Enrollment at UH Maui College is up 7.5% over Fall 2022.
“After years of declining college enrollment nationwide, this is a very positive and hopeful sign, especially coming as it does after our tragic fires,” said Chancellor Lui Hokoana.
The biggest increases are in the categories of “Returning” students and “Other” students. “Returning” students are those who have taken time away from continuing their education and decided to return; and “Other” students are those from other UH campuses taking UH Maui College classes (up 28%, following the general trend of more online availability and more options) and transfer students (up 54%).
Cohorts of unclassified students—those in non-credit programs, those taking very specific courses—is up by 90%. One example is a cohort of Department of Education teachers enrolled in Hawaiian language and Hawaiian history courses.
Although there is no data to explain the increase, waning concern about COVID-19 may play a role, according to administrators. “And it appears, anecdotally at least, that students want a safe space, a place where they can focus their energies, most especially in the aftermath of the fires,” according to school representatives.
“We’ve heard from students that after the fires, many of them didn’t want to start or return to our college,” says Hokoana. “They wanted to be close to their families and they wanted to help their communities. So, it was important for us not just to support them but to provide opportunities for them to help while still attending classes,” he said.
One of the best examples is the pivot made by the Culinary Arts Program. Instead of the regular first eight-week module of classes, the faculty and students took over the food prep hub that was established on campus on Aug. 10 and continue to prepare meals for displaced residents. It gives the students real world experience while also allowing them to participate in this important relief effort.
“This is my opportunity to give back,” said Raiden Baraoidan, a second-year student from Lahaina. “If it wasn’t for this program and my family’s encouragement, I wouldn’t be here right now. I had second thoughts about coming back but my parents said ‘keep going, finish school.’”
The experience is also helping Baraoidan keep things in perspective. “Being a full-time student, having to attend classes, do assignments, taking tests, completing finals, and dealing with my personal struggles, are nothing in comparison to what my community is going through. Absolutely nothing. My only ambition right now is to do anything I can to help my community.”
And he has some sage advice for everyone: “Please continue to express love to your loved ones because tomorrow is never promised. We must remember that time will always heal wounds and there’s always a light of hope at the end. We are Lahaina. We don’t give up, we will bounce back, rebuild, and we will continue to fight the obstacles to have our city again. Lahaina strong, forever.”