Monday, June 20, 2005

University of Hawaii students protest tuition increases at a monthly Board of Regents meeting at Windward Community College.

Tuition struggle

A planned six-year increase
at the University of Hawaii
starts in fall 2006


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

» A tuition increase at the University of Hawaii goes into effect in the fall of 2006. A headline and story on Page A3 in yesterday's morning edition incorrectly said the increase takes effect this fall.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at corrections@starbulletin.com.

Jenna Margin recently found out that the transition from high school to college might be tougher than just adjusting to a different environment and making new friends.

The recent Iolani School graduate said going to college would now also mean finding a part-time job because regents at Hawaii's largest public university have approved a plan to increase tuition by 140 percent during the next six years.

"I'm going to have to get a really good job," said Margin, 17, who plans to major in communications and journalism at the University of Hawaii.

Her father, a Big Island truck driver, is already struggling to pay for her brother's college tuition. Her mother cannot work because she has to care for Margin's grandmother.

The Board of Regents approved a plan earlier this year that will more than double the cost of both resident and out-of-state tuition at the school.

The increases at the Manoa campus will start in fall 2006, when undergraduate state residents will begin paying $816 more annually for tuition. By the end of the six-year tuition schedule, annual tuition will rise to $8,400, up from the current $3,504.

Similar tuition hikes would apply to nonresidents and at the University of Hawaii system's nine other campuses around the islands. By 2012, Hawaii tuition is expected to equal the projected national averages for similar institutions, school officials said.

Neal Smatresk, Manoa vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the increases will come in the wake of 10 years of declining state support that has been hurting both the university's ability to accommodate a growing student body and the quality of education.

The university has been cutting costs by increasingly relying on part-time instructors, Smatresk said. He said the school also has been recruiting "a bare minimum" number of workers for various offices.

"We are in a particular critical situation," he said.

The tuition hike will boost money coming to the university's system to $200 million annually, compared with the current $90 million.

Administrators plan to use the money to hire more full-time faculty, offer more classes, increase staffing for student service offices, beef up campus security and fix $100 million in deferred maintenance.

"I'm talking meat and potatoes here," Smatresk said. "We have buildings that are really not what you would expect when you come for college."

Many students are upset with the dramatic increases, but not all oppose tuition increases. Protests have not been nearly as vocal as a coalition of students, faculty and outside activists opposed to a military research center who occupied the university president's office for a week ending May 4.

Out of 200 students surveyed in late April by the student government, 65 percent said they opposed any kind of increase. But 55 percent of them said they were willing to pay as much as $150 more per semester if they felt it was needed, said Grant Teichman, the incoming student body president at Manoa.

"We are very disappointed" with the tuition increase, Teichman said, criticizing administrators for not yet giving the regents a complete breakdown of how the additional money would be spent.

Patricia Lee, regents chairwoman, called the voting on the increase "the most difficult decision we ever had to make." But she said all regents will hold administrators accountable and ask that they file annual reports outlining progress and any issues resulting from the increase.

Students "really need to know that the increase in tuition will directly benefit them," she said.

Gina Shin, a sophomore majoring in nursing, said she agrees the university needs money, but wishes they would look for funds elsewhere.

"If it's going to help, it would be good, but I'd rather not have it go up," said Shin, 18, who depends on financial aid and the $1,300 she earns every semester at her campus job.

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