Thursday, March 10, 2005


UH tuition increases
are too much too soon


The Board of Regents is considering a proposal to raise the toll for students more than twofold through the next five years.

TUITION at the University of Hawaii would more than double during the next five years under a proposal before the Board of Regents. Though the university system has been struggling to deal with increased enrollment and smaller allocations from the state, regents should not place such a hefty burden on students so quickly.

UH-Manoa students and their parents who have planned and saved for college expenses will face an additional cost of nearly $1,000 a year with little time to make up the difference. Even those who take classes at the Hilo, West Oahu and community college campuses, in large part because of lower tuition, might find themselves priced out of an education.

The proposal bumps up full-time resident tuition at the UH system's flagship campus by $432 per semester, from the current $1,752 to $3,912 in 2010-2011. At Hilo, the increase for undergraduates would go up almost $600 a year, or about 23 percent.

West Oahu resident undergraduates would pay $264 more each semester through 2010-11, an increase of 117 percent. Community college costs would increase 81 percent through five years.

The UH administration contends that the increase is necessary to hire and retain faculty, fix classrooms and buildings, and expand the number of courses. To meet these needs, students, who now pay between 15 and 29 percent of the cost of their education, should lay out a larger share, UH officials say. The administration argues that tuition raises would be offset by a boost in scholarships. However, current budget legislation does not include the $20 million for scholarships that Governor Lingle requested.

Lawmakers have been tight-fisted with general fund appropriations for the university in recent years, and promises to raise funds from other sources by ousted UH president Evan Dobelle were left unfulfilled.

The university has a long list of expenses and projects, including repairs to facilities damaged in a flood last year, aging and outdated dorms and deferred maintenance work, such as restoring the Lyon Arboretum.

Administrators say students should not expect taxpayers to foot so much of the bill and that UH tuition falls far below the national average at colleges on the mainland.

Though students should pay more of the cost, the state and community do gain benefits from a better-educated population, and, while mainland institutions might charge more, students here must also bear a higher cost of living.

Only one student spoke at the first in a series of statewide hearings on the proposal. The sparse attendance might indicate students believe the increases are likely despite opposition, or that they aren't concerned. If they complain when the time comes to pay their bills, they shouldn't get much sympathy.

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