Record UH enrollment in bad economy


POSTED: Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A record number of students is taking spring semester classes in the University of Hawaii system, continuing a trend that officials say reflects declines in the economy and the job market.


;[Preview]    UH Enrollment Increases  

Students are flocking to UH tem campuses across the state, many folks going to school or staying in school because it's hard to find a job during a recession.

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There was a 5.6 percent increase in enrollment in credit classes. That follows a 5.3 percent fall-semester hike, which brought the student population to the highest in the institution's history, 53,509.

“;It's natural that college enrollment is counter-cyclical to the job market,”; said Linda Johnsrud, vice president for academic planning and policy. “;It's pretty typical that people who lost a job or whose prospects don't look that good decide that now is a good time to go back to school to make themselves more employable, or to change careers.”;

Johnsrud said the numbers can indicate how the economic downturn affects family spending: “;This year we probably have students staying home rather than going away to college.”;

In addition, many students are attending college closer to home. The biggest hikes were at the community colleges, especially at the neighbor island campuses. A total of 27,361 students attend community colleges, 9.4 percent more than last spring. Enrollment was up 16 percent on Maui, 15.7 percent on Kauai and 15.6 percent at Hawaii Community College.

“;There has been a real push on the part of all the campuses to advertise and market, trying to encourage students to go to college, whether right out of high school or later in life,”; Johnsrud said.

Increases at the Oahu community colleges were 10.2 percent at Leeward Community College, 6.1 percent at Kapiolani Community College and 3.7 percent at Honolulu Community College.

At the UH-Manoa campus, enrollment is 18,768, 50 fewer students than last spring, a 0.3 percent decrease. September enrollment at the flagship campus was also down by 0.2 percent.

“;Manoa had a higher-than-usual number of graduates last spring, which had an immediate impact,”; Johnsrud said.

She said UH-Manoa has worked out a dual enrollment system with the community colleges.

“;It wouldn't surprise me that some students are deciding to start at community colleges,”; she said. There has been a hike in transfers from one campus to another.

The greatest growth spurt is at UH-West Oahu, with an 18.1 percent increase. Most classes still meet in temporary classrooms at Leeward Community College, but there was a groundbreaking ceremony last year at the planned Ewa campus.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo has 3,677 students, 6.7 percent more than last spring.

The increase in demand will not trigger an immediate hike in tuition. The Board of Regents approved a six-year tuition plan in 2006, with incremental increases through 2012.

The tuition hikes are intended to bring the Hawaii state system's tuition in line with its peers, Johnsrud said. “;What that tells you is that our tuition is below the average and we are a really good deal.”;