The University of Hawaii is seeking approval this week from the UH Board of Regents to increase undergraduate tuition at its flagship Manoa campus over a three-year period starting in the fall of 2017.
Under the proposal, resident tuition for full-time undergraduate students would increase by $216 to top $11,000 for the first time. Undergraduate students at the Manoa campus make up nearly three-fourths of the student body. Proposed annual increases across the 10-campus system range from 0 to 2 percent.
The revenue generated from the increases would go toward modernizing campus facilities, which would indirectly address the university’s repair and maintenance backlog, university officials said.
“The proposal seeks to balance the fundamental objectives of maintaining affordability and access while beginning to address the university’s $500-plus million deferred maintenance backlog and capital renewal to ensure that our facilities are properly maintained,” Risa Dickson, UH’s vice president for academic planning and policy, wrote in a memorandum Friday to Board of Regents Chairman Randy Moore.
In an interview Monday, Dickson added, “It’s important to note that the money raised through the proposed tuition increase would only be used for projects that modernize student spaces, classrooms and laboratories. This would help address the deferred maintenance backlog, but that’s not the priority of the increase. The priority is to follow the UH strategic directions to build a 21st-century university that provides the absolute best and most modern learning environments for our students.”
UH is in the final year of a five-year tuition schedule that was supposed to ultimately raise tuition by more than 30 percent. The plan was approved in 2011, when UH faced drastic cuts in state funding. But under UH President David Lassner, the university last summer scaled back the increases built into the final two years of the schedule to keep tuition affordable. Officials said the decision reduced tuition revenue, which makes up roughly a third of UH’s budget, by an estimated $12 million.
Costs to repair facilities total $503 million across the UH system — up from
$460 million three years ago — with most of the work needed on the aging Manoa campus. University officials said the backlog, which dates back more than a decade, continues to grow because the university hasn’t received sufficient support from the state in past years. But this past legislative session, the university received approval to issue up to
$30 million in revenue bonds to begin addressing the backlog.
Annual full-time tuition at the Manoa campus is $10,872 for the 2016-17 academic year. The recommended increases for that campus would amount to a 2 percent tuition hike for the 2017-18 academic year, or $11,088 for full-time undergraduate residents; a
1.9 percent increase the following year to $11,304; and a 1.9 percent increase to $11,520 for 2019-20.
Full-time graduate students at Manoa would pay $312 more a year in tuition under the proposal, but no increases are recommended for professional schools, including the business, education, nursing, law and medical graduate programs.
For students at the West Oahu and Hilo baccalaureate campuses, UH recommends undergraduate tuition stay flat at $7,200 for the 2017-18 year and increase by 1 percent a year — or $72 annually — in the following two academic years.
The seven community college campuses would see the smallest dollar increases under the proposal. Tuition for full-time students who are residents of the state would hold flat in the first year at $3,024 before increasing by $60, or 2 percent, annually in the following two years.
By comparison, a recent survey by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, of which Hawaii is one of 16 member states, found tuition and fees for resident undergraduates at public four-year institutions in the WICHE region averaged $8,081 in 2015-16, up 2.7 percent from the year before.
The Associated Students of the University of Hawaii, the student government representing undergraduates at the Manoa campus, passed a resolution this spring opposing the tuition increases and calling the move “premature.” The group contended in its resolution that tuition increases should be a last resort and called on the university administration to “explore other areas to reallocate the budget to mitigate costs.”
“The ASUH believes that it is important to keep considering both the cost and quality associated with providing an education to the students here at the University of Hawaii, and that the current cost structure is approaching the point where it might not be as valuable pursuing an education here,” the resolution said.
Thirty-eight percent of undergraduates at Manoa have taken out federal loans at help pay for college, and students graduate with a median federal loan debt of $19,509, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Under the tuition plan, increases to tuition at the
Manoa campus would generate an estimated $2.36 million in 2017-18, an estimated $4.72 million the following year and an estimated
$7.08 million in 2019-20.
Dickson said the projections assume enrollment would hold steady across the campuses.
“The amount generated from the proposed increase is going to be dedicated for the purposes of modernizing facilities, regardless of what happens to enrollment,” she said.
Approximately 230 individuals attended 13 public meetings on the tuition proposal between March and May, and 52 of the attendees gave oral or written testimony.
“The majority who testified opposed the tuition proposal. Their primary concerns were affordability and financial hardship,” according to a memo by Dickson. “A few objected to the use of tuition for deferred maintenance. Other feedback included requests for transparency in how funds from the increases will be spent, and consideration of ways to reduce expenses rather than raising tuition.”