Creating access and strengthening retention for students from Hawai‘i Island is our top priority.
By Don Straney.
While we continue to develop academic programs that address our island’s needs, we are currently developing new ways to be more effective at recruitment, retention, and graduation rates. We are taking our efforts to a whole new level, focusing our resources on specific students for recruitment and retention. This is part of a University of Hawai‘i systemwide initiative where each of the 10 campuses are developing their own five-year enrollment management plans specifically designed with appropriate goals for the individual campus.
In this column, I’d like to share some of UH Hilo’s plans.
The first step to creating this type of plan is to identify enrollment targets for the next five years, and in conjunction, to identify three to five areas of specific enrollment and retention activity to focus on, with the corresponding goals clearly outlined. This is done through analysis of historic trends and creating a foundation to work into planning and budgeting processes.
The goals are developed based on realistic and measurable outcomes and most likely will include shifts in, say, recruitment communications, marketing and public relations activities, financial aid strategies, academic course scheduling, support services programs and various projects.
An area we are exploring in particular is recruitment and support for freshman students—increasing enrollment by reaching out to particular geographic and ethnic populations (think local), and increasing freshman to sophomore retention by focusing on certain student populations and specific academic programs.
An example of this is in striving to strengthen the sense of community on our campus by grouping freshman students, who are interested in specific academic programs, into cohorts that stays together through graduation.
We’ve been building on this concept over the past few years, creating a Freshman Village, a community at the Hale Kanilehua Living Learning Center, that groups students as cohorts according to academic interest. We started with Native Hawaiian students, from both UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College, interested in Hawaiian studies and science, technology, engineering and math programs, commonly called the STEM programs.
The pilot program was a great success—it measurably expanded students’ competency in technology and retention at UH Hilo—and now the program has expanded to six Living Learning Communities: business, creative arts, environmental sustainability, Hawaiian culture and language, health and wellness, and natural science with a marine focus. This is a concept that we can build on as we develop our new enrollment management plan.
In other areas, we are currently discussing ways to increase distance learning, international students, and veteran enrollment. Also under discussion are scheduling more evening or weekend courses, expanding financial aid resources, and more highly targeted counseling and peer mentor programs.
I want to note that creating access and strengthening retention for students from Hawai‘i Island is our top priority. We have a responsibility to serve the whole island, and we are collaborating closely with Hawai‘i Community College to achieve recruitment-retention-graduation goals by creating pathways from Hawai‘i CC to UH Hilo in programs such as agriculture and Hawaiian studies.
All of these approaches to enrollment management need strong administrative support to be effective and there will undoubtedly be new approaches in admissions, financial aid, communications, and course scheduling. For example, including more scholarships in initial financial aid packages to encourage enrollment, and increasing high school visits by faculty and staff to talk with Hawai‘i Island students, are high on the priority list.
UH Hilo cannot grow on its own. We need to work together—faculty, staff, students—along with our local community to the benefit of all. This, combined with our strong partnership with Hawai‘i CC, will ensure that Hawai‘i Island’s high school students and others will have the options they need to access higher education on our island.
For more information, visit our Enrollment Management website.