Tuition for undergraduate and law school students at the University of Hawaii will be increased in phases beginning in 2024 if a proposal made Thursday during a Board of Regents meeting is approved.

UH administrators recommended a 2% tuition increase for students at the William S. Richardson School of Law by the start of the academic year in 2024 and undergraduate students at four-year universities in the fall of 2025. The university would then increase tuition by another 2% in 2026.

Meanwhile, tuition rates would remain the same for the next two years to help offset financial difficulties for students recovering from hardships due to the coronavirus pandemic that began in March 2020.

University of Hawaii administers presented their proposed tuition schedule.
University of Hawaii leaders presented their proposed tuition schedule to the Board of Regents. Cassie Ordonio/Civil Beat/2022

But the university also has faced economic woes amid the pandemic, which forced it to resort to remote classes or a hybrid model until last year.

The proposal also comes amid rising inflation rates. UH administrators say the tuition increase would help accommodate increasing costs of utilities and other needs.

The university plans to seek public input on the proposal in the spring. Then the Board of Regents would need to approve it in a vote. The last time the university raised tuition was a 2% increase in 2017.

The proposed tuition schedule would boost revenues for the university, which receives approximately $400 million annually from its 10 campuses.

According to Kalbert Young, the university’s vice president for budget and finance, student tuition is the university’s second revenue source.

UH VP of Budget and Finance Kalbert Young before Senate budget hearing.
UH Vice President of Budget and Finance Kalbert Young said the tuition increase is a modest amount. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

“A 2% increase two years from now is a very, very modest adjustment to what I’m predicting will be significant rates of inflation over the next two to three years,” Young said in an interview. “I think people should appreciate what the administration is prepared to propose in keeping tuition flat for the next two years.”

Currently tuition per semester is $5,652 for full-time undergraduates and $16,668 for nonresidents at UH Manoa. At the law school, it’s $11,196 for residents and $22,908 for nonresidents, according to the university’s website.

Tuition would not increase for graduate and community college students, according to the proposal.

Most of the regents said they supported the intent of the 2% increase.

“This is much easier than trying to decide on tuition rate increases that are on the order of 6%, which we’ve done in the past,” Regent Eugene Bal III said at the meeting. “It’s easier, but on the other hand, I think it’s a matter of perspective because it’s harder to forgo tuition increases when you’re the institution that has to balance a budget.”

According to the university’s presentation to the board, the proposed increases will still leave the university in a budget deficit.

BOR Vice Chair Alapaki Nahale-a said the university’s proposal is balanced.

“It costs us to deliver the quality of education we expect to deliver, and the issues about support students needs are certainly impacted by tuition, but it’s separate,” Nahale-a said.

UH Manoa William Richardson School of Law exterior.
Students at the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law could see a tuition increase by fall 2024. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

In written testimony, law school students opposed the tuition increase.

Ren Moore, a nonresident law school student, said the rising cost of tuition would add more financial burden for UH students. Moore noted that she’s financially struggling to pay her rent and other expenses.

“With the state of the economy and its likely trajectory, future students will undoubtedly be placed in the same position, whether in-state or out-of-state,” Moore wrote.

“After graduation I will be facing well into six figures of debt, and although I took it on willingly, that willingness does not alleviate any of the pressure I feel, nor does it absolve the U.S. education system from its culpability in putting students in debt through an irrational pursuit of outpacing the rest of inflation,” she continued.

Joel Burgess, a third-year law school student, said the tuition shouldn’t be increased until the UH law school boosts its national ranking.

“My first three semesters at Richardson were completely online, and since the spring 2022 semester, 4 out my 11 classes have been conducted almost completely online,” Burgess wrote. “Law students should not have to pay more money to receive a lesser quality of education, especially when so many classes are still being offered online only.”

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