Monday, Feb. 26, 2024|
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Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Two students walk past dorms recently on campus at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
Enrollment for the University of Hawaii at Hilo declined again this year by 8.2%.
Total enrollment for Fall 2022 is listed at 2,977 students, or 266 fewer than those enrolled in Fall 2021.
The decline follows a nationwide trend, with the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reporting that enrollment for both undergraduate and graduate students decreased nationwide by 4.1% in Spring 2022.
“We are still studying the causes of the enrollment decline, but we know that in some cases, students are feeling more comfortable leaving home, now that the pandemic is easing,” said UH-Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin. “Some students who started their education at UH-Hilo are transitioning to institutions in other states.”
A similar decline occurred during the pandemic in Fall 2020, when enrollment dropped from 3,372 students in 2019 down to 3,165 in 2020.
“That was certainly caused by the pandemic and uncertainty about where students could/should attend college,” said Irwin. “Now that things have opened up a bit, some of our island students are opting to go out of state.”
Although enrollment declined, UH-Hilo reported a significant 67.5% increase in early admission, with 134 students.
Early admission allows high school students that demonstrate academic achievement and have completed graduation requirements to enroll concurrently at UH-Hilo while in high school.
Early admission is fueled by both the Early College and Running Start programs, designed to encourage high school students to apply early and enroll in college-level courses.
Both programs will expand next year as a potential way to increase enrollment.
“We hope these high school students will enjoy their experience in these college-level classes and choose to enroll in UH-Hilo to continue their education,” Irwin said. “Even if they choose to go elsewhere, I am proud that we are giving them a good start.”
Additional steps being taken at UH-Hilo to increase enrollment include waiving application fees for undergraduates for the next three years, as well as hiring a new admissions director.
“We are excited to welcome our new admissions director, Kati McGinnis, who will be working with our leadership team to develop new recruitment strategies,” Irwin said.
Irwin is hopeful that creating more hands-on work experience opportunities for students also will help enrollment numbers.
“We are also working on connecting more with local employers so that the pathway from college to career is clearer to students as they contemplate whether or not to pursue higher education,” she said. “The entire UH system has been focusing more on workforce training.”
COVID-19 requirements also are easing up for students. The UH system dropped its mask mandate in September as more students returned in person.
“Right now, 59.2% of our classes have some kind of in-person component, and 75.9% of our students have at least one class that is all or partially in-person,” said Irwin, adding that 24.1% of current students still remain entirely online.
“As we all recover from the COVID years, UH-Hilo is concentrating on improving the quality of the student experience, both inside and outside the classroom.”
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