A bill to bring higher education courses to Puna cleared a House committee on Friday.
Senate Bill 457, introduced by Sen. Russell Ruderman, would provide funding for four full-time positions, as well as studies, plans and construction, for a distance learning center tied to the University of Hawaii and Hawaii Community College.
Ruderman, D-Puna, has tried for the last few years to get the bill passed, and he thinks it has a good chance of getting approved this session.
“I have high hopes for it because I got a lot of support for it,” he said.
The House Committee on Lower and Higher Education passed the bill with amendments. It wasn’t immediately clear what the amendments were.
The measure, which already passed the Senate, will next head to the House Finance Committee.
Ruderman said the center would be similar to the North Hawaii Education and Research Center in Honokaa, but he doesn’t think it needs the same footprint.
He said it could be accommodated at the Pahoa High School library and then be part of a future library that could be built in Puna.
“I imagine a subset of classes that HCC and the university already offer,” Ruderman said.
“… I don’t think we need any physical new buildings.”
He noted the district is the size of Oahu with a rapidly growing population, but no higher education courses.
“That’s a glaring example of Puna being underserved,” Ruderman said.
The bill received testimony in support by UH and Mayor Harry Kim.
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