UH-MC’s accreditation creates student opportunities

Would you know the number of public colleges in Hawaii or California that are open (high school graduates or 18 years old) admission institutions that grant two-year associate’s degrees and four-year bachelor’s degrees? One.

The University of Hawaii Maui College in Kahului (with outreach centers in Lahaina, Hana, Lanai and Molokai) is the only accredited public college in California or Hawaii to move from the Western Association for Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges to the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities.

Maui College’s accreditation history reflects the institution’s commitment to addressing student opportunities to compete for higher compensated career opportunities requiring four-year degrees in Maui County. Experts from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University say that by 2018, 131,000 of the expected 205,000 job vacancies in Hawaii will require post-secondary credentials.

Framing this unique Maui College context for the upcoming WASC Senior Visiting Team next month challenges the entire college. Motivated by seeing higher-compensated careers filled by others recruited from elsewhere with higher degrees, Maui College was compelled to provide residents with greater access to these opportunities through expanding bachelor’s degree options.

Traditionally, the college provided and will continue to offer affordable, quality career and technical education, including apprenticeship training for the trades to the residents of the county and the state. With a population of approximately 4,000 students, many of these learners were the first in their family to attend college (48 percent of the 2,855 financial aid recipients in 2011-12 were first generation).

Incoming students range from first-time freshmen to returning students pursuing employment-related degrees, as well as professionals seeking the latest technical training. The college must meet these needs in a geographically isolated tri-island community, with one of the highest costs of living in the state and country. WASC Senior Visiting Team members will be primarily coming from four-year colleges and universities, with one member from a two-year college. Through responses to WASC Senior Standards and communications between the College and the Team, Maui College faculty and staff members are clarifying the complexities of the college’s students, programs and services.

The college’s faculty and staff believe in learning. In an effort to better match the college’s transition to a baccalaureate degree-granting institution, Maui College redrafted its mission statement through a faculty- and staff-driven process, which was recently approved by the UH Board of Regents and incorporated into our WASC review documentation. The revised mission statement is:

The University of Hawaii Maui College inspires students to develop knowledge and skills in pursuit of academic, career and personal goals in a supportive educational environment that emphasizes community engagement, lifelong learning, sustainable living, Native Hawaiian culture and global understanding.

To ensure access to learning that changes and improves lives, UHMC recognizes that students with the deepest curiosity and excitement about their field/s of study trigger the most effective learning. Meeting the geographic challenge of a tri-isle community delivery through online classes, Cable TV, or via The Hawai’i Interactive Television System, the college’s Media Center and television studio supports the delivery of high-definition TV, giving students access to “live” and taped versions.

Given the college’s faculty expertise and experience, the connection of our programs with community needs and opportunities, facilities, technical labs, studios, infrastructure and equipment, and other grant-funded resources supporting learning, Maui Nui’s college offers one of the best higher education values anywhere. The WASC Senior Team will examine the authenticity of this claim when it reviews the college in April.

To learn more or read UH Maui College’s Institutional Reaccreditation Report, the WASC Off-Site Review Summary of Findings and follow the process, visit the college’s website at maui.hawaii.edu/accreditation.

* Clyde Sakamoto is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka’ana Mana’o means “sharing thoughts.” The column appears on the fourth Sunday of each month. It is prepared with assistance from UH-Maui College staff and provides information about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and its education centers.