McClain admits UH inefficiencies
In response to a study, he says economies of scale work against smaller isle campuses
Because the University of Hawaii has smaller campuses on different islands, it might not be as "efficient" as university systems in other states, interim President David McClain said in response to a study that rated Hawaii as one of the lowest-performing states per dollar spent on higher education.
McClain said campuses need to have larger populations of students to realize economies of scale. But only three of the University of Hawaii's 10 campuses -- UH-Manoa, Leeward Community College and Kapiolani Community College -- have more than 5,000 students.
He said the smaller campuses spread out over the state are necessary to provide access to higher education, although it is possible more can be done with distance learning.
McClain also cited the low performance of students entering the community college system as a factor in Hawaii's low college graduation rate, another measure of efficiency.
About 80 percent of community college students from Hawaii's public schools need remedial education in math, and between 60 percent and 80 percent need remediation in reading and writing, McClain said.
The university is trying to address the problem in part with the P-20 initiative started by former UH President Evan Dobelle, McClain said. The university is seeking funding for the program to work with students from preschool through college, he said.
McClain acknowledged that there are inefficiencies at the university. However, he said that the study looked at information from 2000 and 2002-2003, and some of the inefficiencies are now being addressed. He noted that UH-Manoa Vice Chancellor Neal Smatresk was able to add 8 percent more classes for students last spring without an increase in funding.
McClain made his remarks after a presentation on planning for the next decade at the university. A study by Linda Johnsrud, UH interim vice president for academic planning and policy, suggests the state's college-going rate, another measure of efficiency, is on a downward trend.
The percentage of high school graduates in Hawaii that go on to community college or university education, either in Hawaii or on the mainland, dropped to about 52 percent in 2004 from about 59 percent in 2000. The percentage of students going to a University of Hawaii community college or four-year college has also been declining, to about 31.7 percent in 2004 from 40.3 percent in 1983.
The study also showed that the projected number of high school graduates is likely to peak in 2008 at 13,804 and start declining to about 11,578 in 2018.
"Education plays a significant role in training," Johnsrud said.
With the college-going rate declining and the number of high school graduates also declining, Johnsrud said Hawaii faces a future with fewer skilled and educated workers unless the university can recruit more students who are now in the work force to go back to school.
"It's got to be a dual thrust," Johnsrud added. "Increase the college-going rate right out of high school and outreach to those people who have stepped out of high school into the work force."
Johnsrud's study also suggests expanding higher-education services in underserved regions in West Oahu, Oahu's North Shore and West Hawaii.