Flexibility key to enrollment, revenue at UH
Enrollment of nonresident students has exceeded limits at two University of Hawaii campuses.
A UNIVERSITY of Hawaii policy to sustain residents' access to higher education by limiting the number of students from outside the state
has not been enforced, bringing into question the need for a rigid constraint.
The Board of Regents, in reviewing the policy, should consider a more flexible procedure that will maintain priority for residents, but allow for an increase of mainland and foreign students when slots are available.
The board adopted the cap in 2002 at a time when enrollment at the public university system was peaking. Since then, enrollment has fluctuated and the Manoa and Hilo campuses have exceeded the nonresident limit set at 30 percent. Meanwhile, community colleges have seen sharp increases in international students, though not in excess of the 15 percent cap for those campuses.
As a public institution, it is appropriate for the university system to be responsive to higher education goals of local students. What is disturbing, however, is that Hawaii's high school graduates have a relatively low college attendance rate of just 52 percent. Of those who do choose to go to college, 30 percent enroll at colleges on the mainland, according to the Star-Bulletin's Craig Gima.
More effort should be made to encourage local students to seek higher education, which is problematic in a service-oriented economy. In addition, there is a need to promote the university's campuses.
That said, out-of-state students provide an attractive revenue stream for the university system since tuition for nonresidents is nearly three times that for residents. Indeed, some states, such as Montana, cultivate higher education for nonresidents as economic development, counting not only on tuition fees, but on spending for food, clothing, services and housing.
However, while the Big Sky country might have adequate housing for students, UH clearly falls short. As regents chairwoman Kitty Lagareta points out, the taxpayer-supported system has to provide dorms as well as classroom space and classes for local students before it can open the doors to more nonresidents.
Without the limits, said Linda Johnsrud, vice president for academic planning and policy, "there simply is an incentive to get more nonresidents." Nonetheless, the university surely could use the out-of-state revenue.
The system's community colleges are recruiting international students who find their lower tuition fees attractive. Even so, their attendance brings in significant funds. At Kapiolani Community College, for example, the 8 percent of foreign students enrolled contributed 38 percent of the income and fees the school collected last year.
Students from the mainland and other countries add more than money to the college experience, providing a diversity local students might not have encountered previously. The mix broadens perspectives and viewpoints, which also should be part of regents' consideration in setting enrollment benchmarks.