Why go to College in Hawaii?
For many students, there’s one major advantage to going to college in Hawaii: the environment. The warm weather, beautiful beaches, unique ecology, volcanic activity, and opportunity to surf are all major attractions to pursuing an education in the state of Hawaii.
Although the recreation and leisure of the Hawaiian landscape are powerful motivators, many of these environmental factors also have major impacts on the type of education that is available. Both in-person and online schools in Hawaii have strong academic programs and research opportunities in the fields of volcanology, marine biology, and indigenous studies, taking advantage of Hawaii’s history and environment. In addition to its weather and rare academic programs, there are many other reasons why students choose to study at one of the eight main islands in America’s 50th state.
Hawaii is home to about 1.4 million residents, with nearly 400,000 living in the city of Honolulu. The population is diverse and consists of many white, Asian, and multi-ethnic residents. About 10% of the Hawaiian population is Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
Hawaii has a tropical climate with temperatures remaining mostly in the 80s, regardless of the season. However, because Hawaii is composed of several islands, the climate can vary substantially across the state. Honolulu, where many of Hawaii’s universities are located, has a rainy winter but average high temperatures above 80 degrees year-round.
- Number of Higher Learning Institutions
There are 43 colleges and universities in Hawaii, including the 10 campuses that make up the University of Hawaii system. Among the notable private universities in the archipelago are BYU Hawaii and Hawaiian Pacific University.
- Sporting Events
Hawaii is not home to many traditional professional sports teams, although it does feature some of the best water sports in the world. Amatuer and professional surfing, swimming, and boating are found across the islands. The University of Hawaii is home to a Division I athletics department with a football team. Additionally, the Ironman triathlon championship has been held in Hawaii since 1978.
With clubs, dancing, and great food, Waikiki is the heart of Hawaiian nightlife. Just down the street from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Waikiki is a fun-filled, beach-front area with ample entertainment. However, there are many other nightlife and adventure opportunities throughout the eight islands.
What Options are Available for Colleges in Hawaii?
Studying on-campus in Hawaii, whether on the Big Island or in Maui, comes with a lot of benefits. On-campus students have access to the physical environment and climate surrounding their school, allowing for more in-depth research opportunities, especially in fields such as geology or marine biology. Additionally, on-campus students are able to participate in athletic events, experience the local culture, and take advantage of school facilities. Oahu schools, such as Hawaii Pacific University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, are near a number of other institutions, enabling students to take exchange courses and feel a greater sense of academic community. The ideal on-campus learner is typically a younger student or graduate researcher who plans to take advantage of both the social and practical benefits of a Hawaiian college campus.
Online colleges in Hawaii are a great option for many students. Online schools in Hawaii are often the most cost-effective and prudent option for both Hawaiian residents living on a different island from their institution and mainland U.S. residents who want to study in Oahu without relocating to the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
An online program lets students learn remotely over the internet. Online programs typically use a combination of video, written material, live communication between peers, and multimedia teaching aids, allowing a class of disparate learners to cover the same material as a traditional in-person course. Online classes can be taught synchronously or asynchronously, where students move at their own pace with pre-recorded class material or have weekly, live meetings and lectures with an instructor; the teaching style varies depending on the specific course and program.
Online programs are especially popular with working and adult learners because they are more flexible. Students also take advantage of distance learning to attend courses at an institution that is far from their home; for example, many residents in the state of California are enrolled at programs at the University of Hawaii. Online programs deliver the same knowledge and result in the same degrees as their on-campus counterparts. Tuition is typically similar, but students at online colleges in Hawaii can save on other costs, such as housing and transportation.
Hybrid programs incorporate aspects from both in-person and online learning. Although there are many types of hybrid programs, they all incorporate online coursework and lectures with in-class time for discussion, workshopping, and/or instruction. Some programs also use a schedule where courses are taught mostly online with a three- or four-day intensive in-person component, saving on travel costs and reducing time constraints. Others have online components throughout the week with a weekly in-person meeting.
Not every distance learner is able to enroll in a hybrid program, but hybrid options enable online students to receive many of the benefits of an on-campus education by helping them create social connections with peers and faculty and allowing them to take advantage of on-campus facilities.
Popular Degree Programs in Hawaii
Hawaii has some of the most unique ecosystems and geological features in the U.S. Many of the state’s students pursue careers in science or local industries that involve the volcanic activity or rich sea life of the archipelago. Business is another popular major because the geographically-convenient location of the state lends itself to commercial opportunities with trade between the mainland U.S. and other Pacific nations. Government and military careers are also important in Hawaii and can be pursued by students through a variety of majors, including international relations, computer science, and engineering.
There are not many places in the U.S. where students can study volcanology by taking a short trip to visit an active volcano. Students at the University Hawaii, and many other schools, can study and conduct hands-on research related to volcanic activity.
Studying marine biology in this tropical location allows students to observe exoctic fish, crustacians, and sea life. Conservation, fishing, and bioengineering are just some of the careers that can be pursued by students who hold a degree in marine biology.
Business administration is one of the most popular majors in Hawaii. Many businesses located in Hawaii have international connections, especially in Asia.
Hawaii has a unique history among U.S. states because it is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and was home to a Kingdom prior to statehood. Students attending an on-campus or online college in Hawaii can study native Hawaiian literature, language, and/or culture.
Education Trends in Hawaii
Hawaii spends more per person on higher education than the average state in the U.S; Hawaii’s average spending per full-time student on colleges and universities is about $1,500 higher than the national average.
Hawaii also spends about twice as much of its tax revenue on higher education than the rest of the country, allocating 10.3% of its tax revenue (compared to 5.8% in the U.S.). A higher percentage of Hawaiian residents have either an associate or bachelor’s degrees than the U.S. average, although the Aloha State trails the national average slightly in its percentage of graduate degree holders.
|Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census|
|Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student||$8,405||$6,954|
|Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education||10.3%||5.8%|
|Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree||10.3%||8.1%|
|Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor’s degree||20.4%||18.5%|
|Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher||10.5%||11.2%|
Paying for College in Hawaii
Although the specific academic program, degree type, and faculty expertise are critical concerns that should be considered when deciding between traditional or online colleges in Hawaii, cost is also a very important factor for most students. The tuition, fees, and other incidental costs must be factored into the college selection process. A student’s future earning potential should also be considered.
The average in-state tuition and fees for Hawaii are slightly above the national average for both two- and four-year institutions. In addition to tuition and fees, students should keep the price of housing, food, transportation, books, and other necessities in mind when calculating the expected expense of a college program.
Students in all 50 states are eligible for financial aid, which can help them pay for college in a variety of ways. Students can apply for financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. This application lets students know if they’re eligible to receive any scholarships or grants from the federal government. Grants and scholarships, such as the Pell Grant, are awarded based on need or merit. These types of funding do not have to be repaid.
Financial aid can also come in the form of work-study programs, where the government pays students a stipend for work they do on campus. The federal government also give students guaranteed educational loans. Direct, subsidized, unsubsidized, Perkins, and all other financial aid loans can be used to pay for college but must be repaid after students leave school.
Cost of Living by Region
When you’re trying to figure out how much college will cost, it’s important to include both the tuition rates and the living expenses. The geographic location of a university greatly impacts the overall expense; some colleges have lower average rental prices while others have rents well above the national mean. Two of the University of Hawaii’s campuses, at Hilo and Honolulu, clearly exemplify this issue; rents in Honolulu are more than double those in Hilo. However, Honolulu prices are far below mainland rent in San Francisco.
Cost for Online Programs in Hawaii
If you’re enrolling in an online college in Hawaii, you have access to the same financial aid opportunities that are available for on-campus programs. Grants, scholarships, and student loans can all be applied toward online program costs.
Although the tuition and fees for online schools in Hawaii are typically comparable to on-campus programs, there are other ways distance learners can save on school. Online students do not have to worry about the same transportation costs, child care expenses, housing considerations in a crowded college city, or books that plague their on-campus peers.
Scholarships for Hawaii College Students
- Kaimana Scholarship Program
$5,000; 15 scholarships of $5,000 are given to Hawaiian high school seniors who have a minimum 2.75 GPA, community service experience, and played a sport.
- Hawaii Community Foundation Scholarships
Variable amounts; more than 170 specific scholarships and grants are available for high school graduates from Hawaii or students with a commitment to the Aloha State.
- Fukunaga Scholarship Foundation
$16,00; available to students studying business in Hawaii – this award is given out over the course of four years.
- Henry and Joyce W. Sumid Scholarship
$5,000; must be a high school or college student with a minimum 3.0 GPA – available in Hawaii and other Western states.
- MGMA Western Section Scholarship
$2,500; must live in Hawaii or other Western state and be studying a relevant degree, including medical practice management.
Can all Scholarships be Used for Online Programs?
Most scholarships can be used to pay for programs at online colleges in Hawaii. Although the eligibility rules can be difficult and complicated, aid providers allow students to use scholarships and grants on most in-person or online programs. However, distance learners should check with the scholarship provider before accepting an award because there may be some restrictions.
Employment Outlook in Hawaii
Hawaii has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hawaii has an unemployment rate of just 2.6%, which is 1.7% less than the national average. Only Colorado and North Dakota had lower unemployment rates as of May 2017. The average annual wage in Hawaii is just below the U.S. annual mean wage: $49,430 in Hawaii versus a U.S. average of $49,630.
|Source: BLS and BLS|
|Unemployment Rate, May 2017||2.6%||4.3%|
|Annual Mean Wage, May 2016||$49,430||$49,630|
Top Employers and Industries in Hawaii
- Leisure and Hospitality: Most Americans visit Hawaii on vacation to enjoy the sun at one of its pristine beaches or explore its tropical climate. There is a strong hospitality economy built on tourism from the mainland U.S. and Asia.
- Trade, Transportation, and Utilities: The trade economy in Hawaii is strong. Combined with transportation and utilities, this field represents one of the biggest sectors in the state.
- Government: The Hawaiian state government is headquartered in Honolulu, but there are numerous state and federal government offices throughout the island. Hawaii is also home to a number of military bases and facilities.
Top Employers in Hawaii
State Exchange Programs for Hawaii College Students
A state-to-state exchange program at a U.S. college or university typically means that a student can take classes at a facility in a different state while still paying a reduced or in-state tuition rate. It does not require students to move to another school or exchange places with another student, which is typically the case for international exchange programs. Instead, it simply allows students living in participating states to take courses at a reduced rate at another participating school. These programs are designed for students who live in states with limited educational opportunities.
Western Undergraduate Exchange
Eligible States: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States.
National Student Exchange
Eligible States: Nearly 200 colleges and universities throughout the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Accreditation for Colleges in Hawaii
When looking at schools, students should check to see whether or not an institution is accredited. A school becomes accredited after it has been judged by peer institutions and accrediting agencies; these ensure that a school meets certain criteria and is fit to educate its students and award degrees. A degree from an accredited school is viewed by other institutions and employers as legitimate.
Schools can be accredited either regionally or nationally. Of the two, regional accreditation is generally considered more prestigious. Most quality schools, whether they be not-for-profit, public, private, in-person, and/or online, are regionally accredited. Schools can be regionally accredited by one of six regional agencies in the U.S. These agencies are run by colleges and universities and are recognized as legitimate by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the Department of Education. National accreditation is usually reserved for for-profit, religious, and/or vocational colleges. Hawaii schools are regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
There are also many programs that are accredited separately from their main school. A law or medical program may be accredited by a relevant professional organization, such as the American Bar Association or the American Medical Association, indicating expertise in that specific field.
Resources for Students in Hawaii
- Choose Wisely: The Hawaii Post-Secondary Education Authorization Program provides a guide to help students decide which college or university is best-suited for their needs. The site also alerts students to diploma mills and scams.
- Department of Education: The State Department of Education helps students of all ages achieve their goal of graduating from college. Hawaii’s 55 by 25 program is designed to encourage more local high schoolers to graduate from college.
- UH Planning Resources: The University of Hawaii features Gear Up planning resources for students and parents preparing for college. This site includes everything from information about grants to SAT test tutorials.
- College and Career Readiness: The state’s website features an entire section on college and career readiness for its residents. Prospective students can learn about dual high school credit programs, collegiate expectations, and more.
- Scholarship Finder: Students can use the Hawaii scholarship finder to discover new ways to help pay for school.