GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
UH-West Oahu students Nick Fraga, left, JR Aquino and Kevin Tanitomi compared notes Friday for a class while relaxing in the lanai area of the school. CLICK FOR LARGE
UH-West tuition among lowest
Its pricetag is reported as the sixth lowest in the nation by U.S. News and World Report
» Web site error ranks UH-West Oahu as cheapest public school in nation
The University of Hawaii at West Oahu is among the cheapest public universities in the nation, according to the 2007 U.S. News and World Report's Best Colleges in America guide.
UH-West Oahu charges $2,736 a year for in-state students and $4,392 for out-of-state students, making it the sixth-lowest tuition in the nation, according to the magazine's annual college guide.
UH is raising tuition at all of its 10 campuses over the next five years, but UH-West Oahu will see less of a tuition increase than UH-Manoa, in part to keep it affordable.
That's just fine for Peter Le, 26, the first member of his immigrant family to go to college.
Le said he supports his mother and five younger brothers and sisters working full-time while finishing his degree in public administration.
"Growing up poor, I picked a campus that is reasonable," Le said, adding that smaller class sizes and more personal interaction with faculty also attracted him to UH-West Oahu.
Le added that he makes too much money to qualify for financial aid, so saving money on tuition enables him to spend more on his family.
"You barely have enough to survive on your own, paying expensive tuition is pretty tough, pretty difficult," he said. "I have to struggle with work and help my mom and take care of my siblings."
UH-West Oahu Chancellor Gene Awakuni said, "We think we're a bargain, a quality bargain."
Awakuni said UH-West Oahu attracts many nontraditional students and students who are the first in their family to go to college, partly because tuition is low.
However, low tuition is a mixed blessing, according to Linda Johnsrud, UH vice president for policy and planning. "Low tuition is a benefit, but you've got to balance what your tuition buys you."
Johnsrud said UH-West Oahu is known for quality teaching because of its dedicated faculty. "But at the same time, the curriculum there has been limited and that's a function of a lack of investment," she said.
Johnsrud said UH-West Oahu and UH-Hilo are priced lower than UH-Manoa because their main focus is on providing affordable undergraduate education.
As a research university, the flagship UH-Manoa campus must balance undergraduate education with the needs of research faculty and additional graduate-level programs.
The state subsidizes about 75 percent of the cost of an education at UH-West Oahu and UH-Hilo, Johnsrud said. By comparison, the state subsidizes about 60 percent of the costs at UH-Manoa, with tuition and outside research funding paying for the rest.
UH-West Oahu is recruiting its first freshman class. It currently offers only upper-division, junior- and senior-level classes. The school also hopes to build a new campus in Kapolei to replace its current location in portable classrooms next to Leeward Community College.
Those advances will cost money, Johnsrud said, and will have to be paid for either by higher tuition or larger state subsidies.
Tuition at UH-West Oahu for in-state students will rise to $3,216 next year and will increase to $5,136 by fall 2011. Tuition for out-of-state students will be $10,176 next year and $15,744 in 2011.
UH-West Oahu is the smallest of the state's three upper-division university campuses with 820 students enrolled this spring.
The first phase of the new campus to serve up to 1,520 students is supposed to be built in 2009 by a private developer in exchange for the rights to build housing and commercial developments on state land adjacent to the campus. But UH-West Oahu is also seeking about $30 million in taxpayer-financed bonds for the construction of sewer, water and other infrastructure.
Web site error ranks UH-West Oahu as cheapest public school in nation
The University of Hawaii at West Oahu was listed as the cheapest public school tuition in the nation on the U.S. News & World Report Web site.
But the tuition of $1,368 for residents listed on the Web site is actually the semester rate, rather than the full year, UH-West Oahu officials confirmed.
Even when doubled to $2,736, UH-West Oahu is still inexpensive and among the lowest in the country.
Bob Morse, the director of data research at U.S. News & World Report, said the ranking is based on information supplied by the school and that the magazine would look into the apparent mistake.
But at $2,736, UH-West Oahu's tuition is "still a reasonable price," Morse said. "It's not an overpriced school."
UH-Manoa was ranked at about 150th on the U.S. News and World Report list, behind the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
Undergraduate tuition and fees at UH-Manoa are $4,521 a year for residents.
UH-Hilo isn't ranked, but its $3,148 annual price tag would put it at about 29th cheapest, after San Diego State University.