Aloha mai kākou,

Post-secondary education opens doors to skilled jobs and better pay, which is why the Office of Hawaiian Affairs makes broadening access to college, vocational and trade programs a priority.

This month, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs will be soliciting bids for its scholarship program, which provides $500,000 a year to Native Hawaiian college students. With tuition for post-secondary programs on the rise, OHA’s scholarship program is more critical than ever.

When compared with other public universities, our 10-campus state system is considered relatively affordable – undergraduate resident tuition is $10,872 at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. However, that’s after increases totalling 137 percent between 2004 and 2014, which landed the flagship campus in the No. 1 spot among colleges with the biggest tuition hikes, according to a 2016 National Center for Education Statistics report. Tuition increases of 1 or 2 percent will go into effect at all UH campuses next fall, and again the fall after that. Scholarships are one way to keep these tuition increases from pricing higher education out of students’ reach.

This year, OHA awarded 175 scholarships to students across the UH system, ranging from $2,000 for community college students to $5,000 for doctoral candidates. In other years, scholarships have been available to students going away to school but UH won the bid to administer the OHA Native Hawaiian Science & Engineering Mentorship Program Scholarship in 2015. Their proposal included plans to reach more students and provide wraparound services to support scholarship recipients and keep them on track.

This agency is already collecting data on how Hawaiian students are faring at UH, whether they received scholarships or not. OHA’s 2010-2018 strategic plan gave the agency eight years to raise the number of Native Hawaiians earning UH degrees and certificates by 12 percent. With a year left to go, the goal has already been well exceeded. In 2009, the baseline year, 1,354 degrees and certificates were awarded to Hawaiian students in the UH system. In 2016, that number was 2,457.

We don’t want to dismiss the concerns of college students attending schools outside the UH system. But while a half-million dollars seems like a big pot of money, it’s dwarfed by an even bigger pool of applicants. Fortunately, OHA isn’t the only organization that provides financial assistance for college. At www.oha.org/scholarships, you can see scholarships for Native Hawaiians offered by Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, Hawaiian civic clubs, Chaminade University, Kamehameha Schools and more.

OHA also co-sponsors Native Hawaiian Scholarship ʻAha that will be held around the state in late fall. These fairs provide opportunities for students to hear directly from scholarship providers, as well as find other information on how to pay for college and technical training.

By working together, we’re seeing more Hawaiians pursuing higher education. Last year, Native Hawaiian students represented 24 percent of the UH system’s total enrollment and earned 2,457 degrees and certificates – a 103 percent increase over seven years. As scholarship season approaches, let’s keep that momentum building.

ʻO au iho nō me ke aloha a me ka ʻoiaʻiʻo,

Kamana'opono Crabbe Signature
Kamanaʻopono M. Crabbe, Ph.D.
Ka Pouhana/Chief Executive Officer