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Situation Analysis - UH Hilo 2002-2010 Strategic Plan

Along with other institutions in the UH system, UH Hilo is well positioned to flourish in the coming years. Since our 1997 Strategic Plan was approved by the Board of Regents, we have been striving toward our guiding vision, to become the premier residential campus in Hawai╩╗i, providing a high quality education in an environment that nourishes students' intellectual and social development.


Faculty Resource

UH Hilo's faculty is the bedrock of our strength. They are hard-working, productive, and committed to teaching, scholarship, and service. Full-time, tenure-track faculty are recruited internationally from excellent universities, and approximately 90 percent have doctorates.

UH Hilo takes pride in its faculty's research and scholarly accomplishments; in the academic year 2000-01, faculty extramural grant activity totaled $14.2 million. Our faculty are also fine teachers who excel at integrating teaching and research. Because of their dedication and because of UH Hilo's relatively small student body and small class size, UH Hilo is able to promise close student-faculty interaction, and there are numerous opportunities for students to work side by side with faculty on research projects.

UH Hilo faculty also model good citizenship for students by providing professional expertise to the larger community of the island and state. Among the many ways faculty serve the community is through collaboration with colleagues at local schools, museums, and other institutions for the sharing of expertise and the betterment of education at all levels.

Locational Advantage

Faculty members routinely take students outside the traditional classroom and into the local environment for hands-on learning. Quite apart from our island's extraordinary beauty, its unusually diverse natural and sociocultural environments make it a natural "learning laboratory" for fieldwork, internships, and research projects. Researchers come from all over the world to study the pristine areas in the Hawaiian island chain:

Those are places that are like no other places on earth. They are unique. They express Hawai╩╗i in a way that changed systems can't express Hawai╩╗i. And they are resources for understanding how the world works that the global scientific community certainly wants very much to make use of. And in terms of appreciating how the world works, evolutionarily, ecologically, culturally - there's nothing like Hawai╩╗i. 1

Almost twice the size of the other major Hawaiian islands combined, the island of Hawai╩╗i has been described as a continent in microcosm, comprising environments ranging from coastal strand to desert to tropical rainforest to alpine conditions. Our island is blessed with intact ecosystems that are relatively accessible for study, endemic plants and animals, exceptional conditions for astronomical viewing, one of the world's most active volcanoes, large tracts of agricultural lands, rich cultural resources, and unique social institutions.

Stressing programs and services which capitalize on the natural and cultural environment has been a successful strategy for UH Hilo. Local students benefit from an education anchored in the home environment, yet Hawai╩╗i Island is varied and distinctive enough to attract students from all over the world. Through our unique programs and diverse environment, UH Hilo serves students who literally could not fulfill their educational aims anywhere else.


UH Hilo values its diverse campus community as an essential component of our distinctive learning environment, and we are committed to maintaining a community that instills respect for differences of all sorts. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Hawai╩╗i County is the most ethni-cally diverse county in the country, so it is no surprise that UH Hilo enjoys an unusually diverse student body, with no one ethnic group in the majority. In addition, our many international students help us to offer truly extraordinary opportunities for intercultural exchange.

Capital Improvement Projects

Physical facilities on campus are being expanded and renewed. In Fall 2001, UH Hilo opened a new Marine Science Building, and this Fall, we just opened our new classroom building, which will provide 86,000 square feet of space, six classrooms equipped with interactive television systems for distance learning, and five computer labs. We are midway through our improvements for disability access, and numerous other CIP projects are also planned. A new science and technology building is in the planning stages, as is a student life and activities complex, with no commitment yet for actual construction.

UH Hilo is catching up on needed facility repair and improvement. In 2000-2001, the university had $80 million in CIP projects fully funded and either underway or scheduled for the next few years. The September 11th attacks have led to a statewide economic downturn, which prompted the university to accelerate its repair and maintenance schedule in order to help stimulate the economy.

Enrollment Growth

Between 1997, when UH Hilo's Strategic Plan went into effect, and Fall 2001, enrollment grew 10.4 percent. Moreover, by Fall 2001, we had increased our enrollment of nonresident students to 31 percent. Tuition dollars from out-of-state students help shore up UH Hilo's budget, where, after paying increases for utilities and salaries, there is presently little room to maneuver.

We have also targeted transfer students in recruitment, because we have had space in upper-division courses to accommodate them. Between Fall 1997 and Fall 2001, we increased the number of transfers to UH Hilo by 33 percent. Many of these transfers are from outside the state.

UH Hilo can develop as the statewide, high-quality provider of a residential undergraduate experience outside of O'ahu. With our strengths in undergraduate teaching, student-faculty interaction, and caring, personalized service, together with our remarkable natural setting and cultural diversity, we offer a truly one-of-a-kind educational experience.



The state revenue decline throughout the 1990s (and its resumption after September 11, 2001) has led to a crisis in resources for UH Hilo. For some years, UH Hilo has been underfunded by about $3 million per year. 2 For 2000-2001, UH Hilo's expenditure per FTE student was over $1,000 less than the average of its peer institutions. Moreover, this figure doesn't take into account what UH Hilo pays for upkeep and services to Hawai╩╗i Community College, or for the difference in cost-of-living between Hawai╩╗i and the mainland.

Infrastructure deficiencies are getting harder and harder to compensate for: support staff shortages, declining instructional support, library funding cuts, opening new buildings without funding for additional cleaning staff, lack of funding for recruiting and retaining students and faculty, new faculty start-up costs, institutional matching for external grants, etc. In addition, underfunding caused us to give up the management of the UH educational center in West Hawai╩╗i and to postpone our plans to bring higher education to the rest of the island.

Housing Capacity and Amenities

UH Hilo does not presently have enough dormitory space or nearby housing to meet student demand, and this lack of housing capacity has limited our ability to increase our enrollment. Campus housing presently has space for only 620 students. However, we share the dormitory space with Hawai╩╗i Community College, whose students presently comprise about 15 percent of students housed. In Fall 2000, only 18.5 percent of UH Hilo's students resided on campus.

For Fall 2001, the University negotiated agreements with two off-campus apartment complexes to provide additional housing space for 150 students, but we still lack suitable housing nearby. Transportation to and from campus is presently provided by the Student Housing Office, which is having difficulty covering the cost of the service.

If the proposed China-U.S Center becomes a reality, another 600 spaces will be developed on university land and the new amenities planned for the Center will create more of a college-town environment around UH Hilo. However, more housing will be needed, and we badly need to upgrade the housing facilities we now provide.

Our campus is not within walking distance of businesses catering to college students. County bus service to downtown Hilo, shopping centers, and recreational areas has been cut back, and students without cars often feel stranded on campus.


In its assumptions for the 1997 Strategic Plan, the university pinned some of its hope for growth on improved retention. Instead, our retention figures have declined somewhat since 1997:

Freshman to Sophomore Retention Rate

1997 1998 1999 2000
63% 57% 60% 58%

Our six-year graduation rate was 30 percent in 2001.

Relationship with Hawai╩╗i Community College

The 1997 Strategic Plan assumed that Hawai╩╗i Community College would soon have its own campus. This has not happened, and it now seems unlikely that it will. Both institutions have accommodated. UH Hilo pays for utilities, upkeep, and other expenses of Hawai╩╗i Community College, including library materials and services.

In the early 1990s, after UH Hilo separated from Hawai╩╗i Community College, the community college was to deliver remediation for UH Hilo students, while it was understood that UH Hilo would "not directly undertake remedial offerings." 3 As it has turned out, it has been difficult for UH Hilo students to obtain the targeted remediation that many of them need. There should be better coordination between the community college and the university to place students in the best courses available for their educational needs.

Our Position Vis-à-Vis Peer Institutions

The following institutions were selected as Peer Institutions by the UH System Institutional Research Office in consultation with UH Hilo. Comparison figures are based on FY 2000 IPEDs data.

  • University Of Arkansas At Pine Bluff
  • Arkansas Tech University
  • Delaware State University
  • Fort Valley State University
  • Savannah State University
  • University Of Maryland-Eastern Shore
  • Bemidji State University
  • Lincoln University
  • SUNY, Purchase College
  • University of North Carolina at Asheville
  • Cameron University
  • University of South Carolina at Aiken
  • Coastal Caroline University
  • University of Wisconsin-Parkside
  • University of Guam
  • California State University-Monterey Bay

Enrollment at UH Hilo Fall of 2000 was 2,874. Enrollment at the peer institutions ranges between 2,166 and 4,970, with a mean enrollment of 3,559. UH Hilo is classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a Baccalaureate College-Liberal Arts, but has plans in the near future to add several graduate degrees to its existing masters degrees in Hawaiian Studies and Education. Four of the peer institutions are classified by Carnegie as Baccalaureate Colleges-Liberal Arts, two as Baccalaureate Colleges-General, seven as Masters Colleges and Universities I, and two as Masters Colleges and Universities II. All are public institutions.

The peer institutions vary in their diversity of student body. Ten of the sixteen have more than 50 percent Caucasian students. Four have more than 50 percent African American students. One, the University of Guam, has 87 percent Asian/Pacific Islander students. UH Hilo, with less than one percent African American students, but one percent American Indian/Alaskan, two percent Hispanic, and 55 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, has a very diverse student body.

UH Hilo admitted 59 percent of its applicants for Fall 2000, while its peer group admitted applicants in a range of 33 percent to 95 percent, with an average admission rate of 65 percent. UH Hilo requires that its applicants supply their high school GPA, their high school record showing a college preparatory program, and admissions test scores. High school rank is recommended. Of the twelve peer institutions that answered IPEDs questions about entry requirements, all require admissions scores, but only ten require high school GPA, only seven require or recommend high school rank, ten require a secondary school record, and only six require a college preparatory program.

Twenty-fifth and 75th percentiles of Verbal and Math SAT scores for UH Hilo are below the average of the seven peer institutions that reported these figures.

SAT Verbal and Math 25th and 75th Percentiles

SAT UH Hilo 25th percentile UH Hilo 75th percentile Peers 25th percentile Peers 75th percentile
Verbal SAT 420 540 450 552
Math SAT 430 540 444 563

UH Hilo's in-state tuition in Fall of 2000 was $2,304. Peer institution in-state tuitions ranged from $1,196 to $3,690, with the mean at $2,681. UH Hilo's out-of-state tuition was $7,872. Peer institution out-of-state tuitions ranged between $4,319 and $11,288, with the average at $7,584.

UH Hilo's six-year graduation rates tend to be somewhat lower than the rates of its peers:

6-Year Graduation Rates

Year of Graduation UH Hilo Mean Rate of Peer Institutions
1997 24.7% 30.7%
1998 29.7% 30.0%
1999 27.7% 30.8%

UH Hilo receives less in revenue and expends less per FTE student than its peer institutions:

Revenues of UH Hilo Compared to Peer Institutions, FY 2000-2001

Intitution Total Current Funds Revenues Tuition and Fees State Appropriations Revenues per FTE Student
UH Hilo $38,922,129 $6,874,785 $17,344,131 $15,398
Peer Institutions (Average) 4 $52,099,828 $10,595,608 $22,394,741 $18,720

Expenditures of UH Hilo Compared to Peer Institutions, FY 2000-2001

Institution Total Educational and General Expenditures Expenditure Per FTE Student
UH Hilo $38,188,207 $15,117
Average Peer Institution Expenditures5 $45,635,206 $16,474


Need for Public Residential University

Our ultimate goal is to become the premier residential campus in Hawai╩╗i, while also providing an exemplary education to commuting students, non-traditional students, and distance learners. With all of Hawai╩╗i's state universities operated primarily as commuter campuses, the niche for a residential campus has not yet been filled. Residing on campus positively affects student engage-ment in their education; it's important for Hawai╩╗i students to have this choice. And, since UH wants to strengthen undergraduate education, UH Hilo ÔÇö its flagship undergraduate university ÔÇö is the place to start.

Need for Higher Education on Hawai╩╗i Island

The sugar plantations are gone. The local economy is diversifying, and so is agriculture, calling for a more educated workforce. UH Hilo has responded by evolving from a liberal arts college to a comprehensive university which offers liberal arts and professional programs, and which is beginning to offer graduate programs. In this, we are moving with the times, to serve students wishing to study the liberal arts as well as subjects that will advance them in their businesses, farms, and careers.

Only 18.5 percent of the Hawai╩╗i Island populace age 25 and over has a bachelor's degree, 6 compared to 22 percent statewide and about 25 percent nationwide. With the dramatic advantage in earning potential that a four-year degree offers, 7 there is clear potential for attracting in-state students to UH Hilo. Moreover, our island is growing much faster than the state as a whole - 23.6 percent as opposed to 9.3 percent, and West Hawai╩╗i is catching up with East Hawai╩╗i:

Hawai╩╗i County Population

Region 1980 total % of total in 1980 1990 total % of total in 1990 2000 total % of total in 2000
East Hawai╩╗i: Puna, N. Hilo, S. Hilo, Hamakua 60,836 66% 72,506 60% 86,549 58%
West Hawai╩╗i: North and South Kohala, North and South Kona, Ka'u 31,217 34% 47,811 40% 62,128 42%

In the 1990s, Puna in East Hawai╩╗i was the fastest-growing district on the island; it grew 50.8 percent in that decade. With a current population of 31,335, it is the second most populous district, behind Hilo (with 47,386 people) and just ahead of North Kona (28,543 people).

Distance Learning Technology and Special Populations

Information technology is changing how higher education is delivered. Recognizing that many Hawai╩╗i Island residents wish to pursue baccalaureate education but do not live within driving distance of Hilo, we plan to expand our service to educational centers on the island and offer programs through distance learning using such delivery modes as the Web, interactive television, and streaming video.

When we ask island communities how we can serve their educational needs, they have been extremely responsive and supportive. Programs may be offered throughout the state and even beyond, where UH Hilo can provide unique expertise. We are identifying special, underserved populations where our programs could have significant impact: rural populations, Pacific Islanders, men and women in military service, and indigenous groups.

UH Hilo is currently delivering upper-division courses for four baccalaureate degree programs to sites around the state via distance learning technology. The new classroom building, set to open in Fall 2002, will increase the capacity for delivery of courses through interactive television. In addition, there are telecommunications systems already in place in local agencies and government offices, which, if linked, could be used to deliver courses to geographically isolated populations.

Building a "Culture of Evidence"

UH Hilo is developing better means to demonstrate that it does offer the high quality undergraduate liberal arts and professional programs promised in our mission statement. Previously, in order to gauge the university's quality, we measured our resource levels ("inputs"). Indicators such as the number of faculty with Ph.D.'s, the student-faculty ratio, library materials, etc., were used. As long as these were sufficient, quality was presumed.

Our accrediting organization, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), now requires us to consider outcomes for students as our primary indicators of quality. We must begin to set measurable standards of student attainment for our programs and to demonstrate that they have been achieved. Moreover, we need to use this information to improve our programs. WASC has termed the shift to this approach as building a "culture of evidence." To facilitate the change, a comprehensive plan to assess student outcomes is making its way through the faculty approval process, and new program review guidelines have been finalized.

Many in higher education see this trend toward assessment as potentially very favorable to smaller public universities. When measured by resources alone, such institutions often appear at a disadvantage; however, when student outcomes are the primary indicators of quality, they have the opportunity to out-perform larger, better-known institutions.


Declining In-State Enrollments

In Fall 2000 (figures aren't yet available for 2001), only 1.8 percent of all Hawai╩╗i high school graduates that year enrolled at UH Hilo, down from 2.1 percent in 1997. On Hawai╩╗i Island, the "going rate" of public high school graduates declined from 10.4 percent to 8.5 percent over that period.

It appears likely that Hawai╩╗i students are leaving the state to obtain the type of undergraduate experience that UH Hilo provides. In the words of the Hawai╩╗i Education Policy Centers report to the UH administration:

Tuition effects are more likely to operate indirectly through students' assessments of the net benefits of attendance at the University of Hawai╩╗i versus those at postsecondary institutions in more prosperous mainland economies. Hawai╩╗i is less attractive to our in-state, 4-year eligible (and economically able?) students than it used to be. We should presume many of these students to be our state's brightest and best prepared. 8

Moreover, the number of public high school seniors throughout the state will decline somewhat between now and 2003 and then increase only modestly through 2008. The UH Institutional Research Office predicts that the number of high school seniors entering UH Hilo directly after graduating will remain unchanged. 9

On the other hand, the state's unstable economic condition could lead to greater numbers of in-state students enrolling in college in Hawai╩╗i. The BOR approved need-based tuition waivers for Spring 2002 to those who lost their jobs after the September 11th attacks. This may help us attract students who ultimately stay to take degrees.

Poor Public Perception of Hawai╩╗i Universities

In 2000, the State-by-State Higher Education Report Card published its broad attempt to assess public satisfaction with the knowledge and skills of typical college graduates. 10 While this survey did not specifically ask about UH Hilo, it does present one piece of evidence as to the level of satisfaction the public feels with respect to higher education in Hawai╩╗i:

Public Satisfaction/Employer Satisfaction

Survey item Hawai╩╗i U.S. as a whole
% of state residents who say: A typical college graduate from the state has high levels of skills and knowledge 28% 38%
% of employers satisfied with how colleges and universities in the state are preparing students for work 23% 46%

This could be regarded as a warning signal, evidence that the people of Hawai╩╗i do not believe that Hawai╩╗i universities produce well-educated graduates, quite possibly discouraging Hawai╩╗i students from enrolling in Hawai╩╗i universities. UH Hilo, together with all institutions in the UH system, must address the questions in the public's mind as to the quality of public higher education in order to improve public confidence in the quality of our degrees.

Are we well positioned to respond?

UH Hilo's vision and mission are clear and attainable. We want to offer a comprehensive range of high quality programs to a growing student body in a vibrant residential setting. We have highly qualified faculty and some excellent programs. Our smaller class sizes, student-faculty collaboration, and hands-on approach to education create a learning community that students ought to want to join.

We have created an assessment plan to monitor and improve the effectiveness of all our programs. Our recently-hired director of institutional research, as well as a core of faculty and staff, are experienced with outcomes assessment. In recent years, we have also been surveying graduating students and alumni as to their satisfaction with the quality of our programs.

In addition, we have started to consider "process" indicators of quality, such as those provided by the National Survey of Student Engagement, which we first administered to freshmen and seniors in Spring 2001. It asks questions about the extent to which the students actually engage in the educational practices shown by research to lead to student learning. Benchmarks are reported on five dimensions of the educational experience:

  • Level of academic challenge
  • Active and collaborative learning
  • Student interactions with faculty members
  • Enriching educational experiences
  • Supportive campus environment

Such efforts give us the opportunity to demonstrate our effectiveness and will allow us to improve where we find areas of weakness, but we need to be sure we can fund our growing range of assessment activities.

Urgent Challenges to our Strengths or our Ability to Achieve our Mission

Impacts of Underfunding

Our relative poverty has constrained us in many ways. The university community often lacks confidence that resources will be available to support vital functions, such as assessment. Lack of support also damages our credibility with our students, who know that other institutions have better facilities, more programs, more information resources, and more services to help them learn.

It has been clear for many years that the number of our professional staff, clerical staff, and administrators has not kept pace with UH Hilo's growth and complexity. Most of UH Hilo's professional staff are full-time personnel with college degrees appropriate to their areas. Among the areas supported are: networked personal computer laboratories open to all students and programs; an electron scanning microscope; high speed fiber optic LAN systems; Internet connected multimedia classrooms; the state-wide interactive television system; career counseling; and athletic training. UH Hilo has a shortage of such staff and also of its clerical support staff, who are regularly called upon to "do more with less." For Fiscal Year 1999-2000 (the most recent available), the ratio of BOR appointees to clerical positions at UH Hilo was considerably higher than at UH M─ünoa: 6.41 at UH Hilo as opposed to 4.54 at UH M─ünoa.

In the very near future, a large, new classroom building will open with no budget for additional technical support. This will leave several new distance learning classrooms unsupported by staff, affecting UH Hilo's ability to provide education and training to the many outlying areas of Hawai╩╗i.

We are also concerned about the cuts extending into our signal strength, our faculty. In 2000, the student-faculty ratio stood at 13.2:1, which compares favorably with many excellent liberal arts colleges. This year, however, the campus has been concerned about the number of faculty vacancies that may not be able to be filled, given the present state of the university's budget. Vacancies are already causing course availability problems, and students will continue to suffer if we cannot hire faculty for these open positions. In order to address shortfalls in instructional faculty, the University has increased the percentage of non-tenure-track faculty relative to tenure track faculty, who must have terminal degrees in their field and are required to do service activities and research.

Insufficient resources could scuttle our attempts to extend service to other areas around the island. Moreover, although offering selected graduate programs is part of UH Hilo's mission, lack of funding has postponed the implementation of several programs that are well advanced in the planning stages.

If we do not make up the annual shortfall in our budget, it will greatly affect the quality of the educational experience as perceived by our students, even as the physical facilities on campus are expanded and improved.

Continue to Strategic Initiatives

  1. "An Interview with Peter Vitousek," Environment Hawai╩╗i, Vol. 12(1), July 2001. Peter Vitousek is the Morrison Professor of Population and Resources at Stanford University. ↩︎

  2. Figure cited by Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Bill Chen. See also consultant Linda M. Campanella's report that an "external review of UH System finances relative to peers in 2000 found UH "unfunded by $60M (unadjusted for inflation)." Powerpoint presentation: University in Transition: Key Management Issues and Challenges Confronting the University of Hawai╩╗i System's New President, November 15, 2001. ↩︎

  3. "Refined Implementation Plan for the Separation of Hawai╩╗i Community College from the University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo," accepted by the UH Board of Regents January 1991, p. 6. ↩︎

  4. Average revenues per student is calculated by first calculating the revenue per student of each peer institution, then averaging those averages. ↩︎

  5. Average expenditures per student is calculated by first calculating the expenditure per student of each peer institution, then averaging those averages. ↩︎

  6. 1990 Census figure. U.S. Census Bureau Web site ↩︎

  7. Anthony P. Carnevale, in Help Wanted: College Required states that "the degree to which earnings vary with education has increased dramatically in the last two decades." (ETS Leadership Series, 2000↩︎

  8. Study of "University of Hawai╩╗i Enrollment Decline," prepared by Scott L. Thomas, Hawai╩╗i Education Policy Center, August 17, 2001, p. 17. ↩︎

  9. UH Institutional Research Office, Enrollment Projections: University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo, Fall 2002 to Fall 2008 (February 2002), p. 3. ↩︎

  10. Measuring Up 2000: State Profiles, Hawaii↩︎