Chancellor: No program cuts this school year

But UH-MC is looking at ways to trim its budget amid UH system shortfalls

Lui Hokoana

University of Hawaii Maui College programs and budget appear to be “OK this school year,” but there could be cuts in the future as the UH system deals with revenue shortfalls, cautioned the college’s chancellor this week.

Chancellor Lui Hokoana said that in anticipation of the state budget downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the college began spending cutbacks in March, which included eliminating new equipment purchases and travel.

The first phase of cutbacks at the college also encompassed reducing 74 percent of casual hires, and each department had to reduce their budgets by 16 percent with help and input from the campus administration, Hokoana said.

The college is cutting $3.1 million from its $21 million budget for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, said Hokoana. The college already saved some funds when the UH system issued a hiring freeze in March at the beginning of the pandemic.

“We think we are OK for this school year,” he said Thursday afternoon. 

He said no scholarship funds were cut, and there will be no program cuts for this school year. 

The UH system has begun discussions about cuts as it awaits official word of reductions from Gov. David Ige’s administration, Hokoana said. Federal CARES Act funding has offset some of the budget shortfalls.

UH-Maui College received $500,000 to help students deal with COVID-19 issues and another $500,000 for the college to purchase cleaning supplies, plexiglass and personal protective equipment, Hokoana said. Another $1 million was allotted to UH-Maui College to fill in revenue losses.

The state may provide more CARES Act funding to the UH system, but Hokoana noted that the federal funds are not a long-term answer.

UH-Maui College is into the second phase of the “Campus Budget and Re-Envisioning” plan, which will assist the college in tightening its budget and making necessary changes while developing an outlook for years to come, Hokoana said. 

The possibility of program cuts came up this week as the flagship University of Hawaii at Manoa began discussions about ways to make up for budget shortfalls. Proposals suggested by a group of administrators, which included UH President David Lassner, had the university potentially phasing out bachelor’s degrees in dance, religion and journalism and advanced degrees with minimal students. 

University officials said that the proposals were just suggestions and that any program cuts would not take place until next fiscal year, which begins July1, or later.

Those types of program cuts and decisions may come later for UH-Maui College, Hokoana said. However, they would not be implemented until next school year, and college staff and students and the public would be able to weigh in.

He added that programs cannot be cut until students seeking those degrees have completed their studies.

Recommendations for program changes could come in phase two of the re-envisioning plan. Long-term planning may have to consider budget shortfalls as far as six years into the future, he said.

Hokoana anticipated a proposed second phase plan to be out in December. 

The chancellor said he knows people “got really excited” upon hearing the suggestions for cuts at UH-Manoa and noted that the Manoa campus has a lot more budget reduction options than UH-Maui College.

But he added: “My thought is I’m not sure if all of our programs will survive.”

“We really should be in sync with what our employee needs are of this community,” Hokoana said, referencing the community college’s role, which is to prepare students to enter the community workforce and educating people to fill employers needs.

At a recent virtual campus forum, which included Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino and Central Maui Rep. Troy Hashimoto, Hokoana said the discussion turned to innovative ways the college could support new economic sectors, such as diversified agriculture, state-of-the-art technology and health care.

Access to higher education is critical as well because “that leads to good jobs right here at home to more of our residents,” he added.

All is not gloom and doom, he said.

“This is exciting for us — again, a time to seize opportunities. Through the end of this year, we will work toward a vision for Maui College in service to Maui Nui,” Hokoana said. 

Currently, the majority of learning is being done virtually, but Hokoana said programs, such as auto mechanics, dental hygiene and nursing, have courses on campus. The college’s support services remain open to allow for tutoring and Wi-Fi use for students.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.


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