With tuition rising about 35 percent during a five-year period, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa students are bringing their rally against these hikes to the student government and state legislature.
“We’re rallying against (the tuition hikes) because we can see that students are hurting and we want to see a more balanced method of funding the university,” UH Mānoa senior Ian Ross said.
Ross and Associated Students of the University of Hawai‘i Senator sophomore Sean Mitsui, who will be proposing a resolution to ASUH; worked with Vice Speaker of the House John Mizuno to bring the issue to the state legislature.
“It’s necessary,” Mitsui said. “If it’s just a student government we’re not going to have much influence because we’re not going to have the power to change the entire school, but the legislature has because the school definitely falls under the state’s rule because it receives tax funds. And they have a right to know how the university is spending its own money.”
APPROACHING THE LEGISLATURE
In March 2013, Ross began discussing the tuition hikes with Mizuno and worked with him during the summer, planning a piece of legislation.
Mizuno plans to propose freezing UH’s resident tuition for the 2014-15 academic year.
“It’s just too much,” Mizuno said in a phone interview. “You’ve got five years in a row that the Board of Regents have approved of tuition hikes. That’s just too much and in the last three years, they’re going up 7.5, 7.5, 7.5.”
Mizuno said he foresees UH students dropping out due to the high tuition cost.
“We need to ensure that our residents have a very good state system to give them a higher education and allow them adequate ability to obtain the college degree. But that doesn’t happen,” he said. “Again, I foresee many of our students dropping out, maybe not being able to get their college degree, and that’s just not acceptable.”
Mizuno said the increase in tuition will be harmful to the state and its residents.
“It’s going to hurt more than help our state,” Mizuno said. “We want a very strong and educated state. We want to support a strong economy, and that’s why we want to invest in our Hawai‘i residents so they’re equipped with the proper education.”
Mizuno said this is not an attack on the faculty and professors. He said he would like to focus on the administration and see if there’s wastefulness.
“Because if we can cut out duplication of services at UH as well as inefficiencies and any waste we’re spending then there’s no need for the tuition increases,” Mizuno said. “An audit will help to uncover any duplication of services and inefficiencies at the UH.”
Mizuno said about 10 percent of bills introduced at the Hawai‘i State Legislature are passed.
“We have to be very conscious of the pass that it’s not easy to pass bills at this legislature, but if we have strong student support, I think we have a better than fair chance of passing it,” Mizuno said.
BRINGING THE HIKES TO ASUH
The College of Arts and Sciences senator is planning to propose a resolution to ASUH at the end of September. Mitsui’s resolution will request a freeze on resident tuition for the 2014-15 school year as well as a financial audit.
“In my perspective, this is the number one issue that students are concerned about, and I believe ASUH is obligated to have an official opinion and official stance on it- this issue,” Mitsui said.
Mitsui said he hopes to see the resolution passed and have a consolidated goal so he can work with the student senate more.
“Right now it’s only me and a couple of other people on ASUH, who are willing to work with this issue,” Mitsui said. “But if we have an official paper to state that we’re all in support of this issue, it’ll be easier to work with the state legislature and the university.”
THE COST OF TUITION
According to a “Per-credit-hour and full-time semester tuition schedule” on the Board of Regents website, undergraduate resident tuition at UH Mānoa is set to increase about 5.5 percent from academic years 2012-13 to 2013-14, and about 7.5 percent for each year up until 2016-17. Undergraduate residents attending UH Mānoa full-time currently pay $4,572 a semester. Non-residents pay $13,356. Undergraduate non-resident tuition will increase by about 5.5 percent each year until 2016-17.
These tuition rates were approved by the BOR in October 2011 and issued in March 2013, according to the schedule.
Sen. Brian Taniguchi, Chair of the Senate’s Committee on Higher Education, said the UH administration’s reason for the tuition increases was to make tuition compatible to public institutions in the United States.
According to Taniguchi, the university is saying they plan to use more general funds for scholarships. The senator represents the Makiki, Tantalus, and Mānoa area and said that he gets complaints from middle class families that don’t qualify for scholarships because the scholarships are need-based.
“You got a lot of scholarship money, but a lot of middle class families who take the brunt of the higher education,” Taniguchi said in a phone interview.
UH system director of communication Jodi Leong said that the tuition schedule was adopted for five years to give students and their parents the ability to plan.
“There are two sources of revenue that pay for the cost of education, state appropriation and tuition,” Leong said in an email. “The state has not been able to keep UH’s appropriation at the same level as it has in the past due to competing state needs. At the same time, our costs, e.g., electricity, continue to rise. As a result, we have no choice but to raise tuition to make up the difference.”
According to the university, the Board of Regents wanted to keep the tuition increases as low as possible in the first two years of the schedule because the state’s economy, like the rest of the nation, was in a recession.
“As the recession eases, increases should be less of a burden on students and UH must begin using tuition revenue to help pay down the deferred maintenance on each campus,” Leong said.
Leong said that the UH system increases tuition only after careful analysis of its projected revenues and expenditures. The need for tuition revenue is related to the level of state appropriation.
“No one wants to increase tuition,” Leong said. “If the legislature is able to provide increased funding to UH, the Board of Regents could reconsider the level of tuition needed to meet its mission of providing high quality education to its students.”
The last tuition schedule was for six years, according to the university. In the academic years 2005-06 through 2011-12, tuition doubled. At the same time, UH quadrupled financial aid. According to the university, this was to make sure the campuses remained affordable.
“The tremendous increase in enrollment during that period suggests that UH succeeded in keeping college affordable,” Leong said
THE CAMPUS CENTER RALLY
On Aug. 26, Ross lead a rally in Mānoa’s Campus Center to “get the information out to students,” according to Mitsui. Ross and Mitsui rallied with other students against the increasing tuition in general.
“I personally believe that the tuition increase is too high for everyone, and I support keeping tuition low for all students,” Ross said.
Ross coordinated the rally because “the administration, duplication of services and mismanagement have been in state news a lot lately.”
“In addition, nationally the U.S. is having a conversation about the exploding cost of college and the ballooning of student debt,” Ross said. “This makes right now an ideal time to talk about and address the issue of student tuition here at UH.”
Dozens of students attended the rally, according to Ross.
“There’s a lot of people who really want to get involved because this is an exciting idea,” Ross said. “And as you know, the legislature has been wanting to address some of the issues with UH.
He believes the rally will be successful because he and the other participants in the rally are working for a plan.
“Now we’re rallying for a plan,” Ross said. “We have a bill drafted. We understand how things move forward and we have a positive message about how to get there… We’re doing more than just saying ‘we don’t like plan A.’ We’re offering plan B.”
“What we need to do is get more students, you know, get them to understand what’s going on,” Ross said. “Get them talking about it. And pretty much, put together everything we need to rally bigger and stronger by the time the legislation gets here.”
“What’s next is rally the students- to rally and unite the students to support introduction and passage of this bill for the tuition freeze,” Mizuno said. “The students, this is on them. If they want this to pass, step up and do it.”
Ross said the main goal is to reopen the conversation about tuition cost and college.
“This is an issue all around the nation and we should have discussions, especially if students are affected,” Ross said. “And to be more specific, I want to see either this freeze, some sort of decrease in the scheduling of tuition increases and/ or an audit so we can see the expenses of the university more clearly so students can really understand where their money is going.”