Clear accounting needed
as tuition rises


The Board of Regents has approved major increases in the University of Hawaii system.

SHARP tuition increases over a short period of time will place heavy financial burdens on students throughout the University of Hawaii system.

The UH Board of Regents, in approving the steep boosts this week, promised that students will reap benefits from the fresh revenue, requiring the university administration to continually justify spending. Regents must keep that pledge and students themselves should hold the board and UH officials to the commitment.

The new tuition levels will raise the price for higher education by $408 every year through 2012 for undergraduates at the Manoa campus. Current annual tuition of $3,504 will more than double to $8,400. Undergraduates at UH-Hilo will see jumps of $264 every year; those at community colleges will end up paying $97 per credit from $49 per credit, a 98 percent rise.

UH officials say that by 2011-2012, they will offer $23 million in financial aid to help students in need while at present aid totals only $4.8 million. Most of this should go to low-income students, but those just above that level also should get some relief. Closely monitoring the aid will assure regents that the funds are fully expended.

The UH administration characterized the increases as justified when compared to tuition at other state universities. Faculty and deans told the board that insufficient funds are hurting UH's ability to attract good teachers, which in turn hurts the quality of education. Vacancies force cuts in the number of classes, stalling students from completing their degrees quickly.

No one would dispute the university's needs. However, the extra money -- $120 million a year by the sixth year of the increases -- must be funneled to the classrooms fairly. Students who can't afford Manoa might choose community colleges or Hilo, which will require more funding and attention to be directed at those campuses. The administration should make amply clear to regents, students and the public how dollars are being spent. In addition, it should track enrollment to ensure accessibility isn't being compromised by costs.


Corporate park names blur
public’s ownership


The City Council has deferred a bill to sell the rights to name parks and other facilities.

SELLING the rights to name Honolulu's parks and facilities would probably find lots of corporate takers, as other municipalities across the nation have discovered.

But money isn't everything. Allowing a business to brand a city-owned botanical garden or a stretch of beach takes away clear public ownership and, in doing so, further diminishes public accountability for their care. Already people slight common grounds, assuming it is someone else's task to pick up and clean up, to sustain plants and trees, benches and picnic tables.

City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz shouldn't be criticized for suggesting an idea that he thinks could bring the city needed revenue. However, thinking outside of a Jack in the Box so that a fast-food chain could claim Hanauma Bay is going too far.

Council members, before deferring Dela Cruz's bill this week, made light-hearted observations about the consequences of the measure, but appeared to recognize the serious problems the city could encounter.

For one thing, historic and cultural designations would be tarnished. Imagine Waikiki Shell prefixed with Wally's Window Washing, Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens with Homer's Hams or Chinatown Gateway Park with Charley's Charcoal Factory.

Assigning value also could spark controversy. Would size, location or the facility itself determine the price tag? Could firms that buy rights place demands on repairs and maintenance, designs and changes? What if a company goes bankrupt? What if, like Enron, its name becomes notorious?

Dela Cruz says his intent was to sell rights to facilities within parks, such as stadiums and ball fields, but the city owns few of these and they have names reflecting the sites' legacies or histories. These shouldn't be peddled to the highest bidder.

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