HPU struggling to boost enrollment after years of declines - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

HPU struggling to boost enrollment after years of declines

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Hawaii Pacific University administrators are scrambling to recruit new mainland and Hawaii students, after seeing enrollment drop by nearly 43 percent over the last five years.

The sharp decline in enrollment at the state’s largest private university is being blamed on a host of factors, from the economic downturn to administrative issues to a stronger dollar, which drove some international students away.

But whatever the causes, HPU officials agree that they need to be laser-focused on recruiting new students to campus – and keeping them there through graduation day.

And the good news is, the numbers appear to finally be moving in the right direction.

When classes start at HPU on Monday, there's expected to be an uptick of students enrolled in classes, though HPU officials declined to release figures until an official enrollment number is released in October.

The most recent data reported to the state showed that HPU had 4,781 students in 2015, down by more than 3,500 students from 2010.

From 2014 to 2015 alone, HPU lost 1,000 students. In 2014, the official enrollment count was 5,827.

Over the same period, Chaminade University of Honolulu and Brigham Young University-Hawaii saw their enrollments remain relatively steady.

Greg Grauman, HPU’s newly-hired vice president of enrollment management, said the institution does have a big job ahead of it in attracting new students to campus.

But, he added, he’s optimistic about the future.

The school is planning on beefing up local recruitment, and redoubling its efforts to attract more students from the mainland.

“Our desire is to really stabilize the core student population here,” Grauman said, though he declined to elaborate on his enrollment goals.

For the upcoming school year, he said, “we’re seeing growth in enrollment in the sectors that we’re looking for.”

The enrollment problems have hit HPU particularly hard because of its heavy reliance on tuition revenues. A June report from the accrediting body Western Association of Schools and Colleges said that net tuition and fees make up about 80 percent of HPU’s operating revenues.

As tuition revenues have declined, HPU has also been grappling with rising costs, including for the purchase, renovation and operation of the Aloha Tower Marketplace for dorms and student activities.

“These dynamics have resulted in significant layoffs, the elimination of unfilled positions, and other cost-cutting measures that have severely stressed the university community,” the WASC report said. “Administrative leaders, deans, faculty and staff are now working to restore institutional stability within an overall organization that has been reduced by almost one-quarter since 2012.”

Stabilizing the institution is undoubtedly at the top of the agenda for incoming HPU President John Yukio Gotanda, who was announced as the new head of HPU in February. And boosting enrollment is expected to be central to those efforts.

Grauman, who was recruited from American University in Washington, D.C., said there are already a host of efforts underway to attract new students. Among them: Establishing grants to incentivize campus visits and streamlining the path to enrolling in classes, selecting a major and graduating.

“The right steps are being taken here,” Grauman said.    

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