UH-Maui College begins year lighter 285 students
Financial difficulty continues to be the biggest barrier
KAHULUI — Enrollment is down 285 students from last year as the fall semester began Monday at the University of Hawaii Maui College.
The community college had a total of 3,033 students attending Monday, compared with 3,318 students on the same day in 2017, said UH-Maui College spokeswoman Kit Zulueta. On Aug. 20, 2016, enrollment was 3,298.
The decline was not a surprise to UH-MC officials. Zulueta said national college enrollments are falling as are enrollments at most UH community colleges.
“While the decrease in enrollment is a complex issue, financial difficulty continues to be the biggest barrier” to attending college, Zulueta said. “Our cost of living continues to increase in the county, and unemployment rates are going down.
“Potential students opt to work instead of (going to) school.”
The downward trend began as the economy started to pick up after the Great Recession hit in 2008, she said. While the focus was on retraining in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the emphasis has shifted somewhat to helping those seeking promotions.
When employees start to climb the ladder, some may find it difficult to obtain promotions with higher pay because they lack college degrees, Zulueta said.
“What we continue to promote is that working adults can consider our online and evening classes so they can still earn their degree,” Zulueta said. “Technology in our workforce also continues to present new demands that require certain skills. We understand the scheduling demands of our working students, which is why we continue to offer classes that will fit their needs.”
The school’s recruitment program is targeting a variety of students, including returning students, working adults, high school students who may have already taken college courses, along with international students.
As for financial barriers, Zulueta said there are a variety of funding resources, including scholarships, such as the Hawaii Promise scholarship, a need-based award, and others through the University of Hawaii Foundation. Students also may pay tuition in installments.
UH-MC staff is aware that other costs besides tuition may hamper student enrollment, such as access to computers, printing costs and books. The campus has free printing services and laptop borrowing and many computer labs, where students can do their work and socialize.
One of those labs is Ho’okahua, where on Monday a couple of students were using computers. There were toys for students’ children to play with if mom or dad came to study. A painted orange wall gave the computer lab a homelike feel. There were free snacks, including microwaveable popcorn on a shelf, and leftovers from a special first school day pancake breakfast on another table.
Across the hall was a more standard computer lab, where two other students did their work. Other computer labs can be found throughout the campus, Zulueta said.
Fairly new to the college is the Smart Room, a partitioned space in the library, where students can gather to recharge their phones and study together using an 80-inch or two 45-inch screens. Students can hook up to the large screens to display notes or projects.
Recent UH-MC graduate Alickzander Pasalo, now a volunteer at the library and at the Smart Room, said the room is a way to have students engage with each other on projects. The Smart Room opened up around the end of last school year. Recently, a partition was added to block the room from the nearby restrooms.
Because Monday was the first day of school, the library offered free coffee. Around the campus were informational tables for students with questions.
“We think the more students and potential students know about how we take care of them, they will have more confidence to enroll and pursue a degree,” Zulueta said.
One of the new things students, faculty and staff will encounter this school year is a rule banning smoking on all UH campuses. This includes the Kahului main campus and education centers in Hana and Lahaina and on Lanai and Molokai.
UH-Maui College has been enforcing the ban since Gov. David Ige signed Act 160 into law July 10. Those who smoke will need to leave campus to do so.
Zulueta said that not all the signs about the ban have gone up yet; some are pending consultation with all of the unions on the campus. Some signs are up though, and the campus is enforcing the ban, she said.
The ban covers smoking of cigarettes and cigars, vaping, chewing tobacco and pipes. It does not prohibit those on UH campuses from possessing those items.
Other new happenings:
• In the spring semester, the school will go 100 percent renewable and become among the first in the nation to produce, store and use solar energy. This has boosted the campus’s Sustainable Science Management four-year degree program, the only one offered in the UH system.
• UH-MC received a Blue Zones Project Approved Worksite designation. This is bestowed upon institutions that have successfully adopted best practices that promote health and wellness.
• The college is updating its long-range development plan, which looks at land use and physical changes needed to help achieve the school’s goals.
Zulueta said the college will have its second International Mobility Ready Study Abroad program in the Philippines next summer.
“We continue efforts in the international market — both outbound and inbound — to prove that learning beyond the waters of Hawaii can build lasting bridges that can facilitate international cooperation,” Zulueta said.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.