KAHULUI - University of Hawaii Maui College will expand academic programs for Native Hawaiian students through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education for Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions.
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye notified UH-Maui College of the grant award last week. For the initial year, the award provides $799,990, with the program expected to provide $4 million over five years.
The allocations are for curriculum development and faculty support in setting up extended services for Native Hawaiian students to achieve their academic goals in college and to graduate.
Inouye said the funding will be used at the college to develop culturally based curriculum and expand math and English courses for Native Hawaiian students.
"We must ensure that Native Hawaiian students are well equipped to take on the working world - and creating access to a quality college education is among the most important services government can provide," he said.
UH-Maui College Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto credited newly appointed Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs John McKee, a principal investigator, for his role in grant development and in assisting Title III Project Director Ben Guerrero with this successful application.
Guerrero said the initiative was designed by UH-Maui College faculty and staff with three primary components:
"With this award, the federal Department of Education recognizes the need to help a significant percentage of our students overcome inadequacies in their educational preparation and validates UH-Maui College's strategies for outreach and support of its students," McKee said.
In its letter of grant authorization, the Department of Education noted the largest ethnic grouping among 4,114 students enrolled at UH-Maui College in 2009 was Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders at 30.2 percent - compared to 28.4 percent for Asian-Americans and 27.3 percent for Caucasians.
In 2009, a large number of the Native Hawaiian students at UH-MC had weak test results on Compass Placement exams but did not enroll in developmental English and math courses. The failure of students to take advantage of the developmental support is seen as a major factor in low graduation rates, according to a UH-Maui College news release.
With the grant, Guerrero said, the college will establish the Student Success Center in a new 2,000-square-foot building located near the campus health center.
"This building will be called Kaiao - raising consciousness - and will be a Student Success Center open for Native Hawaiian and all other students to assist with developmental education through peer mentoring, tutoring services, academic and cultural support services to increase retention, persistence and graduation rates at UH-MC," Guerrero said.
Programs are designed to help students successfully navigate classroom requirements during each semester, advance to the next level of their course work and, finally, to graduate.
"The purpose of the proposal is to address the problem of too- low Native Hawaiian retention and persistence in math and English courses, and subsequent low graduation rates from the University of Hawaii Maui College," he said.
Retention refers to students completing course work in a major each semester; persistence refers to students continuing in their major studies semester to semester to graduation.
"The opportunity to reverse the low retention and persistence rates and subsequent graduation rates among Hawaiian students by implementing the three activities is a boon to the college and will certainly provide even more role models of success in higher education for Native Hawaiians," said Kiope Raymond, UH-Maui College associate professor of Hawaiian studies.
The Student Success Center will use an array of UH-Maui College departments and programs, including the Learning Center, UH Institutional Research Offices, Media Center/Computing Services Center, Lau'ulu Council and faculty and staff of the Math, English, Hawaiian Studies and Student Affairs departments.