College graduation rates up

LIHUE — Fewer students enrolled in Hawaii colleges this year, but for those attending, the rate of graduation increased.

University of Hawaii campuses have made strides over the last decade to improve graduation rates.

Kauai Community College awarded a total of 258 degrees for the 2016-2017 school year, an increase of four percent compared to last year and more than six percent since 2012-2013.

UH Manoa improved its four-year graduation rate, from 17 percent in 2010 to an all-time high of 34 percent in 2017, and awarded 3,347 undergraduate degrees and certificates in spring 2017, just 302 shy of the record 3,649 degrees in spring 2016.

Enrollment at the University of Hawaii’s ten campuses dropped slightly in fall 2017 to 51,674 total students. The number of students decreased by 1,746 students, more than three percent compared to fall 2016.

Hawaii’s strong labor market and low unemployment is one factor that affected enrollment at community colleges.

“The strong economy has certainly pulled students out of the community colleges,” said Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges John Morton. “We are working to be sure we provide a way for those students to complete their college degrees while working, as well as the many other students who have left college credits but no degree.”

Kauai Community College had 1,346 students enrolled for fall 2017, a nearly four percent decline compared to last year.

UH West Oahu is up almost five percent to 3,082 students, continuing the trend that began in 2012 when the school moved to its Kapolei campus. The school was recently recognized as the fastest growing public baccalaureate campus in the nation.

Windward Community College enrollment remained unchanged, while the other eight campuses experienced varying declines.

The overall decline was no surprise, as UH continues to graduate more students on time while competing for students with a tight local labor market experiencing extraordinarily low unemployment.

University leadership remains committed to reversing the enrollment declines through a proactive enrollment management program informed by statewide data and analysis.

“We need to continue our great work increasing timely graduation of students while building greater successes in our recruitment, retention and transfer programs,” said UH President David Lassner. “There are a number of positives in this fall’s data, but it is just a start.”

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