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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, June 7, 2004

Colleges' enrollments rise

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

The three largest private colleges in Hawai'i have seen significant increases in both applications and enrollment in the past few years, mostly because of savvy marketing.

And they expect the trend to continue.

By the numbers

Estimated yearly tuition costs and enrollment for undergraduates:

Hawai'i Pacific University

  • $10,922
  • 8,500 students

Chaminade University

  • $13,380
  • 1,130 students

Brigham Young University-Hawai'i

  • $4,815 (Non-LDS members), $3,205 (LDS members)
  • 2,400 student
Hawai'i Pacific University, Chaminade University and Brigham Young University-Hawai'i expect record enrollment this fall, as indicated by a surge in applications and tuition deposits.

Those increases mirror the enrollment growth at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, which is on target to hit its highest level in a quarter-century, possibly exceeding 21,000 students this fall.

Enrollment at HPU, which prides itself on being an international learning community, has risen 30 percent in the past 10 years.

Applications to the liberal arts college were up 15 percent this year, with registration so far running about 6 percent higher now than this time last year.

There are about 8,000 students enrolled at HPU. That number will likely rise to about 8,500 by the start of the fall semester.

"This is going to be a record year for us," said HPU President Chatt Wright. "We're expecting a pretty big increase this year."

HPU's enrollment goal is to level off at 10,000, "but we want to get there carefully," Wright said.

A third of its student body hail from foreign countries, confirming the university's mission to provide education toward global citizenship. But since Sept. 11, the number of foreign students enrolling at HPU declined sharply, especially from countries with large Islamic populations, such as Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia. The hurdle was getting approval for visas for these students, which was more difficult than before, Wright said.

"That population is significantly less than what we've had before the 9/11 event," Wright said. "At that time we didn't know how it would turn out."

To counter the drop, the university turned its marketing attention to the Mainland and more European countries. Two Mainland recruiters were brought onboard, increasing the school's recruitment staff to seven. And the school opened a recruitment office in Stockholm, Sweden.

Last year HPU boasted students from 112 countries, the most in its history.

"We didn't know the way the world would actually go at the time," Wright said, "but it proved to be the right strategy."

Like HPU, Chaminade also channeled its recruiting efforts toward the Mainland, focusing on high schools on the West Coast, said Joy Bouey, dean of enrollment management.

The university's four recruiters visited schools from Alaska to New Mexico.

By increasing its Mainland recruiting efforts every year, Chaminade has seen undergraduate enrollment increase every year since 1997. (Enrollment dropped slightly from 780 students in 1996 to 757 in 1997.)

"We wanted to grow our student body just like other schools," Bouey said about Chaminade's recruitment efforts. According to undergraduate tuition deposits for fall 2004, Chaminade is seeing a 6 percent increase over last year. In 2003, 1,065 undergraduates were enrolled at the Catholic comprehensive university in KaimukÔ. That number should increase to about 1,130 this fall.

Overall, the undergraduate enrollment at Chaminade has increased 75 percent since 1995.

Nearly half of its undergraduate students are from Hawai'i, and Bouey expects that number to increase slightly this fall.

Unlike HPU, which has a significant number of foreign students, Chaminade has around 75. And that's without any international recruiting whatsoever, Bouey said.

BYUH has seen a surge in interest from students who want to attend the small La'ie school sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Last fall, the school received five times more applications than spaces available in the freshman class, amounting to a 266 percent increase over applications five years prior. BYUH has a capped enrollment of 2,350.

In the past 10 years, undergraduate enrollment has increased about 14 percent, from 2,100 students in 1994 to 2,400 in 2004. Applications have tripled in those 10 years.

Part of BYUH's goal in the past 10 years has been to increase its international enrollment. Last fall 47 percent of its student body were from foreign countries.

The school attributes the increase in enrollment to higher student demand, an easier application process online and its academic offerings at an affordable cost. Tuition for non-churchmembers is $4,815 per year. (Members pay $3,205.)

HPU and Chaminade also promote their tuition, which they say are affordable for a quality private-school education. Undergraduate tuition at HPU is about $11,000 per year; Chaminade costs about $13,300.

What makes these three private colleges attractive to prospective students, school officials say, are the unique programs and enriching learning environments.

Chaminade is the only school in Hawai'i to offer degrees in forensic science and interior design. HPU touts its international atmosphere and a strong nursing program. And BYUH emphasizes an intercultural, gospel-centered environment.

All three schools boast small teacher-to-student ratios, dedicated faculty and quality education at an affordable cost.

"The concept of Hawai'i is a harder sell" than one would imagine, Wright said. "You don't just say, 'Come to beautiful Hawai'i with sand and scenery.' "

Colleges have to sell their quality of programs, faculty and learning environment, he said.

"Parents are going to send their students to HPU to be educated as global citizens," Wright said. "That's why people come to us."

Targeting the specific needs of underserved potential college students, such as women, minorities and nontraditional students, has also proven successful for colleges nationwide.

For example, Chaminade offers undergraduate and graduate courses online, in addition to evening and weekend classes. Its online program has become the fastest growing segment of enrollment, which caters to the nontraditional student who juggles work and family with school.

The university started offering six online courses in the summer of 1997 with 78 students. Last spring, 739 student enrolled in 45 undergraduate courses and 11 graduate courses. Students will soon be able to get entire degrees online, said Sara Platte, director of communications and marketing.

Being versatile to the needs of nontraditional students can help universities bolster overall enrollment, education experts say.

"Most institutions of higher education, whether public or private, are offering more diverse ways of getting degrees than previously," said Michael Omizo, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Education at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa. "That makes it so the nontraditional students who work two jobs, have families or live in remote areas are able to (earn college degrees)."

In addition, more people are recognizing the earning power of a college degree, said Robert Silberman, chairman and chief executive officer of Strayer Education Inc. in Arlington, Va.

"The value of the college degree is rising significantly, while the value of the high school degree is falling," said Silberman, who grew up in Kahala and attended Punahou School. "The financial return of an education is getting higher and higher. But the cost of not having (a college degree) is also getting quite high."

Reach Catherine E. Toth at 535-8103 or ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.

Correction: Undergraduate enrollment at Chaminade University has increased 75 percent since 1995. A previous verison of this story contained incorrect information.