This semester students, faculty, and staff launched an initiative for Pacific Islander students to pay in-state tuition rates at UH Mānoa. The Planning Committee for the Pacific Islander Students Tuition includes Loau Dr Luafata Simanu-Klutz, Dr Tina Tauasosi-Posiulai, Aumuagaolo Ropeti Ale, Samalaulu Chrissy Lam Yuen, Brian Alofaituli, and Dr Lola Quan Bautista.
The intake and retention of Pacific Islander students at UH Mānoa have been negatively affected by a policy decision by the UH Board of Regents that went into effect in 2007. For many years prior to that time, students from Island countries without their own colleges and universities paid in-state tuition rates. Today they pay 150% of resident tuition. At the time of the increase, the Regents assured that there would be access to alternative scholarship funds to pay for the differential. But many students have not received such assistance. Given escalating tuition costs and the lack of economic opportunities at home, the initiative to reinstate in-state tuition can only result in an increase in the number of Pacific Islander students attending and successfully completing a program of study at UH Mānoa.
Pacific Islander students collected more than 1,700 signatures in support of the initiative. Dr Tina Tauasosi-Posiulai at the UHM Office of Multicultural Student Services collected testimony from students, staff, and alumni to support the petition, which was delivered to the Board of Regents. In April, the planning committee and Pacific Islander students delivered an information session to the Board of Regents Committee on Student Affairs to request that they be again allowed to pay resident tuition. As the committee representative, Lola provided information on the current tuition rate for Pacific Islanders, graduation and retention rates, and percentage of students awarded scholarships, as well as how many Pacific Islander students recruit and actively encourage more of Hawaiʻi’s high school graduates to remain in the state and attend the college at the UH system campuses. Pacific Islander students at UH Mānoa also provide outreach to Pacific Island communities in Hawaiʻi, often focusing on some of the most underserved, such as those in Waipahu on Oʻahu.
Students, faculty, and staff after the April meeting. Photo by Zachary Villanueva.