Thursday, April 22, 1999

Years of neglect
cripple UH-Manoa

Declines in state funding
and enrollment are taking a
toll on the University of
Hawaii's Manoa campus

UH president laments cuts

Faculty: Manoa needs chancellor

By Helen Altonn


State support has declined, student enrollment has dropped and departing professors have cast a shadow on the quality of the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

"This really is unprecedented during the 30 years I've been here," said David Yount, a former UH vice president and author of the book "Who Runs the University? The Politics of Higher Education in Hawaii, 1985-1992."


State funding for the university dropped 19 percent in the past 10 years, according to a report by the UH Office on Planning and Policy and System Academic Affairs Council.

A national survey spotlighted Hawaii as the state with the largest loss in state support for higher education in 1998-99.

Hawaii ranks 16th in state appropriations for operating expenses of higher education per $1,000 of personal income, according to the Postsecondary Education OPPORTUNITY report.

Yet state funding dwindled from $11.59 per $1,000 of personal income in 1997-98 to $10.48 in 1998-99, the study said.

"Hawaii's economy remains in recession and Hawaii has apparently decided that higher education should receive a shrinking share of a shrinking economy," the report said.

Chuck Hayes, interim dean of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Natural Sciences, said, "The state needs to know that if it is looking to the university to help with any kind of economic base, it has got to have money."

Sliding state support shows "the university has fallen out of favor," Hayes said in a memo to the UH administration. "Regardless of words of praise and importance, our value as measured by resource allocation is declining."

Yount, currently a UH professor of physics and astronomy, said when he was in the administration, "We became very alarmed if our budget got cut by 3 percent. These kinds of budget cuts year after year for five or seven years in a row are really unprecedented."

'Breaking the law'

A state law that set a $352 million floor in state funding for UH was amended by the Legislature after the state administration repeatedly ignored it, said Sen. David Ige, Education and Technology Committee chairman.

"Their justification for breaking the law was they submitted a proposal to repeal that portion of it," he said.

The Legislature deleted the figure and provided for an appropriation ranging from 60 percent to 80 percent of funds required, with tuition on top of that, Ige said.

Starting in 1995-96, the university was allowed to keep tuition fees that formerly flowed into the state general fund. The money plus the appropriation gave the university $321.5 million in state operating funds last year. Yount said tuition shouldn't be considered state funding because it's "a tax on a very small population -- students and parents."

And that taxable base is eroding.

The Manoa campus had 23,000 students in 1969 when he joined the faculty, Yount noted. In 1994 it was about 20,000 and now it's about 17,000, he said. (Overall UH enrollment has fallen 8 percent in five years, to about 46,000.)

"When we raised our tuition, students chose to go elsewhere, where it was cheaper," Yount said, "like community colleges or Hawaii Pacific University where they can get credit for life experience and courses that wouldn't be counted at Manoa."

The university's policy also is that all campuses are equally good, Yount pointed out. "If that's true, why should anyone pay more to go to Manoa? The number of freshmen entering has declined under that policy."


His greatest concern, Yount said, is "we seem to have lost faith in the future, not only of the University of Hawaii but of the state of Hawaii."

This is reflected "in retrenching of the East-West Center, the Bishop Museum and so forth," he said. "It's a vicious circle."

The state and UH administration in the 1980s worked together to produce a world-class university so Hawaii could "be a player on the world stage," Yount said. "There was a certain attitude, a certain vision, about Hawaii's future."

The UH traditionally has generated economic development, and that pays off as an investment, Yount said, adding that former Gov. John Waihee and former UH President Al Simone "understood that and believed it."

Now, he said, "We're hunkered down. The idea seems to be, we can't do it; we've got to retrench; we've got to go back to just taking care of our own problems and not worry about the larger arena."

The question is how to turn the crisis around, Yount said. When Simone became president, he hired psychologists and studied Lee Iacocca's experience in rebuilding Chrysler Corp. to help him turn the university around, Yount said.

"Now we have the lowest morale we've ever had -- Manoa is the lowest of all campuses. The reasons are clear to us," he added.

Hard selling a school

The university has begun an aggressive advertising campaign in an attempt to do something about the situation. Said a recent newspaper ad: "$160 million in research proves UH kicks academic butt."

"We've got a very sound university here," said Dean Smith, UH senior vice president, pointing out it is ranked 64th nationally in federal funding and listed by U.S. News and World Report in the top 3 percent of research universities.

"But there seems to be this perception that something's wrong. It's time we corrected the record," Smith said. "We're going to assert ourselves. We want the public to know the quality of the institution we have here."

Pessimism persists

Still, Alexander Malahoff, an oceanographer who heads several major UH research programs, is warning colleagues of impending disaster.

In a letter to union members April 5, he said, "I regret to inform you that the University of Hawaii system is in grave danger of failing to accomplish its mission as a Division 1 research institution and is similarly being starved in its other parts as well."

Malahoff said shortages and cuts have significantly curtailed the faculty's ability to do their jobs. "Even the size of our bargaining unit itself has been reduced by over 12 percent since 1994," he said.

"Fewer faculty are available to teach, do research and perform valuable service to the community. It is almost as if it is the policy of our state and university administrations to ruin public higher education in Hawaii."

Faculty members able to leave Hawaii have left or are leaving, said John Radcliffe, the union's associate executive director.

"It isn't just numbers," but the caliber of those leaving, he said, recalling when noted epidemiologist David Morens had to use a pay phone for research-related business because of UH cutbacks. Morens has since gone to the national Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

"Even if someone wants to stay here, we can't offer them any kind of pay to keep them," Radcliffe said. "Then there is the other end of it. Really good people old enough to retire just do."

Eugene Imai, UH senior vice president for administration, acknowledged the state's economic plight but stressed that the university is key to revitalization.

The record-breaking $160 million brought into Hawaii by UH faculty members last year had a far greater impact because of the multiplier effect, Imai pointed out. "In many cases we turn tax money around and generate even greater amounts of revenue through federal and private sources.

"There's no question that budget cuts do have impact on what can be done, as well as what is not being done," Imai said.

What can't be done is to maintain university facilities, he said. The backlog of repair and maintenance programs is just under $100 million and it continues to grow, he said.

Smith acknowledged serious facility problems on the Manoa campus, citing the "old and antiquated" medical school as a prime example. He said laboratories are unworkable and must be remodeled piecemeal "at terrible expense" for every faculty member hired. The building's condition and inadequate space were major concerns of two candidates who rejected offers to be the school's dean, he said.

UH money matters

University of Hawaii general fund budget proposals, to be negotiated in House-Senate conference:

The governor's budget basically proposed the current funding level of $277 million for each year of the biennium.

The UH Board of Regents approved a request for additional operating funds of $31 million for the first year, for a total of $308 million, and $30 million for the second year.

The request included $3 million per year for the medical school. Also, $1.6 million for electricity costs the first year and $3 million the second year.

The House added $2.9 million to the current funding base, for a total of $280 million for the first year. In the second year, it added $3 million.

The Senate proposed an additional $1.1 million for the first year, for a total of $278 million. It proposed adding $891,000 for the second year.

A separate bill is pending that would address electricity shortfalls.

Source: University of Hawaii Budget Office

It’s not easy
acquiring funds
for the university

Getting additional money from
the state budget is proving to be a tough sell

By Helen Altonn


The two legislative chairmen closest to University of Hawaii issues say they're still trying to get more money for the institution in the next state budget.

"We are having a hard time," said House Higher Education Chairman David Morihara. "We've had to fight for every penny we've gotten."

"The hard part is the executive branch has taken the position that it is not going to allot any additional funding to them -- even to increasing utility costs," said Senate Education and Technology Chairman David Ige.

UH has been taking money from other program areas to cover utilities and basic costs, he said.

Any funding increase must be at the expense of something else in the executive budget, Ige said. "That gets to be harder to do, although the Legislature has consistently appropriated more money (for the UH than the governor has)."

During Ben Cayetano's first years as governor, his administration deemed the entire UH budget to be discretionary, so the university "took a big hit" in downsizing, Ige said.

The administration now at least is protecting core instruction, he said.

State Budget Director Earl Anzai said the UH has had lump sum budgeting and "they have complete control over how they spend their money. All we can do is restrict money. ... In fact, their cuts are smaller than most departments," Anzai said.

"And they've had declining enrollments over this period, so state funds per student have increased, not decreased."

Morihara said the UH administration needs to get away from annual 4 percent across-the-board cuts to accommodate state funding losses.

Such restrictions "have really hurt the university," he said. "They need to make some decisions about whether programs are important or not."

He believes UH administrators and regents have put off making hard decisions, thinking things would get better.

"We think it will get better, but not like in the early 1980s," he said.

"There needs to be stronger vision and a stronger statement of where they're going. People may not be happy with cuts, but they're willing to take them if they see a purpose," Morihara said. "They need decisive action."

Ige also questions how much the university has done in terms of reallocation, reauthorizing and shutting down programs not needed any more.

"I think they've done better than other government agencies, but it's becoming harder and harder," he said.

While advocating more support for UH-Manoa, Ige said, "When you look at the (faculty) course loads, they are significantly lower than other campuses across the state. Obviously, it's a research institution."

Both the House and Senate proposed increased funds for UH programs but nothing, so far, for the medical school which already receives $15 million to $17 million in general funds.

Two candidates who turned down offers for the dean's position at the medical school wanted to make it more of a cutting-edge research facility, Morihara said.

To do that, he said, the UH asked for an additional $3 million per year for five years compounded, for a total of $45 million.

"We're trying to get that request a little more manageable."

Morihara noted that bills are pending to help UH researchers and spur biotechnology by exempting state taxes on royalties on patents and by streamlining importation of microorganisms.

He pointed out that UH is one of the state's largest industries, with a record $160 million in outside research and training money brought in last year. But a lot of federal grants and other outside support require leverage in state funding, he said.

Ige said, "An investment in the university is probably one of the best investments we can make at this time. ...The challenge for us is to really find the funds to do it. "

UH president laments cuts

Faculty: Manoa needs chancellor

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin