UH Manoa welcomes students back, amid budget woes

Matt Dentone
Matt Dentone
Rise Doi
Rise Doi
Francisco Hernandez
Francisco Hernandez

By Leland Kim - bio | email

MANOA (KHNL)  -   It's back to school for University of Hawaii students across the state Monday.  Mixed in with the excitement of a new year are concerns of how the state budget crisis will impact students, faculty and staff.

Students at UH Manoa, including 1,900 brand new freshmen, roam the campus on the first day of the fall semester.  Enrollment is up almost two percent from a year ago.

I'm really excited to be here," said Breanna Mammano, a first year sociology major from Los Angeles, California. "It's my first day of college. It's exciting!"

But this year is a bit different from previous years. The state's budget crisis means some classes and even some programs could be cut.

"That's scary especially since I'm a swimmer here and I've heard programs are getting cut all over the country," said Matt Dentone, a sophomore business major who is also on the UH swim team. "I'd hate to see the swim team get cut or just any program."

The University of Hawaii has to slash $76 million from its budget, $45 million from the Manoa campus alone.

"The budget crisis has already affected us," said Francisco Hernandez, University of Hawaii's Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.  "We've been unable to fill some empty positions.  We've actually had to eliminate positions."

More than 150 lecturers and non-tenured faculty were let go over the summer.  Some classes this semester are jam packed.

"I had a class that's usually 30 be 45 today, earlier this morning," said Mammano.

The university is trying to maintain its academic programs.

"I know that on the teaching side, the deans are making an extra effort to make sure that all classes are filled and that many classes that are core are offered," said Hernandez.

Still it's a time of uncertainty for university employees.

"My position is funded mostly by grants so I'm pretty lucky but I know in other departments some of my friends are worried about their jobs," said Rise Doi, who works at the School of Social Work.

Many hope the worst is over, and try to keep a positive outlook.

"Just keep my head above water, do well in school, do well in swimming, just meet new people," said Dentone, who is from the Bay Area.  "That's what I love about this school, it's so diverse. I'm meeting people from all over the world, and I love it here. I couldn't be happier. I'm just excited for another year."

Despite the effects of budget cuts, UH has given out more in financial aid than last year, more than $40 million this year compared to $30 million last year.  And they still plan to give out an additional $5 million or $6 million more in aid in the next few weeks.