University of Hawaii at Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin joined us for the September Government Affairs Committee (GAC) meeting to update us on two questions we had asked about: Enrollment and Dean vs Director.

Enrollment was down in the fall, but the students are taking lots of credits. There are some major challenges affecting enrollment at UH Hilo now and in the future.

  1. With all the public high schools on the island, only Waiakea sends over 50% of their graduates on to higher education. The approximate breakdown of students at UH Hilo is 50% Hawaii Island, 25% neighbor islands, 25% mainland and international. So getting more kids from on-island schools going to UH Hilo would be a big help.
  2. Demographic cliff – There are less school-aged children in the coming generations, so numbers are expected to continue to decline. This is already happening on the mainland.

So what is UH Hilo doing to attract students?

  1. New interdisciplinary data science program
  2. New bachelor of science in education studies. This will give students an undergraduate teaching degree that will allow them to teach in the DOE (currently K-6) without having to get a masters degree.
  3. Expanding the nursing and counseling psychology programs to fill the many job openings.

And how can we help?

  • UH Hilo needs to know from the business community where the jobs are going to be so they can plan accordingly.
  • Get the word out. UH Hilo has a lot of boomerang students (students who go to a mainland college but return home to finish their degree), but they are looking for more students to start at UH Hilo and then study with partner schools on the mainland or overseas.
  • Provide internship opportunities for UH Hilo students. There are several programs that are working quite well, but UH Hilo is hiring an Internship Coordinator to make sure all the programs work together.

Dean vs Director – UH Hilo currently has three Deans, two for the larger colleges (College of Arts & Sciences and College of Natural & Health Sciences), and one for the Pharmacy School as it is required for accreditation. However, Bonnie actually prefers Faculty Directors for the smaller colleges: College of Business & Economics, College of Hawaiian Language, and College of Agriculture, Forestry & Natural Resource Management. Directors are chosen by their colleagues, and as a full faculty member, there is more stability and flexibility in their roles. It also doesn’t hurt that there is less cost by not having additional Dean positions. Interestingly, the University of Hilo West Oahu has no Deans and only uses Directors. (Full disclosure – I had to look up all the colleges as I did not know them all before the meeting.)

Join us for the next GAC meeting on Friday, October 13 where I hope to have someone from the County discuss the new General Plan (