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University of Hawai'i Community Colleges.


The 50th state of the nation is quite unique. It is the only state consisting of islands and the only state in which the Hawaiian language is officially recognized. Despite these and other obvious differences, Hawai'i is very much like other states. This article has two purposes; 1) to familiarize the reader with the University of Hawai'i system in general and the Hawai'i community colleges in particular, and 2) to remove the false assumptions that Hawai'i is a paradise without significant educational concerns.


The University of Hawai'i (UH) is the only public higher education system in the State of Hawai'i. Established in 1907 as the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, UH today is comprised of ten institutions: UH-Manoa, the sole research university, UH-West O'ahu, an upper-division campus, UH-Hilo on the island of Hawai'i, and seven community colleges (University of Hawai'i, 1991).

The University of Hawai'i Community Colleges (UHCC) was incorporated in 1964 as an integral part of the UH System to make higher education easily accessible to the residents of the state (University of Hawai'i Community Colleges, 1997). In addition to the four community colleges on O'ahu Honolulu, Kapi'olani, Leeward and Windward there is Hawai'i Community College on the island of Hawai'i; Maui Community College on Maui; and Kaua'i Community College on Kaua'i. UHCC also operates satellite centers that serve rural communities of West O'ahu, West Hawai'i, and Maui, as well as the residents of the islands of Moloka'i and Lana'i. An eighth "institution" of the UHCC is the Employment Training Center (ETC), which provides academic and other support services for unemployed adults, at-risk youth, and others needing basic employment skills. In 1997, UHCC set up the University of Hawai'i Centers on Maui, Kaua'i and Hawai'i (West Hawai'i) to offer courses and programs, in coordination with UH-Manoa, UH-Hilo, and UH-West O'ahu, that lead to undergraduate and graduate degrees ("Meeting Maui," 1999).

For 35 years, UHCC has provided educational opportunities to a large segment of Hawai'i's community. In fact, during the 1998-99 academic year, more than 70 percent of the undergraduates in the UH System were enrolled in a community college, and about 40 percent of all UH baccalaureate graduates had received part of their education through UHCC (Tsunoda, 1999). For certain ethnic groups in Hawai'i, especially for the majority of Hawaiians, the UHCC is the primary point of access to higher education.

The University of Hawai'i Community Colleges

All of the community colleges offer a liberal arts curriculum leading to an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree, as well as vocational-technical programs. Additionally, each college has unique programs or specialties.

Hawai'i Community College

Hawai'i Community College (HawCC) is in Hilo, on the east side of the Island of Hawai'i. It has a satellite campus in Kona, where the University of Hawai'i Center at West Hawai'i also is located ("Hawai'i CC empowers," 1999). HawCC is known for its strong curriculum in Hawaiian language, and traditional Hawaiian culture and arts. In Fall 1998, HawCC started a Hawaiian Life Styles Academic Subject Certificate, which allows students to "specialize in Hawaiian studies while fulfilling the program requirements for an Associate in Arts degree. The curriculum provides a foundation upon which students may continue toward a baccalaureate degree in Hawaiian Studies or Hawaiian Language at the four year campuses" ("Hawai'i CC offers," 1998).

Honolulu Community College

Honolulu Community College (HCC), located in the industrial area of downtown Honolulu, on the island of O'ahu, offers the largest number of technical and occupational programs in the UHCC system. Some of the programs not offered elsewhere in the state include marine technology, commercial aviation, and aviation maintenance technology ("Hun CC boasts," 1999). In 1998, HCC was designated a Cisco Academy Training Center by Cisco Systems, Inc., one of the world's largest computer-technology companies, to promote training opportunities in networking technologies between industry, higher education and high schools ("Cisco Systems," 1999).

Kapi 'olani Community College

Kapi'olani Community College (KCC) is situated in East Honolulu, at the base of Diamond Head Crater. KCC specializes in allied health programs, including emergency medical services, respiratory therapy, radiological technology, and recently added a sports medicine program ("The jewel," 1999). In summer 1998, KCC began the Surgical Technician Program, the first of its kind to be offered at a state postsecondary institution (Kaneshiro, 1999/2000). KCC also has a distinguished food services and hospitality education curriculum, and will soon be developing the Culinary Institute of the Pacific ("Culinary institute," 1997/98).

Kaua'i Community College

Kaua'i Community College (KauCC), located in Lihu'e on Kaua'i, is the only college on the island. KauCC is notable for its solar power research and development program ("Education blooms," 1999). KauCC also has administrative responsibilities for the University of Hawai'i Center, which offers Kaua'i residents baccalaureate and graduate degree programs in collaboration with UH-Manoa, UH-Hilo, and UH-West O'ahu.

Leeward Community College

Leeward Community College (LCC) overlooks Pearl Harbor, west of Honolulu; it focuses on liberal arts and pre-professional transfer programs. Programs that are unique to LCC include: pre-engineering, commercial music and television production (University of Hawai'i Community Colleges, 1992). LCC, which has the largest Filipino student population in the state, began offering a Philippine Studies Academic Subject Certificate in Fall 1999 ("LCC announces," 1999).

Maui Community College

The main campus of Maui Community College (MCC) is located in Kahului, on the island of Maui. In addition, MCC operates education centers in Hana (east Maui) and on the islands of Moloka'i and Lana'i. In Summer 1997, the first University of Hawai'i Center was established so that Maui residents could pursue baccalaureate and graduate degrees, without having to leave the island. Among the programs for which MCC has received national recognition are nursing, electronics and computer engineering technology, and food services ("Reaching new," 1999).

Windward Community College

Windward Community College (WCC) sits at the foot of the Koolau mountain range on the windward side of the island of O'ahu, northeast of Honolulu. In addition to its liberal arts program, WCC specializes in marine, earth, and space science. The Aerospace Exploration Laboratory is housed at WCC, where a planetarium/multi-media facility is also being built ("Making marks," 1999). WCC also recently developed a curriculum in Hawaiian and Polynesian studies ("Windward community," 1997).

Degree Options

For most vocational-technical programs, students can pursue a Certificate of Achievement (CA) or Certificate of Completion (CC), that will lead to entry-level employment or job enhancement (University of Hawai'i Community Colleges, 1992). These certificate programs are generally one year of full time study. In contrast, the Associate of Science (A.S.) is a two-year, full time study program of vocational-technical courses and related general education courses. "The Associate of Science program prepares students to transfer into baccalaureate programs in applied fields, and certifies that they have completed entry-level skills-training in their chosen occupational fields" (University of Hawai'i Community Colleges, 1992, p. 16). Although students with A.S. degrees can transfer, only a few do because of the limited number of baccalaureate awarding institutions that offer programs in the applied field. Within the University of Hawai'i System, transferring into a baccalaureate degree program would require the Associate of Arts degree, or the successful completion of 24 credit hours at approved 100-level or above courses (University of Hawai'i, 1998-99).

Student Population

In Fall 1999, over 83 percent of the 25,390 UHCC students were non-Caucasians (University of Hawai'i, 2000). More interesting perhaps is the ethnic representation of the student population, which differs significantly from other community colleges in the U.S. See Table 1, Fall 1999, for the ethnic break-down, using the five federal categories, as well as a category for "mixed ethnicity" and no responses.
Asian/Pacific Islanders 16,745 (66.0%)
Hispanic 609 (2.4%)
Caucasian 4,373 (17.2%)
African-American 390 (1.5%)
American Indian/ 87 (0.3%)
Alaska Native
Mixed Ethnicity 2,981 (11.8%)
No Response 205 (0.8%)
TOTAL 25,390 (100%)

Source: University of Hawai'i, Institutional Research Office, 2000.

Asians and Pacific Islanders

At 66 percent, Asian/Pacific Islander students comprise the largest group. Given Hawai'i's geographical location in the Pacific, this is not surprising. However, Asians and Pacific Islanders are very distinct groups, in terms of their socio-political history. "Asians" include Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, and Asian Indians, who immigrated to the U.S. from the mid-1800's to mid-1900's, as well as refugees from Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) who escaped their war-ravaged countries between 1975 and 1990 (Endo, 1990; Hune & Chan, 1997; Nakanishi & Nishida, 1995). "Pacific Islanders," such as ethnic Hawaiians, Samoans, and Chamorros, are often mislabeled as "Asians;" they, however, did not immigrate to the United States and its territories. Hawaiians, in fact, are a distinct ethnic group from other residents of the State of Hawai'i; they are the indigenous people of Hawai'i and are defined as "descendant[s] of the aboriginal people who, prior to 1778, occupied and exercised sovereignty in the area that now comprises the State of Hawaii" (Title IV-Education for Native Hawaiians, 1988, p. 363).

Table 2 shows the major groups of Asians and Pacific Islanders enrolled at the community colleges in Fall 1995 and Fall 1999. These two time periods were selected to illustrate significant changes in the enrollment patterns of these various groups of students.
Ethnic Categories Fall 1995 Fall 1999 Change

Japanese 4,285 (16.0%) 3,906 (15.4%) -9
Chinese 1,453 (5.4%) 1,316 (5.2%) -9
Korean 663 (2.4%) 593 (2.3%) -6
Filipino 5,295 (19.7%) 4,622 (18.2%) -13
Hawaiian 4,201 (15.6%) 4,410 (17.4%) +5
Pacific Islander 636 (2.4%) 578 (2.3%) -9
Other Asian 624 (2.3%) 447 (1.8%) -28
Mixed Asian/Pac Is 669 (2.5%) 873 (3.4%) +30
TOTAL 17,796 (100%) 16,745 (100%) -6

Source: University of Hawai'i, Institutional Research Office, 2000.

Enrollment Changes

Beginning in the Fall 1996, student enrollment at all community colleges began to drop (University of Hawai'i, 1996), and that trend generally continued into Fall 1999 for most ethnic groups. However, two groups of Hawaiians and Mixed Asian/Pacific Islanders have shown some enrollment increases since Fall 1995. Several factors may explain the increases; those factors will be discussed later.

The decrease in overall enrollments is directly attributed to the UH System increasing its tuition by more than 50 percent between Fall 1995 to Fall 1996. At the community colleges the increase was 52 percent (University of Hawai'i, 1995, 1996). Also in Fall 1996, the UH System changed its policy such that community colleges no longer offered remedial classes as part of its regular curriculum. The ramifications were that a number of students could no longer get academic support and, consequently, also no financial support from federal, state, or private sources if they were not able to take and complete at least a half-time course load.

Academic Readiness

On the average, Hawai'i's public elementary and secondary school students scored below the national norm (50th percentile) in total reading scores on the Stanford Achievement Test, Eighth Edition (Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, 1993). Of the four largest ethnic groups in Hawai'i, Japanese students scored the highest until the 10th grade level, when Caucasians pulled ahead. However, Hawaiians consistently scored the lowest of all students at all tested grade levels. See Table 3.
 3rd Grade 6th Grade 8th Grade 10th Grade

Total Dept. Ed. 35 42 38 43
Hawaiian 25 28 24 31
Filipino 29 31 28 33
Japanese 53 60 63 61
Caucasian 46 58 60 63

Source: Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, 1993.

This pattern also appears in the other major subject areas, i.e., math, science, and social studies, with Hawaiian students scoring below their Caucasian, Japanese, and Filipino classmates in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, and 10th grades (Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, 1993). Despite their low academic achievement throughout elementary and high school, Hawaiian students complete secondary school at a relatively high rate. "Compared with other American minority populations, Hawaiians have had a strong tradition of high school completion" (Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, 1993, p. 121). According to the 1990 U.S. Census, approximately 79 percent of the Hawaiians in the State, age 25 years and older, completed high school (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1993). This figure is comparable to the national average, and is higher than the averages for most minorities in the United States. In 1985, for example, 76 percent of Blacks, 63 percent of Hispanics and 55 percent of American Indian students completed high school (American Council on Education, 1988). However, in the State of Hawai'i, Hawaiians have a lower completion rate than the overall State population (81 percent). Caucasians and Japanese, ages 25 years and over, had high school completion rates of about 87 percent (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1993).

Unique Services for Ethnic Hawaiians

Hawaiian student enrollment at the UHCC increased by 5% between Fall 1995 and Fall 1999. The only other group to show any growth in enrollment during this same time period was the "Mixed Asian/Pacific Islander" category (by 30%). Makuakane-Drechsel (1999) found that many ethnic Hawaiians elected this category instead of a single category, if they identify themselves as multi-ethnic rather than as just Hawaiian.

The growth in Hawaiian enrollment appears to parallel increases in college financial aid and other support services for Hawaiians. Between 1995 and 1999, more funds became available for Hawaiians from federal, state, and private sources. Federal legislation created educational programs specifically to assist ethnic Hawaiians in higher education, e.g., the Native Hawaiian Vocational Education Project in 1987, the Native Hawaiian Education Act in 1988 (reauthorized in 1995), and Title III: Strengthening Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions. In 1999-2000, five of the community colleges HCC, KCC, KauCC, LCC, MCC are receiving Native Hawaiian Vocational Education Project (NHVEP) grants, totaling over $600,000 (University of Hawai'i Community Colleges, 2000). Authorized under the Carl Perkins Vocational Education Act in 1987, NHVEP's objective is to increase recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of Native Hawaiians in vocational education programs by providing a variety of counseling support services. Four colleges HawCC, KauCC, LCC, MCC will get nearly $1 million in funding from 1995-2000 under the Native Hawaiian Community-Based Learning Center (NHCBLC), one of the programs included in 1995 under the Native Hawaiian Education Act. NHCBLC aims to increase collaboration between the colleges and community agencies and organizations in developing and delivering education programs to Native Hawaiian communities (University of Hawai'i Community Colleges, 2000). In Fall 1999, HawCC, KCC, LCC, MCC, and WCC received Title III grants in excess of $1 million, which can be used to expand programs and services for community college faculty and Hawaiian students (University of Hawai'i Community Colleges, 2000).

Other programs, administered by non-UH organizations, also provide financial assistance and counseling support to UHCC students. Two federally-funded programs - Native Hawaiian Higher Education Program and Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program - have scholarships totaling over $1 million that Hawaiians attending UHCC can access (Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, 1999). Two state agencies - Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) - also provide college financial assistance to Hawaiians. For 1997-98, the combined scholarship budget of the two State-funded Hawaiian organizations, OHA and DHHL, was $500,000 (Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, 1998). Also, through the UH Board of Regents and the Hawai'i State legislature, Hawaiian students can get tuition waivers to attend UH System institutions, including the community colleges.

The largest provider of financial aid for Hawaiians, however, is the privately endowed Kamehameha Schools (KS). In 1999-2000, KS provided over $5.5 million to nearly 1,800 students attending UH System institutions. Of that amount $1.5 million went to over 600 students enrolled in the community colleges (Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, 1999). In addition to giving financial support, KS provides counseling assistance to its recipients to insure that they persist successfully until degree completion. For example, four KS counselors work in tandem with staff at all seven community colleges and satellite centers to provide counseling support to KS financial aid recipients until degree completion.


The community colleges in Hawai'i each offer academic courses that enable students to get a liberal arts education or more specialized training in vocational-technical fields. In this respect, UHCC is like all other community colleges in the U.S. However, some of the curricula offered cannot be found elsewhere in the U.S., for example, the Hawaiian language and culture programs or the Philippine Studies academic certificate. These programs reflect some of the ethnic diversity of Hawai'i.

In Fall 1999, 81.5 percent of the students in UHCC were ethnic minorities. The minority representation, though, differs from most other community colleges Asian/Pacific Islanders comprise more than half of the student population. Hawaiian students, one sub-group under the federal Asian/Pacific Islander category, constituted over 17 percent of the UHCC population.

While the enrollment figures for all other Asians and Pacific Islanders declined at UHCC between Fall 1995 and Fall 1999, Hawaiian student enrollment increased by 5 percent. The "Mixed Asian/Pacific Islanders" category did show a 30 percent gain; however, that group most likely includes Hawaiians, as well. For the majority of Hawaiians attending college in Hawai'i, the community colleges is their gateway to higher education.

One factor that has contributed to the growth of Hawaiian student enrollment at the community colleges has been the increasing amount of financial aid from federal, state, and private sources. As long as these funds continue, the community colleges will enroll a sizeable number of Hawaiian students. Conversely, if funds public and private that specifically target Hawaiians are reduced or eliminated, we can predict a direct negative impact.


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Teresa Makuakane-Drechsel, Ed.D. is the Director of the Post-High Counseling Program at Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu, Hawaii. Gall Makuakane-Lundin, M.S. is the Interim Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo.
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Author:Makuakane-Lundin, Gail
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2000
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