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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 20, 2005

UH tuition to rise 140% over 6 years

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

Calling it a tough but necessary decision, University of Hawai'i Regents voted unanimously yesterday to approve the biggest tuition increase ever for the state's public college system.

Under the increase, resident undergraduate tuition at the flagship Manoa campus will more than double by the year 2011 — from $3,504 to $8,400 a year — beginning with a $408 increase per semester effective in fall 2006. Increases at the other campuses will be smaller.

That amounts to about $100 per month more every year through 2011-12 for school at Manoa; $66 a month more for school at UH-Hilo every year; $60 a month more at UH-West O'ahu every year and about $30 more a month at a community college each year.

Regents said the increase was needed to bring costs closer in line with those of Mainland peer institutions and give the university the resources to hire tenure-track faculty instead of lecturers, reduce class sizes, add additional classes, fix decrepit laboratories and increase security and financial aid.

The result will be an additional $413 million in revenue through 2011-12, with the university ending up collecting about $200 million annually from tuition rather than $90 million now.

"This is going to improve the opportunities for students," board vice chairwoman Kitty Lagareta said in voting for the increase.

"It's a tough, tough decision," she said. "But ... I believe in my heart this is the right thing to do for the long term."

Grant Teichman, incoming student body president at Manoa, said the regents weren't listening to what the students said they could pay — $50 to $150 more per semester.

"A reasonable deal — that's all we're asking," he told regents. "Give students a fighting chance to pay for their education. There are no jobs on campus to support a $408 increase per semester. Students have voiced what they could pay and it doesn't seem like anyone is listening."

The chair of the Student Caucus who has led student opposition to the increases was of the same mind.

"I've been through three tuition increases in the past and I've seen what it does to students," said Kris Kaupalolo. "It's the administration's fault we have to increase this so much and now the students have to pay for it."

The continuing opposition to a tuition hike from some students and faculty who said it would drive under-represented and low-income students out of college was juxtaposed yesterday against pleas from campus administrators about the dire needs of their schools.

Losing faculty

Many colleges are down as many as 20 tenured faculty from a decade ago — with an increasing number of majors to serve.

Neal Smatresk, Manoa vice chancellor for academic affairs, said without the tuition increases, Manoa would have to "radically restructure." Without money for $100 million in long-deferred maintenance, he said the campus would see an accelerated loss of faculty, a moratorium on hiring for three to five years and even closure of some buildings due to safety concerns.

Even the Hawai'i Business Roundtable weighed in, with executive director Carl Takamura testifying that the group supports an increase, noting that "targeting a cost share (for the state and student) over the next five years that is closer to 50/50 for UH undergraduates seems appropriate."

"It's needed, it's fair and it's reasonable," regent Andres Albano Jr. said of the tuition increase.

"We're taking some risks here," said regent James Haynes, "but we have to make sure our institution is fiscally sound."

As they approved the increases, the board demanded assurances from the administration to satisfy opponents, including precise budgets of where the extra money will go on each campus, how many students are being served by financial aid and how the increases are affecting access for under-represented, low-income, nontraditional and gap group students — those slightly above the cutoff for financial aid.

That brought applause from several dozen students who were watching the proceedings, many of whom had testified that, among other things, any increase should be stretched over more years, and nonresidents should have to pay even higher tuitions than those proposed.

Opponents also questioned inequities in the Western University Exchange program, which allows nonresident students from western states, particularly California, to pay 150 percent of resident tuition, which is considerably less than nonresident tuition.

"We're really subsidizing these nonresidents," said Kalani Makekau-Whittaker, associate director of Kipuka, the Native Hawaiian Student Center at UH-Hilo. "We're losing $2,178 per student at Hilo on WUE grants. That's $1.1 million."

Ultimately the regents were swayed by the dramatic needs on their campuses, the desire to attain closer parity with Mainland peer institutions, the sense that those who can afford it need to increase the share they pay and the administration's efforts to sweeten financial aid to offset the tuition increases.

The university has promised a huge boost in financial aid from tuition revenues. From its present $4.8 million annually, aid would increase each year beginning in 2006 until it reaches $22.9 million in 2011.

But Ginger Hamilton, representing the UH-Hilo Hanakahi Native Hawaiian Council, pointed out that even now there aren't enough financial aid officers on the campuses to serve all the students, nor enough money, and federal aid hasn't increased in three years.

Scholarship funds

Meanwhile, individual deans promised that their colleges would make sure additional financial aid from other sources is forthcoming.

"We're committed to making sure every student admitted to our college can afford to attend," said William Chismar, acting associate dean of the College of Business Administration. "Donors like to give money for scholarships."

The UH Foundation has also launched a $10 million fund drive to provide additional scholarships.

"We all have to do our share," said Ronald Migita, chairman of Central Pacific Bank and the board's newest member. "And we have to follow through on our commitments (to financial aid), make every effort to help students in the gap group, and communicate the progress we're making."

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8013.

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