Column by Chancellor Irwin: It takes a community to increase access to higher education

Here at UH Hilo we are grateful for all the support we get from our community. Behind every support fund and scholarship is an individual or company with a commitment to help us remain accessible to all students.


In November, the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation launched the public phase of the largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in Hawai‘i’s history, to raise $1 billion for all 10 UH campuses.

Bonnie Irwin pictured
Bonnie Irwin

Here at UH Hilo we are grateful for all the support we get from our community. Behind every support fund and scholarship is an individual or company with a commitment to help us remain accessible to all students. Members of the local community who give their support to UH Hilo see it as an investment in the future, recognizing the importance of an education. Many want to pay forward the opportunities given to them while at UH Hilo as a student, staff, or faculty member.

Giving access to these types of opportunities to as many students as possible is a high priority for us, and it’s clear the vitally important role private donors can play opening up access to higher education. This type of support helps students complete their education so they can launch careers and contribute meaningfully to their families and communities. Studies show people who possess a college degree have a much higher lifetime earning potential than those who do not. People with a degree are better able to contribute to their families and build healthy communities.

This is an important point: In an environment where there are many needs, supporting higher education, especially the local university, supports not only the good work that we do with our students, it also supports local families and our communities.

Donated funds for scholarships and other forms of aid that offset the costs of tuition are necessary if we want to remain accessible to all our island students. To make college affordable to all, this must be a priority for our campus and for our community.

Further, our student crisis fund supports students with unforeseen challenges they have in life. This was of the utmost importance during the upheaval caused by the pandemic, but there is still a great need. Not all students qualify for federal relief funding, so we need to rely on institutional or foundation funds for this kind of support.

Many other types of funds support the people and programs of UH Hilo. Private donations and endowments support not only scholarships and financial aid for our students, but also research in such fields as sustainability and conservation for our island environment, programs to strengthen cultural preservation, outreach to spark innovation and entrepreneurship.

I’d like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to our donors. I hope members of our university and local communities, business people, alumni, and others will be inspired to make an investment in the future of our island by helping us reach our goals during this history-making fundraising campaign.

With aloha,

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor
UH Hilo