HONOLULU — Hawaii senators have criticized the university president for additional spending and administrative pay raises after a decline in student enrollment.
University of Hawaii President David Lassner signed a $2.6 million contract over four years with an outside firm in exchange for services including targeted marketing, social media and mail outreach to high school students, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.
Lassner also granted raises from $15,000 to $33,000 to five vice presidents who had an exceptional rating, officials said.
“Some of these pay raises is more than some of these guys — taxpayers in Hawaii — even make in a year,” state Sen. Kurt Favella said.
Lessner defended his decision saying they took on additional responsibilities and improved operations.
“All had refused at least one raise, and all were paid below the national medians and function together as a team,” he said. “Some have taken pay cuts to join us. I think the state of Hawaii is extremely fortunate to have them in their positions.”
Enrollment across the university’s 10 campuses fell to 49,977, 2% less than last year after an additional 1.2% decrease the previous year, university officials said. The decline is affecting community colleges while the University of Hawaii-Manoa maintained stable enrollment numbers the last two years, officials said.
“What we’re seeing is a drop in enrollment and an increase in expenses,” Higher Education Chairwoman Donna Kim said. “It’s getting wider and wider. If we are not sizing for the right amount and we are always chasing a number that we can’t achieve, that’s crazy. We can’t be everything and all things and all programs to everybody.”
The decline can also be attributed to an increase in its four-year on-time graduation rate meaning students are getting their degrees faster, Lessner said. The Manoa campus has doubled its on-time graduation rate in the last decade matching the national average for public institutions, officials said.
“We have got to be reasonable about what can we sustain and what is it going to cost us,” Kim said. “Because now we have faculty that’s tenured, and it’s there to support 20,000 students at Manoa but we only have 17,000. So how do you downsize that to reflect what your goals are?”