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Lawmakers to discuss adding funding to University Hawai‘i budget to expand a scholarship program

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Lawmakers are looking to add $19 million to the University of Hawai‘i’s annual budget to fund the expansion of a community college scholarship to university students at Mānoa, Hilo and West O‘ahu.

On Wednesday at 2 p.m., the State House of Representatives Higher Education Committee will discuss House Bill 1535, which would expand the Hawai‘i Promise program. Daina Landeza-Olivier, community college graduate from Kaua‘i and a recipient of the Hawaiʻi Promise scholarship, will speak at the hearing.

“It helps me with food. It helps me with housing, clothing, gas, transportation,” Landeza-Olivier said, who is now enrolled at UH West Oʻahu, working toward a bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian and Indigenous health and healing.

Hawaiʻi Promise is a program to provide funding for community college students who qualify for federal financial aid. Since its inception in 2017, Hawaiʻi Promise has served 8,643 UH Community College students.

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Almost $3.8 million was awarded to 1,774 eligible students across the seven UH Community Colleges in fiscal year 2023. The average award per student was $2,142, covering direct education costs such as tuition, books and fees.

According to the 2023 annual report to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature, the Hawaiʻi Promise program has had a positive impact on UH Community College students with proven financial need.

Hawaiʻi Promise recipients earn more credits (reducing time to degree and increasing the likelihood of degree completion), have higher passing rates (3.0-grade point average or better) and are more likely to stay enrolled (69% vs. 65%) compared to non-Hawaiʻi Promise UH students.

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Eighty-four percent of the scholarship recipients would have been unable to enroll if not for Hawaiʻi Promise, and 60% were Native Hawaiians, Filipinos or from other ethnic groups underrepresented in higher education.

Landeza-Olivier said the Hawai‘i Promise scholarship “definitely needs” to be there for the UH four-year level of education for students.

“It’s so important that all of our students and children and adults get educated at a higher level,” she said. “It’s just so important for us to be able to survive out here in the state of Hawaiʻi.”

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