻi
Carolyn Tanaka, (808) 956-8109
Associate Vice President
Posted: Nov 2, 2007

HONOLULU — The National Association of System Heads (NASH), in partnership with The Education Trust, announced last month a major multi-state initiative to increase the number of college-educated Americans and ensure that graduates include far more young people from low-income and minority families. The University of Hawaiʻi System is one of 19 university and college systems participating in the NASH "Access to Success" initiative.

The initiative‘s goals are to improve overall student success and, by the year 2015, close the gaps by at least half in both college-going and degree completion that separate low-income and minority students from others. Each university system has particular gaps that it hopes to close.

"This initiative is in line with our public agenda for higher education in the state of Hawai'i," said UH Acting President John Morton. "It supports a number of steps we have already taken to improve access through financial aid and various other programs while providing us with a strong network to collaboratively collect and analyze data to increase our effectiveness in achieving our goals."

Disparities exist within the University of Hawaiʻi System in graduation and retention rates by ethnicity. For example, the average six year graduation and retention rate for Hawaiian/part-Hawaiian students is 52 percent at UH Mānoa; the overall graduation and retention rates for the Asian/Pacific Islander category is 68 percent. At UH Hilo, the average six year graduation and retention rate for Hawaiian/part-Hawaiian students is 33 percent; the overall average for the Asian/Pacific Islander category is 37 percent.

UH, in conjunction with Access to Success partners, will work to identify roadblocks that suppress retention, improve student success rates in introductory and developmental courses, re-examine and re-focus the ways financial aid resources are being utilized to assist target groups, and work with K-12 institutions to ensure improvement in college preparatory classes.

The partner universities will work to uniformly publish the data on all students served at their institutions, not just traditional, full-time students. It will also provide a common set of metrics that will define a system‘s success in the real context of economic and racial/ethnic diversity of its state‘s citizens, in turn making data more visible and higher educational systems more accountable to its citizens.

After the analysis of data, best practices will be shared widely across the systems and each college or university will be responsible for designing and implementing a plan to meet the goals of the initiative by the target deadline.

"Increasing access and success for low-income and minority students is essential to restoring the promise of public higher education," said Kati Haycock, President of The Education Trust. "Because these systems educate such a large proportion of the country‘s undergraduates," Haycock said, "they are well-positioned to drive America‘s higher education conversation about 'excellence' and 'equity.'"

The systems participating (see list below) educate about 2 million students, about 12 percent of the nation‘s total and about a third of all low-income and minority undergraduates at four-year colleges.

NASH is the association of chief executives for 52 college and university systems of public higher education in the United States. The Education Trust was created to promote high-academic achievement for all students and at all levels, from pre-kindergarten through college. The Trust works with colleges and universities that are most often left behind in plans to improve education—those serving African-American, Latino, Native American and low-income students.

To lean more about the Access for Success Initiative, visit The Education Trust website at

Participating Institutions:

California State University System, City University of New York, Connecticut State University System, State University System of Florida, University of Hawai'i System, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, University of Louisiana System, University of Maine System, University System of Maryland, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, University of Missouri System
Montana University System, University of Puerto Rico System, Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, South Dakota Board of Regents, Southern University and A&M College System, State University of New York, Vermont State Colleges

For more information, visit: