SQUARE DEAL? University of Hawaii’s president believes the school’s tuition is still a bargain, but a regent is calling for an investigation on the epic tuition hikes

University of Hawaii Manoa Campus (photo courtesy of UH)
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University of Hawaii Manoa Campus (photo courtesy of UH)

HONOLULU — Although the University of Hawaii increased tuition by 108 percent from 2006 to 2012, university President M.R.C. Greenwood told skeptical lawmakers earlier this year the tuition rates are “modest” and a degree is still a “good bargain.”

The hike will continue: tuition will rise by 33 percent over the next five years.


At least one university regent believes that maybe those costs aren’t such a good bargain.

Regent Jan Sullivan wants an investigation into whether the record tuition increases can be rolled back or halted altogether. Her request came at the July 18 Board of Regents meeting at which members were briefed on the university’s finances and told revenue is on the upswing.

Greenwood maintained the income was necessary since the Legislature cut funding during the recession, while student enrollment rose to 60,000 between 10 campuses statewide.

To put the university’s numbers in perspective, annual tuition for a general undergraduate student will climb from $4,522 in 2007 to $11,376 in the 2016-2017 school year.

Kaitlyn Baria and her husband Brandon, a US Marine

Kaitlyn Baria, a senior majoring in political science and English, has attended the university for two years since she moved here from West Virginia to be with her husband, Brandon, a U.S. Marine.

She said the tuition increases have ”definitely meant more budgeting and Ramen noodles.”

“Where families are already pinching pennies to make ends meet for school, this just makes it harder,” Baria said. “And I’m sure it has a huge impact on whether or not kids choose to stay in college or even to go to college at all.”

Students are 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 makes it more challenging to get an education, not only because of the tuition hikes, but because of registration and how hard it is to get classes. Information is not readily available for students to know what they need to graduate,” Baria said. “It’s hard enough as it is to graduate there in four years time or less. Instead of hiking fees, they should be trying to get students out on time.”

According to a report by the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center, Hawaii had the fourth steepest incline in tuition between 2006 and 2012, with only the District of Columbia, Arizona and California ahead of the 50th state.

Baria said she is “not surprised” Hawaii has seen the fourth fastest increases in the nation.

“I think that UH Regent Jan Sullivan is 100 percent right in seeing the need to reevaluate the escalation of our tuition,” Baria said. “Pretty soon, not many will be able to afford college, and one of the most important things in society is to have an educated population. Rising hikes in tuition are making this more and more difficult.”

UH President M.R.C. Greenwood said even with record tax hikes, a UH degree is still a good bargain

A report released July 9 by the U.S. Department of Educationnotes tuition at four-year state universities, like UH, has been on the rise.

Public universities in many states boosted their tuition rates for in-state students after their respective legislatures cut funding during the recession, the report said.

Tuition for a full-time undergraduate student at four-year state schools on average increased 6.7 percent between the 2010-11 and 2012-13 school years to $7,526, and 11.5 percent between 2007-08 and 2010-11.

The Hawaii Legislature allocates about $1 billion a year to the semi-autonomous university.

Reach Malia Zimmerman at Malia@hawaiireporter.com