Wednesday, February 7, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, February 7, 2001

Island Voices
Free UH tuition idea raises questions

By Ted Gibson
Kailua resident

The "Hawaii Coalition for Economic Diversity" says in a full-page ad in the Jan. 29 Advertiser that with a "bill pending at the Legislature, every graduating student of any public or private high school in Hawaii who carries a B-minus average will receive a free scholarship equal to the full-time tuition at the University of Hawaii, about $3,500 per year per student, paid for by gaming revenues ... "

Fantastic, and I’m completely in favor of such a posture, but there are a couple of specific points that aren’t quite clear in the ad:

The Hawaii Coalition for Economic Diversity signs a contract with the State of Hawaii with a guarantee, beginning in September of the year following implementation of the "gaming" program, to pay the state $3,500 for each graduate with a B-minus or better average. And the coalition will post a security bond for the millions of dollars each semester, which will be forwarded to the state to cover those costs.

But the costs will also have to include building new facilities at the Manoa and Hilo campuses, the forthcoming campus at Kapolei and all the community colleges to accommodate the thousands of high school students who will overburden the existing facilities statewide.

And by the way, that will also require more faculty at all levels.

In addition to the facilities and faculty, the Coalition for Economic Diversity will assume an additional parallel responsibility because roadways will be overwhelmed. There is no way that twice, and even three or four times, the number of students can be transported daily to and from campuses statewide without a coordinated system in place to facilitate rapid movement to schools in the morning and return in the afternoon, five days a week year-round.

And the growth will be explosive, doubling, tripling every few years.

So, if the coalition will bond its guarantee for the tuition-free college education for every kid in Hawaii to also support the infrastructure, I’ll encourage the Legislature’s "aye" vote.

It’s a beautiful dream, and sure reads well in a full-page ad, with only 105 words carefully selected (to include every graduating student with B-minus grade, implying "or above.")

But if the coalition will not provide a bond to cover the full growth of facilities, faculty and transit infrastructure, forget it. Somebody is dreaming, if only to get the "gaming" concept implemented. The whole plan may just be a joke, as in "aloha-ha-ha."

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