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Enrollment drops at UH-Hilo, rises at UH-West Oahu

    The $15.9 million Student Services Building was initially scheduled to open in 2012.

The University of Hawaii’s Hilo campus has the largest drop in enrollment across the system.

This fall is the second year of enrollment declines for the Hilo campus. As of Tuesday, Hilo saw a 2.9 percent drop, while the flagship Manoa campus had a 2.5 percent decrease. The system’s new West Oahu campus saw enrollment increase by 12.7 percent.

Hilo’s Hawaii Community College experienced enrollment declines for three years in a row. The college saw a 6.4 percent drop this year.

All seven of the state’s community colleges saw enrollment declines this year, ranging from 2.9 percent to 6.9 percent.

UH-Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that campuses in Hawaii and across the country have taken a hit in enrollment as the economy improves and students opt to enter the job force.

"We’re the same percentage down this year as we were last year," he said. "It’s a (trend) that’s going around all campuses. … We had hoped to hold even, but the demography worked against us."

The decrease means his campus will lose about a $1 million in anticipated revenue, Straney said.

"It’s a significant amount of money, but we’re not anticipating we’ll have to reduce budgets this year," he said. He said departments will be asked to hold off on spending about 1 percent of their budgets until the impact of the reduction in revenue is clearer.

Straney said the university is trying to improve freshman retention. He said the plan is to offer more activities during the day and evening to help students become more connected to the university community. Freshman retention between the fall semester and end of spring semester was 92 percent, he said. But the retention rate drops to 70 percent at the beginning of sophomore year.

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