LIHU‘E — Tuition for Kaua‘i Community College students will increase by an average 6 percent per year over the next few years under a plan approved Wednesday by the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents. Stated another way, the rate for the 2016-2017 academic year will be 34 percent higher than the 2011-2012 academic year.
But KCC Chancellor Helen Cox said there will be more scholarship money and financial aid available to help offset the burden.
“I’m really hoping this tuition increase is not going to keep anyone from going to college,” she said. “I hope if there are students that feel they can’t come or start that they come and talk to us first. There are a lot of people who think they wouldn’t qualify for financial aid who do.”
The board passed the five-year plan, first unveiled in August, by a 9-3 vote after screening it before an estimated 390 people who attended 11 public meetings and other hearings. The decision impacts the entire university system, including a 35 percent increase in tuition for full-time students at UH Manoa.
Higher student enrollment and state cuts to Hawai‘i’s public university system have prompted the need to increase tuition, Cox said.
“We know it’s going to impact students and we’re doing what we can,” she said. “But we also know the option we don’t have is to not increase tuition because we have to meet our costs as well.”
The university has sustained over $86 million in cuts to its core operating budget over the last two years, according to a UH news release. During this same period, enrollment has increased to a record high of 60,000 students, an increase of 14,000 students from a decade ago.
“It is the economic times,” Cox said. “The university has been cut substantially by the Legislature.”
The UH Community Colleges administration is considering setting aside an additional one percent of tuition revenue to provide additional financial support to students, the release states. Currently, the community colleges allocate 11 percent of their total tuition revenues to financial assistance.
“We want to make sure there aren’t students because of the rise in tuition who aren’t able to attend school,” Cox said. “But we know that some students don’t qualify for financial aid and yet will find the increase difficult. So for those students we’re doubling our efforts to bring in private scholarship money.”
KCC secures the highest level of private scholarships of any community college statewide, she added.
Tuition for residents at UH community colleges will increase $60 per semester for the 2012-13 school year, $75 in 2013-14 and $120 in 2014-15. The rate increase will remain at $120 per semester for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years under the plan.
The five-year tuition schedule varies throughout the university system.
A resident attending UH Manoa as an undergraduate in 2012-13 will pay an additional $132 per semester, increasing to an additional $396 per semester by 2016-17.
JD residents at the William S. Richardson School of Law will pay an additional $264 per semester next school year, jumping to an additional $624 per semester by 2016-17.
The entire schedule is available at www.hawaii.edu/offices/app/tuition.
Assuming moderate enrollment growth, the tuition increases are expected to generate roughly $15 million of additional revenues in the first year and $25 million in the final year of the tuition schedule, the release states.
“The university has made every effort to preserve services that directly impact students and has made significant adjustments in its operations to address these budget cuts, including salary reductions, hiring freezes, travel restrictions, energy conservation and other measures,” said UH President M.R.C. Greenwood. “In the meantime we have made extraordinary efforts to, in the face of declining public dollars, pursue and win grants and extramural funding that have gone directly into programs and opportunities to benefit our students.”
The additional revenues from the tuition increases will be used to meet critical systemwide and campus-specific needs, including providing for financial assistance for students, hiring and retention of faculty, maintaining course availability, increasing campus security, supporting debt service, and enhancing academic and student support services, the release states. The revenues will also be used to improve and upgrade university business systems, and to make classroom and facility improvements. The university has at least a $350 million maintenance and repair backlog that will continue to grow annually if not addressed.
“This has been one of the toughest issues we have taken on in our service as Regents,” UH Board of Regents Chair Eric Martinson said. “We are well aware of the economic struggle that many Hawai‘i families are experiencing. We made this decision with the best interests of Hawai‘i’s citizens and our only public higher education institution in mind, and with the certainty that accompanying increased financial aid and outreach counseling will continue to make a college degree accessible to all who desire it.”
To increase student access and timely completion, the university administration is recommending that summer tuition for undergraduates be frozen at summer 2011 rates for UH Hilo, UH West O‘ahu and the UH community colleges.
A proposal is also being considered to designate a share of financial assistance, as determined by campus chancellors, to on-campus work opportunities to support “gap-group” students — those who cannot afford to pay the full cost of their education yet do not qualify for need or merit based financial aid.
Student Richard Mizusawa told the Associated Press that Wednesday’s decision will mean he’ll have to take out loans next year.
“Tuition is going to gradually increase over time, so it’s going to be more a burden for me to pay for it,” said the 19-year-old sophomore who is majoring in communications and political science. “And in Hawaii, it’s more expensive to live here.”
Mizusawa lives with his parents in Aiea but was planning to move to an on-campus dorm. He said he’s now reconsidering that plan.
“I’m shocked they accepted it,” he said. “I felt they could have considered other sources of revenue.”
Pre-nursing sophomore Lynelle Acosta, 19, of Kalihi, told the AP that she worries about her parents’ ability to pay her tuition, but she feared that without an increase, her program would suffer budget cutbacks, which could result in fewer courses available.
• Online: Hawaii.edu