Regents consider smaller tuition increase

Tuition may not rise as much next year as the Board of Regents are considering a proposal that will increase student tuition by two percent annually, rather than the current 7.5 percent increases for the next two years.

But this can only happen if the state Legislature allocates enough funds to cover the university’s utility costs and other operating expenses that required the larger tuition increase, as reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

If the Legislature doesn’t approve the needed funds, the university would need to at least partially compensate for this and have to use the revenue expected under the tuition increase.

The board heard this proposal at its budget committee meeting yesterday, and the full board will vote on this proposal in October.

According to a Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Presentation created by Kathy Cutshaw, the vice chancellor for administration, budget and finance, tuition accounted for nearly 30 percent of sources of funds for the university in Fiscal Year 2013.

The budget is currently based on a historical base budget where all units have a general fund and an undergraduate tuition fund.

In 1996, the state swapped general funds for tuition, and over time as the university was hit with budget cuts, tuition revenues were used to fill the gaps. According to the presentation, general funds were taken from all units and tuition dollars filled part of that gap.

For Fiscal year 2015-16, annual budget reviews will be reinstated, according to the presentation. The university will also work to slow and stabilize its rate of spending, and all units will be required to aim for a five percent reserve.

In addition, the regent budget committee also discussed how UH administrators want to spend $3 million to help cover the shortfall in collegiate athletics. Part of this money — $1.3 million — would go to the schools that the university pays to come compete in the islands.


Campus to work on energy efficiency

As the campus’s energy bill continues to rise, a new group has been tasked with figuring out how the campus can offset it.

“The university has actually tasked a new group called the chancellor’s energy committee that is coming out with different goals as to how we can help offset the massive energy bill that’s on campus and also address the huge deferred maintenance budget that is kind of drowning our operations, facilities and other critical components of the university to move us forward when it comes to energy on campus,” said Samantha Ruiz, the system’s strategic energy coordinator, at Sustainable UH’s meeting earlier today.

Ruiz is a representative on this committee and said it hopes to institutionalize a culture of transformation.

“In order to do that, I think a really great way of taking this off would be starting an energy conservation campaign,” she said. “And the difference between this energy conservation campaign and other past campaigns is to show the unification and alignment between the student body and the administration.”

In order to do so, the committee hopes to create a core group of students to help the committee develop its goals for energy efficiency and move forward.

Graduate Student Organization President Michelle Tigchelaar expressed concern on how the campus is good at creating committees but not good at implementing those committees’ recommendations.

But that’s the reason Ruiz was hired for—to make sure the things that are developed from the committee and groups around it move forward.

“The reason why they haven’t really moved forward is because there’s no communication between these different entities. And so the theory here is that once there’s communication we can then share that to the chancellor who then approves the resources to move these things forward,” Ruiz said.

In addition, the university is working to implement an energy-efficiency partnership that’s modeled off the University of California system. The UC system partnered with its utility company and created a model where the utility “incentivizes the university at a higher rate than any of their residents or commercial scale properties to make energy efficiency changes,” Ruiz said.

UH is in the process of shaping that model to better fit the system and plans to develop a partnership with Hawaiʻi Energy.

But, Ruiz said, the UC system was able to implement its partnership because its governing board allowed it to take bonds. At UH, the system’s Board of Regents isn’t allowed to issue bonds to the university.

“The legislature has to approve that,” Ruiz said. “And so in strategizing with some of the key plays working on this partnership, we think it would be really effective if the students put together a campaign asking for a legislative buy-in to give the bond to the university as seed funding for this partnership to exist.”

According to Doorae Shin, the student sustainability coordinator for the UH system, these efforts towards energy efficiency are important because 28 cents out of every dollar for a student’s tuition goes to pay for the campus’s electricity bill.

“So that’s one other reason why this is so important because that’s nearly a third of your tuition dollars going directly to pay the utility monopoly in this island,” she said.

UH a finalist for presidential library

As one of the four finalists for Barack Obama Presidential Library, the University of Hawai’i received a request for a proposal.

The Barack Obama Foundation is asking the four finalists — which include the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago and Columbia University — to submit a proposal that details the proposed management and organization of the project, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The universities are also asked to include details on their site development plans, community partnerships, potential academic collaboration, marketing and attraction strategy, and information about any commitments from the host or partners.

UH’s plan is to build the library in Kakaʻako near the Children’s Discovery Center.

The universities have until Dec. 11 to submit their proposals. The foundation’s board of directors hopes to share their recommendations with Obama and first lady Michelle Obama by early 2015.

Sustainability fund needs student input before ASUH approval

The student sustainability coalition is awaiting more student feedback on its proposal for a fund that will charge Mānoa students $4 a semester before taking the issue back to ASUH.

Over summer, ASUH Sen. Blaize Sanchez introduced a resolution in support of creating a student sustainability fund on campus. The resolution states that the campus will benefit from the fund, as it is a targeted funding source for faculty, staff and students who work and want to work in sustainability efforts.

“We are the University of Hawaiʻi,” Sanchez said. “The state itself isn’t very sustainable. We’re very inefficient in how we do things around here. We are the flagship university of the entire islands. We have to set an example for not only the people of Hawaiʻi, but, you know, our own students. So if we were to, you know, make this university more sustainable, more efficient, we’re the setters of change; we’re the ones who are going to make change happen.”

According to Doorae Shin, coordinator for the Student Sustainability Coalition of Hawaiʻi (SSCH), the coalition has been circulating a petition and two surveys   – one general survey and one more detailed focus-group survey – to garner student input about the fund. She said the petition has received about 340 signatures, and the general survey has received approximately 150 responses.

“So right now, ASUH is waiting for us to get some more survey and petition responses, so more of the population is able to provide input and give feedback,” she said.

Sanchez introduced the resolution because he’s a strong believer in sustainability. He thinks the campus could improve its water, energy and waste management.

“We only have one Earth,” he said. “I don’t believe in any time in my lifetime soon we’re going to have a colony set up either on the moon, Mars, anywhere like that. I don’t think it’s going to happen in my time. I don’t think it’s going to happen in my children’s time, my grandchildren’s lifetime. So right now all we have is one place to live, and if I can make somewhat of a difference where I live and the people around me – because it takes one action to change the world.”

A fee for sustainable initiatives

The fee was originally $5, Shin said, but after receiving advice from campus administrators and staff over the summer, the group decided to increase it to $15 to have a larger impact.

But because they wanted support from ASUH – an optional step of the approval process – the group collaborated with the undergraduate student government and brought the fee down to $4.

The monies from this fee would go towards campus sustainability initiatives, Shin said. According to the ASUH resolution, a committee would be formed to manage the fee. The proposed committee would be comprised of four students and two staff members.

“If you have a project idea that meets the criteria, then it would go to the student sustainability committee or the sustainability fund committee, like a group of students would decide which projects get funded,” Shin said. “So it’s like a fee paid by students but also controlled by students and disbursed by students. So it closes the loop on the money, but it just targets it; it’s a more targeted source of funding.”

Sustainability in the system

According to the ASUH resolution, this fee will advance the Board of Regents’ newly adopted sustainability policy, as well as the campus’ sustainability policy and strategic plan.

According to UH System President David Lassner, the university has two sustainability strategies that incorporate recommendations from the task force and the updated university mission.

One strategy is to improve the sustainability and resource conservation of the built environment by reducing energy consumption, greenhouse gas production, water use and waste production. Some tactics of this strategy include integrating sustainability across the curriculum and supporting research and services that bring science to sustainability issues.

The other strategy is to have the university be committed to being a leader in managing island and world resources.

New mandatory fees must be approved by the BOR, according to Lassner.

“As the board develops a proposal, I will look forward to working with board members on this and other ideas to advance sustainability across the UH system,” he said, adding that he does not have comments on the amount of the proposed fee or the processes the students are contemplating.

Shin hopes to have the BOR look at the fee by the end of this semester or early next semester and have it implemented next academic year.

“So it wouldn’t happen for at least a year. Because that’s kind of the process; you want to give students time to know about it and be ready for it,” she said. “So it’s going to be next fall at the earliest. But say they pass it at the end of this spring, then it wouldn’t be until the following spring.”

Students can take the coalition’s general survey at:

Its focus group survey is available at:

Its petition is available at:

Students can also submit ideas for sustainability projects at:

Grad is first Saudi woman to earn Mānoa Ph.D.

Having received a Ph.D. from the University of Hawai‘i Mānoa’s College of Education, Hana Omar is the first woman from Saudi Arabia to earn such a degree from the campus.

“It is an honor to be the first Saudi woman who earned a Ph.D. from UHM. And I hope to see more Saudi graduates from UHM,” Omar said. “ … (The) College of Education (COE) at UHM is one of the top 100 in the U.S.. People think when you study in Hawai‘i, you are in vacation.”

Omar decided to study educational technology for her doctoral degree when she was attending the University of Pittsburgh. She originally wanted to study political science and then computer science before deciding on education.

“One of my friends knows a professor in the field of education. She asked him and he recommended this major and he explained that having a degree in educational technology will be very beneficial for Saudi Arabia,” she said. “He explained that there is a demand in the Middle East for (a) new field like this.”

She also received an interdisciplinary certificate in disability and diversity studies from the COE, according to a UH news release.

Omar said the COE doesn’t focus only on education but also on building a competitive leader with various skills, such as social, educational or other professional skills.

While attending UH Mānoa, Omar found the faculty to be encouraging and the environment supporting. 

But when she first arrived, it was hard for her to meet people from the Middle East and Islamic countries, so she started the Islamic Society at UH Mānoa for her and other students to do so.

“I decided to form an organization to create an environment, based on Islamic principles and values, for the academic, social and spiritual needs of Muslim students or those interested in Islam, and to encourage learning and discussion about Islam amongst members and the community at large,” she said.

She also started the organization to begin an interfaith dialogue.

“Of course, it is important for anyone to feel home away from home. For me, I met many people through the organization and now I have friends from different countries and I learned a lot from our activities and members,” Omar said. “I really enjoyed my time in the Islamic Society.”

Omar believes UH is a good place for international students.

“UH is a perfect environment for an international student,” she said. “I discovered my true me because I spent more time with people from different cultures. Also, all the professors are great and they taught me not only to be a successful student but also to be independent, more social and to be a leader. My life in Hawai‘i is an unforgettable experience. It’s totally different from my culture.”

Mānoa among most affordable colleges in the West

The University of Hawai‘i Mānoa campus is the fifth most affordable public college in the West, according to a list by Great Value Colleges.

With a net price of $11,345 a year, the campus is described as “affordable,” which the website defines as having a net price below $22,000. Net price is the total cost of attendance at a college without a financial aid package. 

“We are delighted to see the Great Value Colleges recognize the superior value offered to the citizens of Hawai‘i by UH Mānoa, recognized as the fifth most affordable public college in the West,” said Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Reed Dasenbrock in an email. “Our primary goal is to offer a superior education at an affordable price to the citizens of Hawai‘i, and this confirms our success in achieving that goal.”

To find the most affordable colleges in the Western region  comprised of states from New Mexico to Washington to Hawai‘i  Great Value Colleges created a list of the regionally accredited institutions and then narrowed down the schools that met its definition of affordable. 

The website also collected data on eight quality indicators: 6-year graduation rate, freshmen retention rate, student-to-faculty ratio, percentage of classes entrusted to graduate assistants, average entrance ACT score, number of campus organizations, number of academic programs, and Forbes ranking. 

Points were then assigned to each school based on performance in each category. 

The Mānoa campus received a quality ranking of 22. 

California State University-Long Beach ranked as the most affordable public college with a net price of $8,169 with the University of Washington ranking second with a net price of $9,559. 

According to its website, Great Value Colleges seeks to help students find affordable colleges. Its rankings are based on public information from third-party sources.

Looking at the stars

Published on Sept. 2, 2014.
Published on Sept. 2, 2014.

Hawai‘i is perfect for astronomy, according to astronomy instructor Geoff Mathews, but the Mānoa campus didn’t have any undergraduate degrees in astronomy and astrophysics until now.

“And UH of all places with it’s great telescope on Big Island and Maui, good research institute for astronomy and a strong physics and astronomy department, it’s just obvious and it’s timely that we (Mānoa) should have such a program,” said Pui Lam, Department of Physics and Astronomy chairman.

The Board of Regents approved the launch of these two degrees at its Aug. 21 meeting.

Comprised of 62 credit hours, the astrophysics degree program is intended for students who want to study the origin of the universe and how solar systems are created, Lam said. According to David Sanders, astronomy graduate program chairman at the Institute for Astronomy, astrophysics is more of a professional science degree for someone going on to graduate school.

“In other words, an undergraduate degree in astrophysics is almost a necessity if you’re going to go on to graduate work and get a Ph.D. in the field because astronomy is basically a subset of physics. It’s just physics applied to stars and galaxies,” Sanders said. “So it requires a pretty good background in physics, math, and then depending on what branch of astrophysics, you could have some biology and chemistry as well, but in terms of undergraduate degrees, the easiest thing to say is it requires more credit hours and the hard sciences.”

The astronomy program, which requires 48 credits, is intended for students who are interested in how stars are formed in the historical way, rather than the physics behind it.

Both programs require courses in astronomy, physics, math and chemistry.


According to Lam, the process to create these degrees started more than two years ago, but it really began in the 1960’s when the then-physics department became the department of physics and astronomy.

During that time, a group of astronomers had been hired into the department and later established the research astronomy institute. Some taught introductory astronomy courses but there was no full program.

“But as time gone fifty years later, actually even before that, they realized that it’s important to create a undergraduate degree program in astronomy and astrophysics also,” Lam said.

Sanders has been wanting the programs here ever since he arrived 25 years ago.

“I was absolutely surprised when I came here that we didn’t have an undergraduate program in astronomy,” he said. “And 25 years ago, it was still possible at many institutions to have a combined program more physics-related and maybe astronomy as a minor and that was all you need, but that has changed so rapidly because the field of astronomy is growing so much.”

What’s happened, he said, is that peer institutions around the world have established separate astrophysics and astronomy programs.

“We’re one of the largest programs in the world and yet, graduate programs, but we haven’t established an undergraduate program,” Sanders said, adding that the reason is because the astronomy institute is a separate institute. “But that’s changing.”

The institute and physics and astronomy department are also considering a minor in both astrophysics and astronomy. They have not defined the requirements, Sanders said, and it probably won’t be done for another year.


There are approximately seven new courses the department and institute are offering for the new majors, Mathews said.

One such course is an observational astronomy lab that Mathews is teaching. According to the campus’ course catalog, students will learn about error analysis as well as properties of light, data and image processing. They’ll also learn about astrometric, photometric and spectroscopic measurement.

In the course, students will be working with some professional-grade telescopes that are designed for educational purposes, such as the Faulkes 2-meter telescope on Maui.

According to Mathews, only the sophomore-level astronomy courses have been taught before. This year, they will be piloting the junior-level courses.

“I’m very excited about this. I mean it really took us a long time to get together to create this, and the timing is right because the people are interested in doing it and we have the resource to do it,” Lam said.

The institute and department are working on a website for the new degrees, but until it’s up, students can direct their questions to:

“Hawai‘i is so perfect for astronomy,” Mathews said. “You know it is one of the world’s centers for astronomical research so in terms of students learning astronomy and having access to the leaders in the field, you know, I’m glad that we now have that opportunity to make that connection for students to have them learning from some of the best of the best.”