Across Student Affairs there is excellent work being done by all units and I’d like to recognize and thank all faculty and staff for their continued hard work and dedication to our students.
By Farrah-Marie Gomes, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Guest author for this month’s column.
I am excited about the work that the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Division of Student Affairs has accomplished in the 10 months I have served as vice chancellor for student affairs. While the fall 2017 semester started only a few weeks ago and many units are busy helping students get settled into classes and activities, I’d like to share with you some of our recent successes.
For the first time in four years, our admissions team was successful in recruiting the largest incoming class of students this semester. This was due in part to a 19 percent increase in first-time freshmen accepted to UH Hilo. As indicated in the UH System Enrollment Management Action Plan, two of our UH Hilo strategies include increasing enrollment of first-time students, especially on Hawai‘i Island, and increasing enrollment of transfer students, especially with UH community colleges.
To assist with these strategies, we will soon be searching for a Hawai‘i Island admissions counselor and plan to advertise for a transfer admissions counselor shortly thereafter.
Refining our financial aid strategy is also included in the plan as a way of ensuring success of our students on their educational journey. This year, the Office of Financial Aid awarded more than $64 million in financial aid and last month unveiled a new micro-scholarship program to Hawai‘i Island high school counselors. This program will allow students, starting from their freshman year in high school, to earn funds toward a scholarship redeemable only upon enrollment at UH Hilo after graduation.
In addition to the financial benefit of micro-scholarships, we believe that by engaging with high school students earlier, they will be better prepared for their transition to college.
Realizing that the transition to college can be challenging for students, our New Student Programs made adjustments to New Student Orientation this summer. The most significant change was a reduction of the orientation fee, which likely contributed to almost 200 more registrations in this semester’s fall orientation.
Currently, New Student Programs is transitioning to a First-Year Experience Program. To assist with the retention of students in their first year at UH Hilo, transfer students will be provided with access to better coordinated transfer services and first-year students will be eligible to receive the support of a peer mentor through this new program.
Although there was an increase in the incoming class, UH Hilo experienced an overall decline in enrollment this semester. Despite this decline, there are 740 students living in our residence halls compared to 672 students last fall. This represents an all-time high for occupancy in UH Hilo housing since Hale ‘Alahonua was built in 2013, and is in part due to repricing approved by the Board of Regents in June that significantly reduced the rates for Hale ‘Alahonua by more than $700 each semester.
Living Learning Communities continue to be a highlight within the residence halls where a total of 113 freshmen have chosen a field of interest, are enrolled in a course together and go on off-campus trips that focus on cultural practices, community engagement, and service learning.
Across the rest of Student Affairs, there is excellent work being done by all units and I’d like to recognize and thank all faculty and staff for their continued hard work and dedication to our students. I look forward to many more accomplishments from our team in the future. The division will soon be embarking on reviewing our mission and vision statements as a way of ensuring that we continue to meaningfully contribute to the wonderful teaching and learning that takes place every day at UH Hilo.
Let’s journey on together!