Tuesday, November 24, 2015         

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Community college enrollment rises 7 percent

The number of students at UH-Manoa remains at 19,291, and there are 60,205 systemwide

By Dan Nakaso


Enrollment is booming at the University of Hawaii's seven community colleges but remains flat at the flagship Manoa campus, leaving junior Allen Dang and other UH-Manoa students wondering why they can't get into the classes they need to graduate on schedule.

Dang, a computer science major from Kapolei, is carrying 17 units this semester "but not the right ones," he said yesterday. "My schedule's filled up with random classes that don't help at all. They just help you say that you're a full-time student."

While several UH-Manoa students said yesterday that they had little trouble getting the classes they wanted, others were frustrated that they could not get into one or more key classes they need this semester in order to take the follow-on class next semester -- and stay on track to graduate.

Lance Matsuda, a political science junior from Kaneohe, could not get into the one section offered of a 300-level political science class. So he's left to take 18 credits "of the wrong classes," he said. "It was a lot better back when I was a freshman."

UH officials acknowledge that instructor shortages can leave upper-division students scrambling.

At UH-Manoa only 15 percent of students graduate within four years; 52 percent take six years, and another 10 percent remain in school after six years.

"Manoa is working very hard at every major for a four-year plan," said Linda Johnsrud, vice president for academic planning and policy for the UH system.

Official fall semester enrollment will not be determined until late September. As of yesterday, 60,205 students were enrolled across the 10-campus system -- 2,200 more than fall 2009.

The biggest gains were at Hawaii Community College and Windward Community College (each up 17 percent), followed by West Oahu (10.5 percent increase), Kauai Community College (8.5 percent), Maui College (7.2 percent), Leeward Community College (5.2 percent), Honolulu Community College (4.3 percent), Kapiolani Community College (3.8 percent) and Hilo Community College (2.3 percent).

Enrollment at UH-Manoa remained essentially the same as last year, with 19,291 students enrolled as of yesterday.

But the seven community colleges continue their enrollment boom, with a total of 33,847 students combining to increase community college enrollment 7.1 percent over last year.

More high school graduates who had hoped to find work instead are turning to community colleges because of the sluggish economy, Johnsrud said.

"There just aren't that many jobs," she said. "When the economy is in the dregs like it is now, community colleges always feel the upsurge more so than the four-year campuses."

UH-Manoa students, at the same time, are turning to other UH campuses to take undergraduate courses that might be full at Manoa.

At UH-West Oahu, for instance, 20 percent of students are enrolled this fall in courses that are "distance delivered," Johnsrud said. "Students are getting very savvy. If they're enrolled at one of the four-year campuses and can't get into a (general education) course that's full, they know they can go online and see if any of the seven community colleges offer the same course. So the number of online, or hybrid online, courses are increasing."

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