University of Hawaii Not Alone in Budget Shortfalls

Courtesy University of Hawaii

The ten University of Hawaii campuses across the state have witnessed double-digit budget cuts in the last two years, of which UH Manoa has bore the brunt of. But our state’s only public university is not alone; universities on the Mainland and abroad are also receiving less funding because of the recession.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the East-West Center, and to brainstorm budget solutions due to decreased public funding, university administrators from the Mainland and Japan held a panel on “Higher Education in the Great Recession.” According to the panelists—including UH president M.R.C. Greenwood—public universities are trying to get creative to attract funds, especially those from private donors and organizations.

“(The recession) has definitely not left us in its wake,” said Greenwood. “It is continuing to drag us along. We have to change for our students.”

Those changes at UH have come in the forms of increased tuition—and student athletic fees—as well as the elimination of more than 300 staff positions and pay cut reductions of existing salaries. Greenwood noted however, that the university hopes to increase the number of science and technology projects, including the addition of the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.

Over in the beehive state, Michael Young, the president of the University of Utah, said public funding for the school has dwindled for more than two decades. To make up the difference, the university, with a student body of 29,000, created a fund raising campaign that has brought in an astounding $1.2 billion. Still, he doesn’t want the university to veer from its education mission. “I think it is possible to thrive in this environment,” he said, during the conference. “But what is the cost of that?”

John Hawkins, a University of California Los Angeles professor emeritus said that social  sciences and humanity programs may see their budgets slashed further, while engineering and science programs may continue to do well because of research grants.

Universities in urban Japan have managed to escape drastic budget cuts and have supplemented the annual 1 percent decrease in government grants through private donations, said Kazuhiko Takeuchi, vice-rector of the United Nations University in Japan. Universities in the country have not faired as well, however, he said.

To bridge the gap between university partnerships, the panelists said the U.S. needs a better approach for approving visas for foreign students. Greenwood said that many students from Asia who were turned away from the U.S. opted to attend school in Europe or Australia.

Watch a video of the panel here.