Amid cloudy financial outlook, UH hopes to convince more Hawaii students to stay home for college

As summer session starts, uncertainty surrounds UH enrollment and financial outlook

MANOA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii’s first summer session of the year started on Tuesday with students and teachers still connecting online.

During the second session which starts in July, the school will begin to test out enhanced safety measures in a limited number of classes on campus.

"We'll be pilot testing how to do large classes effectively in more hybrid modes, where the lecture portion can be online and maybe we'll have some small group interactions," explained UH President David Lassner.

With the application deadline for the fall extended to August 1, it’s still unclear how the pandemic will impact enrollment. Officials are focusing on attracting Hawaii students who may have been eyeing the mainland.

"Staying at home is an incredibly affordable option for students," said Lassner. "And there's a lot of concern about going to off a relatively expensive mainland school and then having a fully online experience."

The university's new public service announcement, "Now is the time," urges prospective Hawaii students to choose one of the school's 10 campuses.

"They don't have good job prospects and deciding to go on to post secondary education, whatever institution they choose, is only going to prepare them and their families for better lives.

Lassner also hopes local college graduates may choose to seek higher degrees rather than struggle to find jobs during a recession.

A boost in local enrollment, however, may not be enough to offset a potential drop in tuition revenue from a decline in higher-paying out-of-state and international students.

Adding to the financial uncertainty, it's unclear how much falling tax revenue will affect the usual subsidy from the state treasury.

"The bottom line is we just don't know how much general funds we're going to get. An early scenario showed reductions of well over $100 million," said Lassner.

The university is also hoping for additional federal support. Lassner said the university system received a total of nearly $45 million in CARES funding, but that money cannot be used to cover budget shortfalls.

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