University of Hawaii seeks mental health, scholarship funds

HONOLULU (AP) — The University of Hawaii seeks additional funds for student mental health services, scholarships and other items in a new supplementary budget request, officials said.

The Board of Regents approved the fiscal year 2020-2021 supplemental operating budget of about $28 million Thursday, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The request will be submitted to the state Legislature and Democratic Gov. David Ige.

The university requested $2.6 million to hire 19 psychologists for the 10-campus system.

The University of Hawaii Manoa has eight psychologists, the Hilo campus has three, and the West Oahu campus has 1.75 positions, while each community college has one position, said Allyson Tanouye, who coordinates mental health throughout the university system.

“The national standard is one mental health professional per 1,000 to 1,500 students,” Tanouye said. “If we add the 19 positions we will be up to one per 1,500. That’s how low we are.”

The mental health funding would also expand programs to prevent suicide, reduce mental health stigma, provide peer education, and alert new students and parents to college transition challenges, officials said.

The largest item in the supplemental budget is $17.7 million to expand the Hawaii Promise Program scholarship to four-year state institutions. The university has proposed a flat amount to cover tuition and fees of Hawaii residents qualifying for need-based federal Pell grants.

“This is looking to focus on the most needy students going to the four-year campuses,” said Donald Straney, vice president for academic planning and policy. “It would add Hawaii Promise on top of the Pell grants to cover the total tuition costs of students who are receiving those grants.”

The request also covered staffing increases including positions for operations and maintenance, security, educational and cultural programming, and student mentors.