UH seeks to raise tuition to help address $500M in backlogged repairs

UH seeks to raise tuition to tackle backlogged repairs
Published: Apr. 4, 2016 at 9:50 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 5, 2016 at 12:35 AM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii is proposing another round of tuition hikes through 2020 to help tackle a $500 million maintenance backlog.

The university's proposal, detailed in a public meeting Monday, includes a 2 percent tuition increase at UH-Manoa over the next three years.

In-state tuition at UH-Manoa, currently at $10,872, would hit $11,520 by the 2019-2020 school year.

Meanwhile, at community colleges, UH-Hilo and UH-West Oahu, there would be no change in the first year, but 2 percent increases in both the second and third year. For example, in-state tuition at UH-Hilo would increase by about $144 to $7,344 by 2019-2020.

Risa Dickson, UH vice president of academic planning and policy, said the increased tuition would help the system tackle backlogged repairs that "we need to take care of to make the campuses safe and modern learning facilities for teaching learning and our research activities."

The tuition hike would raise at least $100 million, officials estimate.

Robert Bley-Vroman, UH-Manoa's chancellor, said the increased tuition revenues won't solve the system's backlogged repairs problems "but we think that if we put our minds to it, with a combination of making sure that we don't expand our facilities more than we have to and that we tackle the deferred maintenance promptly, I think we can make some serious in-roads."

If approved, the tuition increase would be the latest for the 10-campus UH system.

Tuition at UH-Manoa alone has gone up by about 137 percent since 2004. That's the biggest percentage increase for a state university in the nation, federal statistics show, though UH-Manoa remains a relative deal compared to its mainland counterparts.

UH officials say the latest tuition proposal does not include increases at professional schools, like the law or medical schools. Apprentice fees at community colleges would also remain the same.

Meanwhile, administrators said the non-resident tuition increases would go up by the same dollar amount as the resident tuition, not the percentage.

Students had mixed reviews for the tuition increase.

Some said it appeared moderate -- and would result in improved maintenance. Others questioned UH's overall spending practices.

"We just paid a coach about $300,000 to leave. We had $100,000 go towards Dodge Chargers for the security team and we just had another maintenance proposal maybe five or 10 years ago and it didn't seem like it did a lot they just ended," said Jebediah Flink, a UH student from Washington state.

"We've gotten chances to fix this problem before and it didn't really go anywhere and so that's why I'd like to see where the budget is going now."

UH officials counter that there are only two ways for them to fund public education -- through appropriations or with tuition revenues. With appropriations declining in recent years, they've had to increasingly turn to tuition hikes.

But Colleen Garrett, a student from Kailua, said she doesn't understand why today's students are having to pay for repairs that should have been dealt with years ago.

"Being that we are the ones that use the facilities, I think we should take a portion of that responsibility, maybe the operating cost, but not the deferred maintenance," she said. "That seems like something that if we had control in, it probably would not have gotten to that point. So I don't know if we should be forced or penalized for that."

Officials are rolling out the tuition proposal at several public meetings across the state over the next few weeks.

Mobile users: Click here to see how tuition has gone up at UH-Manoa since 1990.

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