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Frequently Asked Questions: Parent Edition

National Student Exchange US map

Your Student Wants to go on Exchange!

There are many emotions which run through the mind of a parent as they send their student off to college.

There are two types of parents.

  • Outgoing Parents - parents of UH Hilo students considering an exchange to the US Mainland or territories through the NSE program. While your child is researching the college of their desire, you are welcome to search with them.
screenshot of the NSE website at
The National Student Exchange website, at

Our Researching Universities page may be of assistance in the NSE search process.

  • Incoming Parents - parents of students from other universities in the NSE program who are considering UH Hilo for their exchange. We encourage you to explore the Incoming Students area as we have provided some basics on climate, island life, and annual events your student may wish to attend.

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Questions to Consider


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How do we know my student is getting the best financial deal?


Generally, students may select between two tuition/fee payment plans: Plan A or Plan B. Each participating school determines which plan (A, B or both) can be used.

On Plan A, tuition/fees are assessed at the in-state (resident) rate of the "host" campus.
On Plan B, tuition/fees are paid to your "home" school at the rate you normally pay.

Information on tuition and fees at the NSE campus office, here at UH Hilo this would be Room E-201 in the Student Services Center. On-campus housing and meals are paid for at the "host" school. Transportation costs to and from the exchange campus, and personal expenses must be paid for by the student.

Whether your student participates under Plan A or Plan B, they will also be expected to pay those fees at the host school that are assessed as a condition of enrollment (for example, general service fees, laboratory fees, art and photography supplies, and computer fees). Field trips and special event fees may be charged for NSE group activities on your host campus. Some host campuses may also assess an institutional application fee and/or an NSE program fee. For example, "incoming" exchange students to the UH Hilo campus currently pay a $50 institutional (admission) application fee and a $65 NSE program fee.

"Outgoing" UH Hilo students are assessed a $190 NSE application fee, $150 of which goes to the national NSE office (for administrative costs of operating the NSE program), while the remaining $40 is used for NSE program administration at UH Hilo. These fees pay for our participation as a University in the NSE program, NSE Orientations, several events where we provide food for all the NSE participants, and field trips. Though participation on some of these events is optional, we encourage them to make full use of the benefits our office supplies.

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How does Financial Aid work on exchange?

Financial Aid instruction Students exchanging under Plan A apply for financial aid from their "host" schools. The student must remember to enter the school's FAFSA code on the FAFSA application. FAFSA codes for all NSE campuses is available at the campus NSE office, on the FAFSA search, and

Students exchanging under Plan B apply through UH Hilo --- their "home" institution. UH Hilo students on Plan B exchanges who qualify for financial aid generally will have their funds deposited directly into their UH Hilo student account. In some instances (for example, certain scholarship monies), a paper check is mailed to the "host" school's financial aid office for disbursement. Details about financial aid should be discussed with the UH Hilo Financial Aid office, including treatment of home campus "work study" eligibility.

UH Hilo NSE outgoing students, with FAFSA-established financial need who are Hawai╩╗i residents, may apply for the Edwin T. and Leilani Kam Scholarship through the UH Hilo NSE office.

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Money is tight for my student, is there a way for them to earn some spending money?

Absolutely! Check with your respective university for available on-campus positions. However, work-study funds awarded through financial aid cannot be transferred from home campus to host campus.

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Does my student need to cover airfare, transportation, housing and food?

University Classroom Building
Students in front of the University Classroom Building
  • In short, "yes." However there are some ways the University of choice can help. For instance, here at UH Hilo we have several dates where there is a shuttle from the airport. If your student's arrival date does not fall on one of those days they also provide phone numbers for local taxi, shuttle, and rent-a-car services. Visit the Orientation website to find out more about UH Hilo. If you are an Outgoing parent, please check into the college of choice and their policies.
  • Airfare is the student's responsibility. Many students (who can use credit cards responsibly) will get a Hawaiian Airlines card which gathers miles through purchases, discounting flights home, sometimes for as little as $5. Make sure your student is flying into Hilo Airport (ITO) as Kona Airport is 2 hours away and public transportation is limited.
  • Room and Board is also the responsibility of the student. Here at UH there are times financial aid provides enough to cover room and a meal plan, but that varies from student to student. Please check in with both Housing and Financial Aid for more information.

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That University is really far away, how can I stay in touch?

FaceTime® is a way to keep in touch

Technology is a wonderful thing. In addition to phones, we have video chatting through Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, and many other applications. Bear in mind the time zone difference. For instance, if your student is here at UH and you are on the East Coast that's a full 6 hour difference, so if you call at noon, you're calling at 6 am here.

It is also worth noting that Hawai╩╗i does NOT participate in Daylight Savings. So when you fall back, it changes to a 5 hour difference, an hour closer to Hawai╩╗i. When you spring forward, add an additional hour. Discuss with your student how often would be agreeable to be in touch. They love you and miss you, but they may not want a call every day. That said, calling the University and asking where your student is binds our hands with FERPA.

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What is FERPA?

"FERPA" stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act from the US Department of Education. Basically when your student reaches age 18 they are given rights as an adult in any university that receives funding from the government. This then entitles them to some additional privacy. Your student now has the choice to tell you which room they are in, and what they are doing.

Calling and asking any faculty or staff to violate a student's right to privacy puts us in a sticky situation. We have to tell you as the parent, "I'm sorry" because either our staff doesn't have that information, or if we do we are bound by law not to disclose it. View more information on what FERPA is and what it covers .

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What if my student's choices (college or major) don't line up with mine?

Having a child "leave the nest" can be difficult for a number of reasons. It is important to note that they are stepping into adulthood and are going to face the world in their own way. Though there is security in pursuing a degree in say the medical field, if your student hates every class their grades will suffer, and so might their future. Know that on average a student will change their major at least 3 times before they graduate. They need this time to test out what fits. That said if they are going on your dime feel free to sit down and discuss what you are and are not willing to do with your finances and make an agreement with them as a young adult. Explain the parameters of your involvement, explain what you will be responsible for, and what your student will be responsible for. Then take a deep breath and let them chart their own future.

A person in a winter coat looks over a placid mountain lake

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What's the best way I can support my student while they are on exchange?

Your student is about to embark on a wonderful adventure, and they will still need your love and support -- it may just look different than it did before. Instead of laying hard boundaries down you're going to find they want to converse with you and be treated as an adult. At this stage they will want to see you as a safe place to bounce ideas and process hard questions life and college are going to throw their way. Some students may want to text or talk with their parents daily, others are going to want some space -- it depends on the student. Know that you've raised them with all intent to set them up for success; you will have to trust that they are going to take your training and run with it. Depending on your student, after a month or so they might enjoy a care package or flat rate box filled with little snacks, goodies, or special things they can only get from home, which may also include a nice photo or two.

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(Incoming) What can I expect for my student if they are going to University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo?

Astronomy classes may be up at 10,000 feet on Mauna Kea looking through telescopes with world class equipment. Marine Biology courses may require a diving certificate as they survey the creatures and ecosystems of the surrounding reefs. A Geology course may take them to Volcanoes National Park to survey the current and past flows which form the island. Performing arts courses may do a course of Shakespeare, or Chinese Theatre, or perhaps a world survey of dances. Your student will have the opportunity to network with students and faculty from around the world.

Maunakea observatories at sunset
Maunakea observatories at sunset
Hula Kahiko at Volcano National Park
Hula Kahiko at Hawaiian Volcanoes Natl Park

In addition they have access to an island with 9 climate zones and white, green, or black sand beaches, mountains, forests and a plethora of cultures and activities. Their biggest challenge will be deciding which activities they want to participate in, and balancing needs verses wants as they enter the realities of college life and adulthood. If they choose to dive into the Hawaiian culture they will gain a deep respect for the land, stewardship, and rich stories and culture of the inhabitants. There are multiple programs here at UH Hilo which enable your student to succeed, whether it be with scholarships through Financial Aid or polishing their paper through the Kilohana Writing Center. You may see that they are coming to lay on the beach and party, but they may come back telling you that Green Sands Beach is filled with olivine, and how old the coral is considering that it has a 10 foot circumference and is constantly getting chewed on by the local butterfly fish, and that they've been accepted for a summer internship with a marine biology program.

Richardson's Green sand beach
A handful of sand from Richardson's green sand beach