Institutional Accreditation

Essay Three: Defining and Promoting "Student Success"


Our new Strategic Plan articulates what we stand for: “Access to Education: we provide access to higher education while holding high expectations for all students and providing support for their success1.” A large part of our mission is to “challenge students to reach their highest level of academic achievement [ . . . ]2.” Goal 4, in particular, recognizes our responsibility to the “indigenous people of Hawaiʻi,” which is supported by action 4.5 in which UH Hilo is committed to “Improv[ing] higher education access, outreach and support for nontraditional and underserved populations [ . . . ]3.”

As was discussed in the Introduction and in Essay Two, UH Hilo by-and-large serves an extremely high risk community and population of students. Noted in the core competency benchmarking project is that 40-50% of the Big Island and other Hawaiʻi resident students who we assessed went on academic warning or probation. It is against this backdrop that we are now moving into better data gathering and analysis of what constitutes the challenges we face in assisting our particular population of students to succeed by persisting and graduating in a timely manner with a high quality degree.


In UH Hilo’s WASC self-study of 2001, we reported a First-Time, Full-Time Freshman (FTFT) retention rate of 60.1% and a 6-year graduation rate (1991-1994 cohorts) of 29%4. We also reported at that time that “many freshmen enter UH Hilo fully intending to transfer after two years [ . . . ]5.” Per our recent R&G Report submitted to WASC, we found that the retention rates for FTFT has gone up to an aggregate 70% with a six-year graduation rate of 36%6.

The R&G report also revealed other significant findings:

  1. Thirty-nine percent (39%) of the total new population each year is lost due to first-year attrition;
  2. UH Hilo has a significant transfer population; approximately 55% of its incoming students each year fall within this designation. US Mainland transfers have a low retention rate (45%), account for 24% of total attrition, but make up only 19% of the new student population. At this time, we do not have data that would allow us to determine if this is affected by NSE (National Student Exchange) or GSE (Global Student Exchange) statuses;
  3. UH Hilo has a significant nonresident population entering each year; approximately 40% of incoming students each year enter with out-of-state (29%) or international student (11%) residency designations. More than half the attrition is for nonresident students (mainland and international), although these populations only account for 40% of the new student population. At this time, we do not yet have data that would allow us to determine if this is affected by NSE (National Student Exchange) or GSE (Global Student Exchange) statuses;
  4. Lower division transfers (LDT) have particularly low retention rates for both Mainland and international (46% & 17%). LDT international students account for 6% of the new students each year but account for 16% of student attrition. Again, we do not have data to help us determine if these rates are impacted by NSE or GSE populations;
  5. Upper Division Transfer (UDT) retention rates for white students and international students are only 45% and 47%, respectively;
  6. Other at-risk populations identified were low high school GPA students, particularly low GPA (2.0 – 2.9) first-time full-time freshmen (FTFT) students from the Big Island (BI);
  7. LDT females have first year retention rates 9% - 25% lower than males;
  8. Pell grant recipients have a higher retention rate than their percentage of population would suggest, implying that financial assistance has a positive impact on retention;
  9. LDT and UDT retention rates for Native Hawaiian students are significantly higher than the average for LDT and UDT students, presumably due to a disproportionately larger proportion of Big Island (BI) and other Hawaiʻi (HI) residents7.

Being cognizant of our having a large transfer population, combined with the profile of our community and the specific student population we serve, led us to further disaggregate our student populations by residency – Big Island (BI), non-Big Island Hawaiʻi resident (HI), US mainland, and international students – to gain insight about the patterns discerned/identified. We found that UH Hilo enrolls each year 1000+ new students, of which 55% are transfer students. We then lose almost that many due to graduation (approx. 600) and first-year attrition (approx. 390) each year. However, the distribution of attrition and graduation is uneven between the different types of students. We therefore analyzed the overall distribution of UH Hilo students in terms of their entry classification (FTFT, LDT, and UDT) and residency designation when they first entered UH Hilo. In short, we wanted to know what proportion of our student body entered as BI, HI, US Mainland, and nonresident alien and as FTFT, LDT and UDT and compare the entering distributions to the distribution of students in our entire student body. The results are summarized in Figures 23 and 24 which compare the distribution of new students by their contribution to the new population each year (as % of total new population) to their contribution to the total student population (as % of total enrollment).

Residency status upon entering. New students percentages from the US Mainland and Nonresident Alien were higher than Big Island and Hawaii (not BI).Figure 23. Category of Student (BI, HI, Mainland, Non-resident alien) by their percent in incoming class and in the student body as a whole.

Figure 24 shows that 52% of the entire student body entered as freshmen, even though 55% of new students each year are transfer students, This is due to the lower retention rates of transfers students, a problem we discuss below. The top four cohorts of students that UH Hilo serves are BI-FTFT (28%), HIFTFT (14%), BI-UDT (13%), and BI-LDT (10%):

Student entrance category. New students percentages from the LDT and UDT were higher than FTFT.Figure 24. Category of student (FTFT, LDT, UDT) by percent of incoming class and percent of the student body.

These figures reveal that Big Island (BI) students comprise half of UH Hilo’s student body and total Hawaiʻi residents are almost three-quarters of the student body. Even though the retention rate for BI students is higher than for other residency types (Figure 1), the high percentage of students entering as BI-FTFT results in this type of student largely contributing to annual first-year attrition rates. Almost a quarter of first-year attrition across all cohorts consists of BI-FTFT students.

To better understand the source of this attrition, we disaggregated the BI-FTFT data based on high school GPA from 2005 – 2012, using GPA designations of 2.0 – 2.9, 3.0 – 3.5, and 3.5+. We compared the results with those from the other FTFT student cohorts. Twenty-three percent (23%) of BI-FTFT entered with a low GPA (2.0 – 2.9), but contributed 39% of all BI-FTFT students who failed to return their second year. Not surprisingly, BI-FTFT students with high GPA, which represented 35% of incoming students, only contributed 17% to BI-FTFT attrition. The largest population of incoming students consists of those with incoming GPA 3.0 – 3.5, but their contribution to attrition is virtually equivalent to their percentage of population.

We further disaggregated FTFT data into BI-FTFT (row one of Figure 25) versus non-BI-FTFT (row two of Figure 25) with high school GPA designations of 2.0 – 2.9, 3.0 – 3.5, and 3.5+8.

Comparison of GPA distribution within each residency cohort vs. contribution to first year attrition within the same residency cohort for FTFT students only (2005-2012).Figure 25. Percentile GPA distribution by residency versus attrition rates.

The following two charts visualize actual incoming Big Island FTFT versus their contribution to overall attrition within their population:

Incoming BI FTFT population by GPA represented as a pie chart (2.0-2.9 = 23%, 3.0-3.5= 42%, and 3.5+ = 35%).Figure 26. Incoming Big Island First-Time, Full-Time Freshmen by GPA.

BI FTFT attrition rates by incoming GPA represented as a pie chart (2.0-2.9 = 39%, 3.0-3.5= 44%, and 3.5+ = 17%).Figure 27. Big Island First-Time, Full-Time Attrition by Incoming GPA (Percentile).

The students from the 2.0 – 2.9 incoming GPA almost doubled in terms of their contribution to attrition; the students from the 3.5+ incoming GPA showed high persistence (their contribution to attrition decreased by over 50%); students from the 3.0 – 3.5 incoming GPA are lost in proportion to their population. In terms of raw numbers, all Big Island FTFT students with incoming GPA of less than 3.5 merit further study as to why they fail to return in the second year.


In our initial R&G report we concluded that our six-year graduation rates are lower than desirable, although we observed that they are better than two of our three peer institutions and comparable to the third9.

Graduation rates reported in the initial R&G report include:

  1. Hawaiʻi resident graduation rates at UH Hilo for FTFT, LDT, and UDT students were 36%, 43%, and 55%, but when National Clearing House data was included these rates rose to 46%, 54%, and 62%;
  2. Mainland resident graduation rates at UH Hilo for FTFT, LDT, and UDT were 31%, 23%, and 42%, respectively, but when National Student Clearinghouse data was included these rates rose to 54%, 70%, and 74%;
  3. Non-Hawaiʻi resident graduation rates at UH Hilo for FTFT, LDT, and UDT students were 31%, 21%, and 18%, but when National Student Clearinghouse data was included these rates rose to 41%, 28%, and 49%.

Items a and b above suggest that some UH Hilo students are continuing their education elsewhere and graduating, which is consistent with our hypothesis that they may be using UH Hilo as a stepping stone. What is unclear is whether this is because UH Hilo does not offer their degree of choice, they originally intended to study in Hawaiʻi for a limited time, or the Big Island lacks the amenities they anticipated.

In our effort to more clearly understand the difference between the UH Hilo graduation data and the data which included the National Student Clearinghouse data, we delved deeper and asked the question: What is the probability that a student who at one point in their academic career entered UH Hilo eventually graduated somewhere, including UH Hilo? According to National Student Clearinghouse Data, 53% of students who at one point attended UH Hilo eventually graduated with a four-year degree.

Apart from what was observed in our recent R&G report, UH Hilo has been asked in the past to address retention and graduation issues for other types of populations. In its March 18-20, 2008 Report, the Special Visiting Team recommended that “The campus should remain cognizant and committed to a broad range of diversity10.” The team goes on to mention “During this visit much of our attention was focused on activities related to Native Hawaiians. Though certainly an important emphasis, issues of diversity and inclusion extend beyond this focus [ . . . ]11.”

To ascertain whether UH Hilo’s efforts are effective in serving our system’s goals (through the Hawaiʻi Graduation Initiative) of increasing underserved populations and whether we “are consistent with UH System-wide priorities to serve under-represented minority groups” we looked at available data for Pell Grant distribution and for ethnic populations (some of whom are traditionally characterized as under-served). We found that UH Hilo has consistently surpassed its goal of the Disbursement of Pell Grants12. We are also exceeding the system goal of Degree Attainment of Native Hawaiians:

Degree attainment of Native Hawaiians - UH Hilo (2008-2012).  Bar chart shows an increasing trend from 98 to 182. Projected 2015 goal of 144.Figure 28. UH System target and actual number of Native Hawaiians Completing a degree at UH Hilo.

Filipino students are doing relatively well in terms of overall graduation rate but appear to be a small percentage of the total student body; whereas, Pacific Islanders (including Samoans, Tongans, Micronesians, and Marshallese) seem to be highly underrepresented and also at high risk for poorer completion rates in comparison to Native Hawaiian and even Hispanic students:

2003+2004+2005 Cohorts Graduation Rate Elsewhere Graduation Rate MAN or WOA Graduation Rate UH Hilo¹ Overall Grad Rate
Overall - Full-Time and Part- Time Students 6.5% 5.5% 33.7% 45.7%
Under-Represented Minorities (URM) 1.7% 2.7% 28.1% 32.5%
Black 7.1% 7.1% 14.3% 28.6%
Hispanic 9.4% 6.3% 25.0% 40.6%
American Indian / Alaska Native 8.3% 8.3% 33.3% 50.0%
Native Hawaiian 0.0% 3.1% 34.2% 37.3%
Pacific Islander 0.0% 0.0% 23.3% 23.3%
Filipino 3.4% 2.3% 41.4% 47.1%

Figure 29. Graduate Rates of First-Time, Full-Time Freshmen, cohorts 2003-200513.

2003+2004+2005 Cohorts Number of students in cohort Number of Completers Elsewhere Graduation Rate Elsewhere Number of Completers MAN or WOA Graduation Rate MAN or WOA Number of Completers UH Hilo Graduation Rate for UH Hilo Total Completers Overall Grad Rate
Overall - Full-Time and Part- Time Students 1,327 86 6.5% 73 5.5% 447 33.7% 606 45.7%
(URM) 477 8 1.7% 13 2.7% 134 28.1% 155 32.5%
Black 14 1 7.1% 1 7.1% 2 14.3% 4 28.6%
Hispanic 32 3 9.4% 2 6.3% 8 25.0% 13 40.6%
American Indian / Alaska Native 12 1 8.3% 1 8.3% 4 33.3% 6 50.0%
Native Hawaiian 225 0 0.0% 7 3.1% 77 34.2% 84 37.3%
Pacific Islander 30 0 0.0% 0 0.0% 7 23.3% 7 23.3%
Filipino 87 3 3.4% 2 2.3% 36 41.4% 41 47.1%

Figure 30. Graduate Rates of UH Hilo Underrepresented minority (URM) populations, cohorts 2003-200514.

The problem that UH Hilo (and the rest of the UH System) faces is in accounting for a student population that is multiracial. According to Ginger Hamilton, former Director of the Minority Access & Achievement Program and current Interim Director of Kīpuka: The Native Hawaiian Student Center, “There was a change to the reporting of ethnicity in Fall 2010; students are now able to check multiple categories for race/ethnicity when submitting their application to the University of Hawaiʻi. The problem is how that information is posted on the IRO reports. It does not accurately reflect the number of Filipinos who are of mixed ethnicity. When Filipinos of mixed ethnicity are factored in, the percentage of Filipinos and part-Filipinos attending UH Hilo has a significant increase15.” Per Ginger Hamilton and Stanford Beppu of the UH System IRO office, the following is a breakdown of Filipino students who were counted versus those who went under-reported due to mixed ancestry:

Semester Total Student Population Reported Filipino Students Under-reported Filipino Students
Fall 2010 4,079 237 (6%) 723 (18%)
Fall 2011 4,139 257 (6%) 811 (19%)
Fall 2012 4,157 267 (6%) 870 (21%)

Figure 31. Comparison of reported and under-reported Filipino students at UH Hilo (with percentage of total population)

The reporting problems may also be interfering with our ability to accurately identify Pacific Islanders. Hawaiʻi has a large immigrant population of Pacific Islanders, but also a relatively growing population of residents (who would not be classified as international students). UH Hilo also hosts Pacific Islanders who are “native” to the mainland U.S. These different residency types may be part of the problem why the WASC templates are not an accurate reflection of this population: at one time, Pacific Islanders were aggregated with Native Hawaiians, and at another time, with Asians. Furthermore, per Jim Mellon, the Executive Director of Global and Intercultural Education Programs, “Most of the students from the Pacific Islands who come to UH Hilo are actually transfer students rather than first-time, full-time freshmen16.” Thus our data from Figures 29 and 30 – which are based on WASC reporting templates for first-time, full-time freshmen – do not capture the larger population of Pacific Islander students who are transferring in from the College of the Marshall Islands, Palau Community College, the College of American Sāmoa, or the College of Micronesia.

Nevertheless, this particular population of students does exhibit poorer academic performance in comparison to other ethnic groups on campus. The UH Hilo Institutional Research Office reports: “Retention and graduation rates at UHH [UH Hilo] are low, particularly among the Pacific Islander population. An average of 65% of students drops out within a six-year period: 39% in the first year, 16% in the second year, and 10% in the third year or later. Over half of the dropouts leave at the end of their freshmen year. [ . . . ] Pacific Islanders also have the lowest-average graduation rates (27%) of any ethnic group at [UH Hilo]17.” An initiative (federal grant) addressing their lower performance rates, which are the significantly less than those of other ethnic groups, will be discussed later in this essay.

Our recent R&G Report to WASC in April helped UH Hilo identify lower-division transfer women as lagging their male counterparts by up to 25%. We know that more work needs to be done to address this population as a large percentage of our students are from the Big Island and that socioeconomic indicators for the County indicate a high incidence of single-female-headed households falling under nationally defined poverty thresholds: 40% of such families with related children under 5 and 34.2% of such families with related children under 1818.

Student Success Initiatives

The following section outlines key initiatives and progress made in addressing the key findings discussed above.

Issue 1: Thirty-nine percent (39%) of the new population each year is lost due to first-year attrition.

Action A: In 2008, the Commission recommended that UH Hilo “establish an enrollment Management Committee to develop a growth plan for the campus that is within the parameters set by the Regents and the System, and that would establish a plan that integrates incremental growth with appropriate resource allocation and ensures educational effectiveness19.” “Freshmen Guaranteed Academic Schedules” (FRE GAS) were implemented in Fall of 2011. The schedules were based on the findings that six-year graduation rates were significantly higher for students who complete at least 24 credit hours, including ENG 100 and one MATH course during their first year. All FTFT students are now guaranteed enrollment in ENG 100 during their first year at UH Hilo.

Evidence: An initial assessment of the FRE GAS follows:

Population Precensus1 Number At Census, # and % Full Time # Active Enrolled at EOS with End of 1st Fall GPA # & % at Fall EOS with set GPA less than 2.0 # Persist to Spring EOS with sem GPA % Persistence Fall Census to Spr EOS
Participant 373 367 (98.4%) (367) 2.68 78 (21.3%) 1.11 gpa (341) 2.55 92.91%
Non- Participant 102 91 (89.2%) (88) 2.57 19 (21.5%) 1.11 gpa (78) 2.59 85.71%

Figure 32. Comparison of FRE GAS participant and non-participant academic performance for 201120.

This was compared to past cohorts in terms of Mid-Semester Withdraw Numbers, Semester Persistence, and Average Semester End GPA:

Fall Cohort Census FT Cohort N End of Semester Cohort N Mid Semester Withdraw Semester Persistence Start to Finish Average of Semester End Semester GPA
2005 410 400 10 97.6% 2.66
2006 449 447 2 99.6% 2.53
2007 497 495 2 99.6% 2.56
2008 538 537 1 99.8% 2.63
2009 462 460 2 99.6% 2.81
2010 393 394 -1 100.3% 2.64
2011 456 454 2 99.6% 2.65
2012 446 444 2 99.6% 2.70

Figure 33. Overall academic performance indicators from 2005-201221.

The Freshmen Guaranteed Academic Schedule was piloted in its first year at the same time that the economic decline began to impact the State of Hawaiʻi, which tends to lag behind the rest of the US in terms of economic trends. It is clear that in the Pilot implementation, participants in FRE GAS persisted at higher rates than those who did not. However, their academic performance lagged somewhat. It should be noted that in the pilot implementation, academic departments were allowed to opt out of providing a full-time schedule; this mean that some students received only 3-6 credits “pre-built.” In such circumstances, a student could be considered a participant yet not benefit fully from the initiative. It is also difficult to disaggregate the data and determine the impact of the economy on student persistence.

Next Steps: At this time, only one year’s data exists for the Freshman Guaranteed Pre-Built Schedules in terms of their impact on student performance and persistence, and this from the pilot year. It is essential that when a full-time permanent Institutional Research Analyst is hired that UH Hilo conduct analyses on Years Two and Three of the FRE GAS initiative, both of which resulted in a more consistent implementation of 12-credit (i.e., full-time course load) pre-built schedules.

Action B: The UH System initiated in 2012 the “15 to Finish” campaign, based on research that suggests “students who take at least 15 credits a semester are more likely to do better in school and not only graduate, but graduate on time22.” In October of the same year, the UH System reported that at UH Mānoa and UH Hilo, only 63% of freshmen took 15 credits23. The same report showed marked differences in terms of GPA, Credit Completion Ratio, and Persistence:

Academic Success Measure by the 15 Credit Hour Breakpoint First-time Freshmen, Fall 2009 to Fall 201124

Academic Success Measure UH Mānoa UH Mānoa UH Hilo UH Hilo UH-West Oʻahu UH-West Oʻahu
less than 15 Cr greater than/equal to 15 Cr less than 15 Cr greater than/equal to 15 Cr less than 15 Cr greater than/equal to 15 Cr
1st Semester Grade Point Avg 2.75 2.97 2.62 2.89 2.57 2.90
1st Semester GPA greater than/equal to "B" 46.3% 58.6% 41.5% 55.0% 41.0% 49.0%
Avg Credit Completion Ratio greater than/equal to 80% 61.7% 79.6% 60.9% 81.6% 57.8% 77.6%
Course Withdrawals greater than/equal to 20% 4.3% 8.4% 3.3% 6.0% 8.4% 14.3%
Persistence to Next Spring 92.9% 95.2% 91.2% 94.0% 89.2% 93.9%
Persistence to Next Fall 76.5% 80.5% 67.2% 75.2% 63.9% 57.1%

Figure 34. UH System analysis of 15 credit hour “breakpoint” for first-time, full-time freshmen.

Four-year academic maps and check sheets for all majors in CAFNRM, CAS, CoBE, KH‘UOK, and CoP were completed and posted on the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs’ website under Tools for Advising and Curriculum planning in August 201325. The four-year maps serve multiple purposes: (1) guiding FTFT so that they can graduate in four years, (2) guiding academic advisors, particularly when they are constructing academic plans with dismissed students, and (3) providing an important framework so that majors can meet academic milestones.

Academic milestones are courses that students need to complete by a certain stage of their academic careers so that (1) pre-requisites for upper division courses are finished early in their academic careers and (2) students who complete their majors in a timely fashion receive financial aid throughout their academic careers. This second item is important because many UH Hilo students are defined as low socio-economic status and depend on financial aid to attain their degrees.

The proposed goals for the four-year maps:

  1. Increase the number of students graduating within 4 years. Currently, only 10% of UH Hilo FTFT graduate within four years. We would like to see this rate increase by 5% each year beginning in Spring 2017;
  2. Currently, 30-50% of UH Hilo dismissals are dismissed again within a year of their readmission. By making the students construct academic plans with their advisors, we anticipate this rate to decrease by 10% each year;
  3. By encouraging UH Hilo students to meet their academic milestones, we expect the retention from year to year to increase by 5%, leading to increased four- and six-year graduation rates.

Evidence: Key indicators to review will include: (1) the number of students who graduate with more than 120 credits – if our efforts are successful in this regard, then the proportion of students who graduate with excess credits should decrease; (2) the proportion of students who remain on progress to timely degree completion at the end of each semester, as assessed by their “match” with the academic map and associated “milestones;” (3) the number of FTFT completing 30 credits before entering their second year should increase; and (4) the number and percentage of students graduating within four years should increase over time as well – at present time, UH Hilo’s four-year graduation rate is dismal: barely 12%.

Next Steps: As assessment data about the four-year maps is gathered and analyzed, we will modify how they are used accordingly.

Action C: A “Freshman Village” will be piloted Fall 2014 for first-time, full-time freshmen. This initiative combines a first-year residential living-learning component with academic and social support programs, as well as efforts to promote and facilitate direct faculty involvement with students in the village. The basis for this initiative comes from a wealth of higher education research that consistently demonstrates the positive effects on retention and persistence associated with on-campus residency for undergraduate students in general, and of living-learning communities specifically26.

Persistence of All First-Time Full-Time Freshmen

Campus FTF Cohort Count FTF 1st Spring FA to Spr FA to Spr% Fall 1 to Fall 2 FA to FA %
HIL Fall 2005 410 Sp 2006 366 89.3% 275 67.1%
HIL Fall 2006 449 Sp 2007 405 90.2% 296 65.9%
HIL Fall 2007 497 Sp 2008 451 90.7% 341 68.6%
HIL Fall 2008 538 Sp 2009 489 90.9% 373 69.3%
HIL Fall 2009 462 Sp 2010 431 93.3% 329 71.2%
HIL Fall 2010 393 Sp 2011 358 91.1% 272 69.2%
HIL Fall 2011 456 Sp 2012 422 92.5% 321 70.4%
HIL Fall 2012 446 Sp 2013 413 92.6% NA NA

Figure 35. Persistence of all First-time, Full-time Freshmen 2009-2011.

Persistence of All First-Time Full-Time Freshmen Who Dormed

Campus FTF Cohort Count FTF 1st Spring FA to Spr FA to Spr% Fall 1 to Fall 2 FA to FA %
HIL Fall 2009 202 Sp 2010 184 91.1% 132 65.3%
HIL Fall 2010 176 Sp 2011 158 89.8% 115 65.3%
HIL Fall 2011 214 Sp 2012 198 92.5% 152 71.0%
HIL Fall 2012 195 Sp 2013 181 92.8% NA NA

Figure 36. Persistence rates of all Full-time, First-time freshman who have dormed at UH Hilo.

Assessment: An assessment plan is in place to track first-time, full-time freshmen Fall to Fall retention in the village and compare their retention rates of FTFT not in the resident halls and therefore not in the village27. In addition, responses to the National Survey of Student Engagement will also be compared to determine if there are any significant effects associated with a comprehensive, first-year residency program. Finally, academic performance and academic progress towards academic goals will also be assessed and compared. Efforts will be made to disaggregate the data so that comparisons of low-income, first generation, and historically underrepresented ethnic minorities are also specifically examined. First year assessment will begin December 2015.

Next Steps: If the FTFT Freshmen Village students significantly outperform FTFT students who are not residing on campus per academic success and persistence statistics, then the university will consider requiring all freshmen to live on campus.

Issue 2: Transfer students. UH Hilo has a significant transfer population; approximately 55% of its incoming students each year fall within this designation. LDT have particularly low retention rates for both mainland and international students (46% & 17%). LDT international students account for 6% of the new students each year but account for 16% of the attrition. Retention rates for Hawaiʻi resident transfers are better (LDT = 71%; UDT = 74% (averaged across 2008-2010) but still not as high as we would like to observe.

Action A: Many of UH Hilo’s international students are Pacific Islanders and include students from the Compact of Free Association Nations which include the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. UH Hilo currently has a five-year federal grant which allows the university to target this population of students, along with Pacific Islanders who are U.S. citizens and U.S. nationals. Some of the efforts currently being implemented by the grant include:

  • A 10-day summer bridge program targeting FTFT from the Pacific Islands;
  • Scholarships from APAISF AANAPISI (APIASF is a non-profit organization that awards scholarships to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders). UH Hilo is designated an AANAPISI (Asian American & Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution) because of its high numbers of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander students and high percentage of financially needy students. Approximately ten (10) UH Hilo students will be awarded a scholarship of $2,500-$5,000 each semester;
  • Tutors on Demand program in which a student can meet with a tutor with very little advance notice;
  • A section of University 101 (Paths to Academic/Lifelong Success) specifically for first time freshmen from the Pacific Islands;
  • Engaging students in “high impact” activities such as working on research projects and on-campus jobs to not only deepen their levels of engagement with the institution, the faculty, and their studies but also assist them with meeting their educational expenses;
  • Students from the Pacific Islands who are non-native speakers of English and are admitted to the University either without a TOEFL score or with a TOEFL score below 500 are now being admitted into the English Language Institute. As such, they are required to take English language placement assessment tests when they first enter the institution and may be required to enroll in English as a Second Language classes, depending on their performance on the tests;
  • In addition to the grant initiatives, the University has instituted a Pacific Islander Student Center where students can gather, work on assignments, hold study groups, and meet with tutors.

Evidence: A researcher working as part of the grant project is currently assessing and evaluating the impact of services and programs for Pacific Islander students and assisting with determining the factors that facilitate the success of the Pacific Islander students.

APIASF will also be assessing how its scholarship support impacts student success.

Next Steps: As evaluation and assessment data come in, programs targeting PI students, we will modify the programs targeting PI students as well as institutional policies, procedures, and practices accordingly.

Issue 3: At-risk populations, low GPA students, LDT women, FTFT male graduation rates and returning students (students who have stopped out but are returning).

Action A: Some of the programs initiated in the past to improve retention and graduation rates for at-risk populations have included creating an Institutional Research Office. In the past this office has surveyed graduating seniors, administered the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), and the Resident Survey of the Association of College and University Housing. Student Affairs revised its transfer credit evaluations so that they were completed after the receipt of the student application rather than after students were actually enrolled, instituted the Student Life Program, hired a director of student development, created an Office of Academic Advising (through the CAS Dean’s Office), created an Office of University Disability Services, and changed its financial aid policies. Other initiatives directed at student retention were setting up computer labs and stations across campus, working to improve the bus service to campus, extending the Library’s hours of operation, and positively recognizing faculty and staff through the Outstanding Advisors/Mentors Awards and Distinguished Award for Service to Student Life. Recruitment of students was modified by examining SAT scores of students with GPAs lower than 3.0, adding an admissions specialist, working out articulation agreements with Micronesian community colleges, and hiring a director of marketing and alumni affairs.

Next Steps: UH Hilo is currently in the process of hiring a new Assistant Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management (AVCEM) who will serve as the campus’ senior enrollment management officer. This is consistent with best practices as cited by various higher education organizations. One of the primary responsibilities of this position will be to identify, manage, and assess the effectiveness of a comprehensive enrollment management plan to include the recruitment, enrollment, retention, and persistence of students. The AVCEM will ensure that all initiatives implemented are consistent with the institution-wide enrollment management plan, with the University’s mission, with University branding goals, and with UH System strategic outcomes and performance measures. Most importantly, this individual will also ensure that the institution’s decision-making with regard to retention initiatives are data-driven and evidence based. Timeline: no later than Dec. 31, 2013.

Action B: The creation of what is known as “Intrusive Advising” is being spearheaded by the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. The intent of this initiative is to target at risk students early in the process to ensure they are getting the advice and guidance they need to succeed. At-risk populations include those identified herein and within the initial R&G report, including but perhaps not limited to:

  • Students entering with low HS GPA, particularly BI residents
  • Lower Division Transfer students, particularly female, nonresident aliens, and mainland residents
  • Students identified at mid-semester as at-risk
  • Students who go on academic warning
  • Students who do not meet their academic milestones

Evidence: Intrusive advisors, whether they are located in student affairs or academic affairs, will keep logs on when they meet with their advisees. Data that will be collected on the advisees includes, but is not limited to: progress through their majors, GPAs, retention, reasons for leaving UH Hilo, graduation, major, programs they used – i.e. counseling center, health center, Kīpuka, or Kilohana: The Academic Success Center.

Next Steps: As data on the effectiveness of intrusive advising is gathered it will be used to adjust the program to specific at-risk populations at UH Hilo. In particular we will focus on the identified at-risk target groups: FT male (graduation rates); LT female (retention rates); low GPA students. The data collected may help us to identify other markers of socio-economic stress (in addition to Pell Grant designation) that may be affecting student retention and graduation as first discussed in Essay Two.

Qualitative Student Success

Student success based solely on Retention and Graduation rates fails to reveal the special character and attributes that define UH Hilo as an excellent institution of higher education, one which enables our students to successfully compete with those from top universities around the world. Most recently, for example, a team of UH Hilo students won first place at Microsoft’s US Imagine Cup, besting teams from Harvard, the University of Chicago, and many others. During the past seven years, while competing against approximately 300 universities worldwide, UH Hilo’s Model UN teams have placed in the top three slots four times, winning top honors in 2012 and earning the highest honor of “Outstanding Delegation.” In April 2013, two UH Hilo students individually posted the top score possible (higher than 99.47% of the international field) in the Business Strategy Game (BSG) while competing against 5,502 competitors or teams from 330 international colleges and universities. UH Hilo graduates are also being accepted to top graduate programs, some with full scholarships and NSF graduate research fellowships. This led us to examine student success stories and what UH Hilo offered that enabled them to succeed.

The authors hypothesized that what set UH Hilo apart was increased faculty-student interaction that both enables and encourages our students to reach their full potential, as stated in our mission: to challenge students to reach their highest level of academic achievement by inspiring learning, discovery and creativity inside and outside the classroom28.” To that end faculty in every department, and a small number of the students themselves, were asked to provide evidence of student success and to comment on what it is in their minds that sets UH Hilo apart. Although the responses were primarily anecdotal, they were highly consistent and helped paint a clear picture that very much supported the hypothesis.

The results can be summarized as follows:

We begin by first attempting to hire the best teaching researchers possible; we then offer and require curriculum that is comparable across the nation29. We challenge, mentor, and inspire the students as we encourage them to reach beyond their previous intellectual boundaries by designing courses and experiences specifically intended to increase critical thinking and oral and written communication skills; we introduce them to out of the classroom learning experiences and opportunities through programs such as ALEX to broaden their exposure30. We challenge them with upper level courses, directed readings, and senior capstone experiences. We mentor them individually and through special mentoring programs (e.g. HINTS Scholars, STEM Honors, MOP, MBRS, etc.) and hands-on opportunities to conduct research alongside their professors31. We then encourage and assist them in publishing and presenting their results through peer reviewed journals, at scientific conferences, and through other venues (e.g. theater, exhibits, symposia); we encourage and assist them to identify and apply for internships, exchange programs, and REU’s; and finally we help them to identify and apply for graduate programs, scholarships, fellowships, RA’s, and TA’s, as well as assisting in other career choices.

What we found was that this type of special attention to the well-being of our students is not occurring in isolated cases but is widely evidenced across campus. Students enter UH Hilo wide-eyed, but their intellectual sophistication grows and they become confident of their critical thinking and problem solving skills, confident of their ability to express their views and findings both orally and in writing, confident of the validity of their informed opinions, and confident in their ability to succeed at the next level as they walk out the door with diploma in hand. While the response below from one of our Psychology Professors is particularly well articulated, its content is typical in its support of the hypothesis.

The Psychology Department encourages faculty and student interaction through a requirement that psychology majors take nine credits of 400-level seminar, practicum, or research experiences, all of which require direct mentorship. Most psychology faculty maintain active research laboratories where students and faculty interact by designing, running, analyzing and eventually presenting and/or publishing their research findings. Students apply the skills they previously learned in their statistics and research methods courses, collaborate with others, and participate in the creative process of designing an experiment to test a particular hypothesis. As an example, three years ago a Psychology professor was approached by a student who wanted research experience. The two decided to examine the existing literature on gender differences in health. The literature search resulted in the discovery of a conundrum: that men reported higher levels of wellbeing and health than women but at the same time were dying in greater numbers than women.

A description of the resulting partnership between the student and faculty member best elucidates how we sustain effective learning according to our General Education Program32. During this process the student learned how to conduct an extensive search of the literature (GLO 2: Information Literacy), how to read primary research and more importantly how to integrate those findings (GLO 1: Critical Thinking) into testable questions (GLO 4: Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning). Furthermore, they went beyond including European cultures only in their literature by extending their data across all continents and as many cultures as possible (GLO 5: Human Interaction and Diversity). They eventually generated a hypothesis to explain these sex differences, which was presented at the HBES conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2012. The student was the primary presenter so she learned how to construct a poster and how to interact with fellow scientists and researchers (GLO 2: Communication).

During the second year, the lab was increased to six students. Four of these students worked with the professor to construct an experiment to test the hypothesis (GLO 4: Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning). This process allowed students to think about and reject a number of possible scientific protocols and then create the experimental setting (in this case, over 100 slideshows which contained counterbalanced and randomized presentations). The six students recruited and ran participants through the experiment and then met with the professor in groups of two to learn how to analyze the data. The “theory” and “results” were presented by the students at the ALEX conference held at UH Hilo, and again at the APS meetings in Washington, D.C. in 2013. Again, under the guidance of their mentor the students designed the PowerPoint presentation for ALEX and the posters for the APS conference (GLO 2: Communication). Currently, two manuscripts are being written for possible publication. During this process students learned how to integrate findings into a publishable manuscript and will eventually learn about the scientific review process (GLO 2: Communication). These experiences are valuable for both the faculty mentor and the students and illustrate the enriching experiences that are possible and promoted at UH Hilo. Regardless of where students “land” in their postgraduate careers, the abilities to critically analyze and obtain literary information, to create testable hypotheses, to design experiments, to collaborate in small group settings and to communicate with peers and others are essential skills in all walks of life.

A larger array of faculty and student narratives on what has constituted student success has been collected and can be accessed under Item 1 under Essay Three on the UH Hilo accreditation website33.


  1. University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, Papahana Ho‘olālā Hikiāloa 2011-2015; Strategic Plan 2011-2015, 5, accessed August 25, 2013,↩︎

  2. University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, Papahana Ho‘olālā Hikiāloa 2011-2015; Strategic Plan 2011-2015, 4, accessed August 25, 2013,↩︎

  3. Ibid., 9. ↩︎

  4. University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, “Self Study Report,” July 12, 2001, Revised January 17, 2002, 10,↩︎

  5. Ibid., 10. ↩︎

  6. See the Template for First-Time, Full-Time Freshman in Appendix A (WASC Templates) in the UH Hilo Retention and Graduation Report to WASC, May 2013,↩︎

  7. See Appendix A (WASC Templates) in the UH Hilo Retention and Graduation Report to WASC, May 2013,↩︎

  8. The percentages in the upper left portion of each cell represent the percentage of new students that fall into each residence-entrance classification, while the bottom right portion of each cell represents the percentage of the total student body who entered UH Hilo under the same residence-entrance classification. ↩︎

  9. The Peer Institutions we utilized, based in IPEDS data, were: the University of Alaska Southeast, the University of Guam, and Fort Lewis College. See page 5 of the UH Hilo Retention and Graduation Report to WASC, May 2013,↩︎

  10. Report of the WASC Visiting Team Special Visit Review of University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, March 18-20, 2008, 20,↩︎

  11. Ibid., 20. ↩︎

  12. University of Hawaiʻi System, Hawaiʻi Graduation Initiative, “Disbursement of Pell Grants – UH Hilo,” System targets for degree attainment of Native Hawaiians at UH Hilo can be found at:↩︎

  13. UH Hilo Institutional Research Office, “WASC Retention and Graduation Rate Templates Source Data Overview & Description/Interpretation,” July-August 2012, accessed August 27, 2013, 4,↩︎

  14. Ibid., 5. ↩︎

  15. Ginger Hamilton, email to Seri I. Luangphinith, August 27, 2013. ↩︎

  16. Jim Mellon, email to Seri I. Luangphinith, August 29, 2013. ↩︎

  17. UH Hilo Institutional Research Office, “Data for Pacific Islander Students,” Please note that the data ranges from 2003-2007; more work is needed by Institutional Research to update the data. ↩︎

  18. State of Hawaiʻi Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, The State of Hawaiʻi Data Book 2012, Table 13.25–Poverty Status, for the State and by County: 2007-2011,↩︎

  19. Final Report of the WASC Visiting Team Special Visit Review od University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, October 14-15, 2009, 14,↩︎

  20. Freshman Guaranteed Schedule Data (Cohort 1) can be found under Item 12 in Documents for 2013-2014 Institutional Review for Reaffirmation of Accreditation, linked on Please note that cohort counts may not exactly tie to Figure 33 due to a recalculation by System IRAO in March 2013. ↩︎

  21. Cohort data across 2006-2011 can be under item 12 in Documents for 2013-2014 Institutional Review for Reaffirmation of Accreditation, linked on↩︎

  22. University of Hawaiʻi System, “15 to Finish is key to timely graduation,” July 31, 2012,↩︎

  23. Institutional Research and Analysis Office, “An Examination of Academic Performance by the 15 Credit Hour Breakpoint for First-Time Freshmen at the UH Four-Year Campuses, Fall 2009 to Fall 2011,” October 2012, 1,↩︎

  24. Institutional Research and Analysis Office, “An Examination of Academic Performance by the 15 Credit Hour Breakpoint for First-Time Freshmen at the UH Four-Year Campuses, Fall 2009 to Fall 2011,” October 2012, 2,↩︎

  25. Academic Maps are posted by program and college on the VCAA website called “Tools for Advising and Curriculum Planning,”↩︎

  26. See Alexander W. Astin, What Matters in College: Four Critical Years Revisited (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997); Ernest T. Pascarella and Patrick T, Terenzini, How College Affects Students: A Third Decade of Research (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2005); Vincent Tinto, Completing College: Rethinking Institutional Action (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012); and M. Lee Upcraft, John N. Gardner and Betsy O. Barefoot, Challenging and Supporting the First-Year Student (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004). ↩︎

  27. See “Residential Freshman Persistence” under Item 14 in the UH Hilo website, “Documents for 2013-2014 Institutional Review for Reaffirmation of Accreditation, linked from the Institutionl Accreditation website”↩︎

  28. Papahana Ho‘olālā Hikiāloa 2011-2015, 4,↩︎

  29. As part of a recent Program Review the Mathematics Department queried the top 130 universities across the U.S. as to the transferability of its Calculus I and II courses, based on the detailed course outlines they have for those courses. From an approximate 30% response rate they found that over 90% of the universities would accept the courses as satisfying their Calculus requirements, with only a handful citing minor discrepancies. Of the 5 responding universities in the top 10 only the University of Chicago declined, noting that they do not accept transfer credits from any university. UCSD, for example, noted that our courses were essentially equivalent to their Honors Calculus. ↩︎

  30. This is part of our Vision 2020 statement, and is reflected in Strategic Plan Goal 1, priority action 1.2. See↩︎

  31. These are Goal 1 Priority action 1.1 and Goal 2 in our Strategic Plan. ↩︎

  32. The General Education Learning Outcomes (GLOs) can be found at the following website:↩︎

  33. University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, Documents for 2013-2014 Institutional Review for Reaffirmation of Accreditation,↩︎