UHWO Faces Potential Cap

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents’ Committee on Budget and Finance recently approved a $3.5-million proposal for UH West Oahu to support its growing student body.

It’s an infusion the University hopes to obtain to prevent enrollment caps.

“Enrollment drives the university,” explained UH West Oahu chancellor Rockne Freitas, “so I hate to do that.”

The $3.5 million would come at a crucial time for the growing campus, which saw an 18.8 percent increase in student enrollment from the fall 2012 semester. During the first week of its session this semester, enrollment was at 2,403 students.

According to the university, the $3.5 million would be used to hire additional faculty and staff, expand its current programs and create new ones. It also would be used to prepare the university for its 2014 accreditation visit by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

For Freitas, it’s important that the university continue to be able to provide area students with educational opportunities. Many of the students UHWO caters to come from areas with high incidences of poverty. In Makaha, for instance, 34.9 percent of residents are in poverty, five times the state average.

According to Freitas, the West side is under-served. “We need to work on getting students from high school graduation,” he said.

In an effort to provide educational community outreach, Freitas currently is working closely with vice chancellor for student affairs Lui K. Hokoana.

“This community needs a four-year, comprehensive university,” said Freitas. “The university is a game changer for the West side residents.”

The proposal now goes before the Regents. If passed there, it will make its way to the governor and eventually must be approved by the state Legislature.