Action taken to curb steady enrollment decline at UH

Not as many people are going to college. It’s a trend happening across the country, as well as here at the University of Hawaii.

The latest numbers show UH fall enrollment trending downwards for the past four years.

At the Manoa Campus — nearly 19,000-students enrolled for the 2015 fall Semester. That number was down to about 18,000 last fall.

So what’s behind the decline? And how is UH encouraging people to get a higher education?

School officials said there are a number of reasons why enrollment is down. The economy has gotten better so it’s easier to get a job.

UH said it’s seeing more college students graduating faster which also dips enrollment numbers.

We looked into UH’s operating budget this year and found that it’s enrollment numbers for fall Semester peaked between 2010 and 2012 at roughly 60,000 students.

But the graph projects a dramatic decline of 10-thousand students by 2022 if changes are not made.

So what is UH doing about the low enrollment and retention numbers?

We reached out to school officials and a spokesman said they’re continuing efforts they’ve started several years ago and also added new initiatives starting this year.

“We’ve identified students and have these retention scholarships we’ve identified 250 students who we thought might be on the cusp of leaving and offered them extra money as an incentive to stay,” said Dan Meisenzahl, “expanding the number of application days for local high schools, improving direct communication with parents, and expanding efforts to recruit international students.”

UH Spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said their efforts have already made a big difference. Last year UH saw an increase in first year students from Hawaii. Graduation rates have also gone up.

“We’re looking at — it might be flat here in Manoa or maybe a one or two percent increase. So I think we’re already starting to turn the corner,” said Meisenzahl.

We wanted to know if school officials at the high school level have seen a decrease in the number of kids wanting to go to college.

So we went to McKinley High School and spoke to Principal Ron Okamura who tells us students want to pursue higher education, but it all comes down to cost.

“The cost factor is still a prohibitive element it stops a lot of them from going where they really want to go,” said Principal Okamura.

The annual cost for an undergrad attending UH Manoa is more than $11,000. The national average about $16,000 year.

“Even UH as affordable as it is lot of it is still a barrier for our students because we have a lot of subsidized students,” said Principal Okamura.

“We’re one of the most affordable institutions it might be tough but it’s worth the fight,” said Meisenzahl.

UH officials said there are no plans to increase tuition at this time, but that could change.

According to a new study, UH Manoa gives almost $10.5 million to the athletics department to fund scholarships and maintain facilities on lower campus.

In return, athletics makes nearly $13 million in revenue for the school. The athletic department brings in more money to UH than it receives from the school.

This study will be brought up Thursday during a UH Board of Regents meeting.

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