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Editorial | Island Voices

Column: Public higher education key to Hawaii’s COVID-19 recovery

  • COURTESY PHOTO
                                David Lassner is president of the University of Hawaii.

    COURTESY PHOTO

    David Lassner is president of the University of Hawaii.

For tens of thousands of students across the islands, the University of Hawaii is the key to their futures. The value of higher education cannot be overstated, and that value is shared by students, families and the entire state.

A bachelor’s-degree holder earns, on average, $1 million more than a high school graduate over his or her lifetime. A college graduate is less likely to be unemployed, is healthier and lives longer. For society as a whole, college graduates are less likely to be incarcerated, utilize fewer social services, pay more taxes, vote more often, volunteer more often, and their children are more likely to go to college.

The University of Hawaii is absolutely critical to the success of our state and our people. That is why we announced Monday that our 10 campuses will resume in-person instruction, in a highly modified COVID19-aware safe manner, for the Fall 2020 semester.

After completing a year like no other in history, our high school graduates need the opportunities that the University of Hawaii provides. And many of those who lost jobs in this crisis now need higher education to help them upskill and shift careers.

We are especially encouraged by the heightened interest in our programs by many local students and families. They are considering staying home for college this year for safe, affordable higher education and to be with their families during this difficult time. The robust and highly integrated University of Hawaii system offers affordable opportunities, in person and via technology, on every island.

We welcome each and every learner, and there is still time to apply for admission and financial aid.

Our 10 UH campuses are deeply embedded in the fabric of Hawaii. UH faculty, students and staff are invaluable contributors to Hawaii’s COVID-19 recovery and our graduates are Hawaii’s teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers, EMTs, engineers, accountants and chefs.

UH faculty expertise is brought to bear on every problem and opportunity Hawaii faces, from climate change and sea level rise to community health, disaster response and economic recovery. We thank our alumni and friends who are supporting these initiatives like never before.

We are initiating new programs in dynamic future-focused areas like cybersecurity, data science and aviation. And the $400 million in extramural funding UH brings in yearly creates thousands more living wage jobs across the state.

The next academic year will not be business as usual. We have teams preparing for multiple scenarios, knowing that conditions will change between now and the beginning of classes on Aug. 24, and may change again at any time in the next academic year.

While making extensive use of technology in innovative and hybridized ways, we will have protocols in place for social distancing, hygiene and sanitation, and screening, testing and contact tracing. We will utilize all that we have learned over the past two months, the expertise of our faculty and leadership, as well as guidance from Hawaii public health officials. We will follow all official orders to ensure we provide a safe environment for all our students and employees.

UH will award thousands of degrees to our graduates this month. This remarkable achievement is a testimonial to the strength and resilience of our faculty, students and staff who have helped one another to success in the face of overwhelming personal challenges, and the abrupt and unimaginable forced shift in our teaching and learning environment.

This strength and resilience is a hallmark of the University of Hawaii, and the people of Hawaii should rest assured that their public and personal investment and trust in UH is well-placed.


David Lassner is president of the University of Hawaii.


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