Impact of COVID-19 on UH-Hilo applications ‘nominal’

  • GOMES

While the number of students who so far applied to the University of Hawaii at Hilo has increased compared to last year, university officials say those applications largely came before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact the virus might have on overall enrollment this fall remains to be seen.

According to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Farrah-Marie Gomes, UH-Hilo received 5,742 applications for the fall semester as of June 1, compared to 5,079 by the same time last year.

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Because of early deadlines students are encouraged to meet, Gomes said many students were submitting applications prior to the outbreak, and the effect of COVID-19 on applications has been “nominal.”

As of March 31, 2,740 students had been accepted, compared to 2,698 by the same time last year, but acceptance does not necessarily equate to enrollment.

“That is really the million-dollar question,” Gomes said. “… We won’t know that for sure until the semester starts in August, and there are many decisions the institution has to make and communicate to students before students and their families have enough solid data to make an informed decision on whether to actually enroll at UH-Hilo in the fall.”

Gomes said the application deadline, which is normally July 1, was pushed back to Aug. 1, but students can enroll until the day classes start as long as the application and acceptance process is completed.

Many of the university’s decisions regarding class offerings, formats and other details are expected to be made at the end of this month, Gomes said.

The university, however, has seen a slight decrease in the number of accepted international students, and the pandemic could make it harder for some to get visas.

“My concern for international students is not one of whether those students got accepted to UH-Hilo or not, it’s more whether they are going to be able to get their visas to travel to Hawaii to study,” Gomes said.

Many of the offices in the international countries that work with these students to get their visas are closed, and it’s not yet known when those offices will reopen, she explained. Gomes said, too, there is an interview process for international students that must be done before countries can issue visas.

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Some students have been given interview dates, but Gomes said one, for example, is Aug. 20, which would not allow the student to go through the visa process and make it to Hawaii for classes that start Aug. 24.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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