State lawmaker proposes freeze on UH tuition hikes

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University of Hawaii students could see tuition rise by as much as 35 percent in the next five years. And that’s after a nearly 50 percent rise over the past five.

A state lawmaker is proposing a tuition freeze that would begin next school year. It would freeze tuition at the 2013 rate or possibly lower.

Tuition rates are set by the Board of Regents and the increase could be up to 7.5 percent each year through 2016.

Right now, it costs just under $4,600 a semester to attend UH Manoa. This puts a burden on students and their families, according to state Rep. John Mizuno.

“These students wind up working part-time jobs, or even taking two jobs just to make ends meet and finish college, so it’s unfortunate. They should focus on getting a degree. They’re going to be working the rest of their lives anyway,” said Rep. Mizuno (D) Kalihi.

Rep. Mizuno will introduce a bill calling for a freeze on tuition hikes.

“If we can pass the bill, they’ve asked that we introduce the bill, so I drafted a bill for them. It would take effect the next fall 2014,” Rep. Mizuno said.

The issue was first brought to Rep. Mizuno’s attention by UH senior Ian Ross and other students.

“I see them having to drop out or take a semester off for extra work — prolonging their degree. Prolonging their being a more productive member of society because of these costs. To me, it’s important because they’re my friends, they’re my fellow students,” Ross said.

UH Provost Linda Johnsrud understands the concern.

“But we always have to weigh the impact of the tuition revenues against the appropriations from the state and the cost of providing an education,” Johnsrud said.

Johnsrud says unlike many mainland schools, UH lays out a five-year schedule of tuition increases so that students and families can plan ahead.

“When we put tuition schedules into effect, we look very carefully at the financial aid that’s available and this time. We’ve increased financial aid because we’re very concerned about access,” Johnsrud said.

Still, Rep. Mizuno says there must be a balance.

“And we can’t put these tuition hikes on the backs of our students. It’s just not fair to them, it’s not fair to our state. So this is what we’re going to be doing,” Rep. Mizuno said.

And it appears right now, the university system is not going to budge.

“Because if the institutions don’t have enough revenue to fund the lecturers and the faculty, classes can’t be offered,” Johnsrud said.

Students are planning to hold a rally Monday, the first day of school, at the UH Manoa Campus Center at noon.

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