UH Campuses See Slight Decline in Enrollment Statewide

October 19, 2020, 7:46 AM HST (Updated October 19, 2020, 7:46 AM)
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UH Hilo students walk across campus. (PC: University of Hawaii)

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is the only university campus to see declines in enrollment over this fall semester.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout, overall UH enrollment declined 0.8%, from 49,977 students in fall 2019 to 49,594 current students, the smallest overall decline since 2012 when enrollment was near record-high levels.

UH at Mānoa, UH West Oʻahu and Kauaʻi Community College saw the most growth. Although enrollment dropped at UH Hilo by 6%, the number of first-time freshmen at UH Hilo increased for the second straight year from 449 to 462, the highest number since fall 2013.

“These enrollment numbers are welcome news,” said UH President David Lassner. “The University of Hawai‘i has a critical role to play in assisting Hawaiʻi out of this crisis and helping navigate the way to a more sustainable future for our people and our islands.”

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During the last recession UH community colleges experienced a rapid increase in enrollment, but that increase did not begin at the outset of the recession. Kaua‘i CC is the only UH community college that experienced an increase in overall enrollment with a 6.4% gain. Hawaiʻi Community College saw a decrease of 7.1%.

The going rate (college participation rate) of Hawai‘i high school graduates into the UH system increased by 1.3 percentage points in fall 2020 to 31.9%. The going rate of public high school graduates to UH was up by 0.5 percentage points to 32.8%, while the going rate of private high school graduates increased by 4.7 percentage points to 28.5%.

Students who identify as Native Hawaiians make up 25.6% of total enrollment, a record high since Hawaiian ancestry reporting began in fall 2005. Native Hawaiians or part-Hawaiians make up 21.3% of the state’s population.

First-generation students, those who are the first in their families to attend college, make up 22.3% of total enrollment. This is the highest percentage since the university started tracking in fall 2015.

Enrollment declined 3% overall in the United States in fall 2020, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s latest enrollment numbers, released October 15, 2020. Nationally, four-year public university enrollment is down 1.2%, and community colleges are down 9.4%. By comparison, UH‘s four-year universities are up 1.9% and the UH community colleges are down 3.2%.

Despite enrollment being basically flat, tuition revenue system-wide is expected to be slightly lower due in part to fewer out-of-state students who pay higher tuition rates.

Classified undergraduate transfers within the UH system increased by 1.9% over fall 2019. Transfers into UH Mānoa increased 16.5% and transfers into UH West Oahu increased 18.6%.

Lassner congratulated and thanked the staff and leaders across the UH system for their work in providing higher education to nearly 50,000 students in the midst of a pandemic.

“We need to continue to build on these successes,” Lassner added. “Higher education is the most powerful tool we know to increase social and economic mobility for those who need help the most and benefits families and communities across the state.”

University Campus Enrollment by the Numbers:

  • UH Mānoa: 18,025 students (+3.1%)
  • UH Hilo: 3,165 students (-6.1%)
  • UH West Oʻahu: 3,168 (+3.9%)

Community College Enrollment by the Numbers:

  • Hawaiʻi Community College: 2,430 students (-7.1%)
  • Honolulu Community College: 3,378 students (-3.8%)
  • Kapiʻolani Community College: 6,369 students (-1.8%)
  • Kauaʻi Community College: 1,461 students (+6.4%)
  • Leeward Community College: 6,363 students (-3.1%)
  • UH Maui College: 2,936 students (-1.9%)
  • Windward Community College: 2,299 students (-8.8%)

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