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Testimony by the Chancellor to the Hawai‘i State Legislature

Legislative Testimony
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
January 3, 2011
Hawai‘i State Legislature
Honolulu

UH Hilo has distinguished itself by combining teaching, service and scholarship to improve the wellbeing and status of citizens on Hawai‘i Island and across the state. We are the only university serving our island; our reach continues to grow beyond East Hawai‘i to centers in other areas of our island. Our smaller classes are taught by full-time faculty who bring their research to student learning. On-campus labs are complemented by the island’s vibrant “living laboratory” – making UH Hilo an ideal place to study astronomy, volcanology, marine science, indigenous language revitalization, and other fields. The College of Pharmacy and School of Nursing provide shared leadership to improve access to and quality of health care for our rural communities. We oversee the statewide Small Business Development Center and the Office of Mauna Kea Management, both of which are crucial to the State’s economy and future. Lastly, we contribute to quality of life and a “university town” through our performing arts, athletic events, and cultural enrichment offerings.

UH Hilo’s cumulative budget reduction now totals $8.5 million, which is 24% of our FY 2008-09 general fund allocation. Yet, UH Hilo continues to specialize in serving students who are economically disadvantaged, first generation in college, and/or from underrepresented minority groups, including 22% who are Native Hawaiians. Half of our students are from Hawai‘i Island (with a growing number from the other islands) and 70% are Hawai‘i residents. We have coped with the cuts by reducing non-instructional programs for students, increasing extramural awards to $27 million (from an average of about $4 million/year in the 1990s), generating $15 million in private gifts via the UH Centennial campaign, eliminating temporary positions, freezing civil service positions, and implementing collective bargaining salary reductions. More specifically:

  • Our Long Range Budget Planning Committee has encouraged innovative budget efficiencies ranging from updating light fixtures to reducing energy consumption and consolidating service agreements. For example, we recently equipped a residence hall cafeteria to also serve as a large-capacity classroom during certain hours of the day. Similarly, we merged all of our various academic support services into one center and consolidated existing medical and counseling services into one unit to reduce overhead.
  • Our Enrollment Management Implementation Team led efforts to offer fewer classes to more students in Falls of 2009 and 2010, with a higher seat fill-rate. We also generated more student semester hours. EMIT monitors and manages recruitment, admissions and registration efforts to generate incremental, manageable enrollment increases so that we can balance the University budget with tuition revenue.
  • Hiring of faculty positions were deferred in such high demand fields as biology, chemistry, psychology, communications, and English; search processes to fill vacant positions in student affairs, administrative affairs and university relations were also delayed.
  • We protected certain priorities to ensure health/safety and minimize institutional liability/risk. These included medical services, counseling services, campus security, classroom instruction, and essential repairs/maintenance. However, this meant that other departments received larger cuts proportionally.
  • We are generating new revenue streams through entrepreneurial efforts, particularly at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, in the Office of Intercollegiate Athletics, and elsewhere across campus. Similarly, to fulfill capital construction project needs, we are pursuing private-public partnerships (in the case of new student residential facilities) and using revenue bonds (in the case of temporary buildings).

For every $1.00 in state investment, UH Hilo generates an additional $3.06 in direct expenditures. We infuse $240 million per year into the local economy and provide 3,900 direct and indirect jobs [1]. Your continued support and investment will allow UH Hilo to continue serving our community in vital, meaningful and critical ways. Thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony.

[1] David Hammes, UH Hilo Economics Professor, February 2008.