Group: University of Hawaii fiscal woes hurting students, faculty

LEAD: Imua Manoa, a new group of faculty, staff and students at University of Hawaii, are demanding better leadership
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LEAD: Imua Manoa, a new group of faculty, staff and students at University of Hawaii, are demanding better leadership
LEAD: Imua Manoa, a new group of faculty, staff and students at University of Hawaii, are demanding better leadership

HONOLULU — Students and faculty at the University of Hawaii are joining forces to try to force solutions to the system’s spiraling financial crisis.

The University of Hawaii hiked tuition by 108 percent from 2006 to 2012, and will increase tuition another 33 percent between 2013 and 2017.


Annual tuition for a general undergraduate student will climb from $4,522 in 2007 to $11,376 in the 2016-2017 school year.

A newly formed group of students, faculty and staff, I Mua Mānoa, said students are not getting the value they deserve at the University’s flagship campus, the University of Hawaii-Manoa. Imua is the Hawaiian word for “going forward.”

Part of the problem is the university is in the midst of a budget crisis, the group’s members said, and as a result, faculty and staff are being laid off.

“We cannot give the attention we were giving up until now, and I think they (the students) deserve much better than what they are getting now,” said Monique Chyba, a full professor of mathematics at the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus.

Fewer instructors, Chyba said, mean larger classes — some have 120 students, and even that could grow.

Interim Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman lays the problem squarely at the feet of Hawaii’s lawmakers. The Hawaii Legislature allocates about $1 billion a year to the semi-autonomous university, but more is needed, Bley-Vroman said.

Bley-Vroman took the position just a few weeks ago after Chancellor Tom Apple was fired.

“The big picture is the overall funding has declined. Tuition is increasing. We work with far fewer resources than we used to, and that impacts everyone,” Bley-Vroman said.

While additional tuition hikes are not out of the question, many faculty, staff and students say another tuition increase is unwarranted.

Marguerite Butler, associate professor of biology, said students aren’t seeing a solid return on their tuition investment.

“The students are not seeing any benefit from the extra money that they are paying. We feel that is wrong,” Butler said. “To make it even worse, the quality of their instruction is going down because you have to serve more people with the same resources, the product will be worse.”

Students say they’re frustrated not just by tuition costs, but also because they cannot get the classes they need to graduate, which means they spend more time at the university and pay more for their degree.

The University of Hawaii-Manoa has about 20,000 students, including 14,500 undergraduates. The statewide student enrollment at the university’s 10 campuses is about 60,000.

Imua Hawaii say they want a strong leader to bring the university out of the budget crisis without hurting students and faculty and the university’s research mission, but they don’t know if Bley-Vroman is the right man for the job.

“We asked him how are we going to fix this budgetary crisis and he seemed unaware of the crisis. That is really what disturbed me more than anything,” Butler said. “He is the chancellor. Why is he not talking with each and every one of his deans to see if there is a crisis? He should know, but he doesn’t seem to know.”





  1. Does the UH school system have a lot of unfunded liabilities and expenses? UH is heavily unionized.The school administration and staff have very generous and high salaries and perks.the employees pension plans are more than likely under-funded.The football team is mediocre.UH is a government run and owned program.Therefore throwing more tax-payer money into this corrupt system won't help.One solution that they need to do is become more competitive and also cut back on student enrollment.

    • Today's SA front page headline reports declining enrollment.
      Perhaps, UHM could consolidate colleges, & lease empty buildings state agencies who are leasing office space? Best example is HCDA leasing space across Fisher's.

  2. The solution is NOT to privatize even more. This is a public institution, which is no longer well supported by the state. Administration has high salaries, faculty not. The union protects us from retrenchment and pay cuts (and that's about it). The budget model no longer works, and needs to be reformed. But in the meantime, students will not get the courses they need to graduate on time, and graduate teaching assistants will be fired. Somehow they always start at the bottom with their cost-cutting . . . read Jay Shidler's interview in yesterday's _Star-Advertiser_ for an excellent defense of higher education. That guy's got his head on straight.

    • higher education is meaningless if the schools providing it is substandard.Or maybe in the case within the UH school system,there are just too many students enrolledin the campuses,where the quality of teaching and instructions,etc. is watered down.Manyof these students do not belong at UH.Maybe a community college or vocational school.Education should be profitable for any industry providing it.Privatizing UH will NOT solve funding problems as long as the school receives any FEDERAL or STATE funding.Government involvement is the cause of many problems on campuses.Please keep tax-payers and POLITICS out of our state campuses.

  3. Staff are actually the lowest paid and faculty the highest. During the worst recession in US history, UH chose to raise tuition. In 2008 they also chose to cut staff pay by 7% for 2 years and 5% for the next two years and the pay cuts continued until 2013. The faculty? Their pay was cut only once but then restored to them the following year with a raise. Imagine having the money that was taken from you given back to you with the added bonus of a raise! At the same time tuition and staff pay cuts continued all to benefit the faculty. A faculty member once told me, "you want better benefits for Staff? Get a better Union." Universities are run by faculty so naturally, their interests always come first.

  4. Faculty are paid much less than coaches and administrators, unless they're business school, etc. Faculty numbers are being lowered by attrition. My dept has lost 10-12 full time faculty since 2011. Instead of hiring new faculty, this university and others hire adjuncts, semester to semester, who live at the whim of the economic winds. They can't say what they think, because they don't have tenure, or even the possibility of it. And yes, it would be nice if universities were run by faculty, but they're actually run by administrators who have their own interests to heart. These are often not the interests of students or faculty. Just yesterday, 10 teaching assistants in Biology were given pink slips. No way biology students will get the classes they need in Spring.

  5. another major concern should be the student federal loan programs.the feds practically guarantee a generous six figure loan to studentsfor college tuition.These loans have to be paid back.UH will simply keep collecting this money from the feds simply for the revenue.and possibly continue to increase student enrollment and encourage students to apply for the loans.there is a moral hazard at play.Perhaps the only sensible thing for UH to do is file for bankruptcy protection.Give them time to get their financial problems straightened out.

  6. The UH President should NOT be making more money than the Governor. Administration salary should be cut to at least 2006 levels, if not earlier. Or have them have to pay a larger share (or a large share if they pay nothing) of their benefits package. The unions are destroying UH.

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