Categorized | Elections, News

Aiona, Finnegan unveil college tuition assurance program


Duke Aiona and Lynn Finnegan have proposed a new program to keep parents from worrying about rising costs of college tuition and to encourage more of our young people to earn a college and career ready diploma.

The proposal of a College Tuition Assurance Program would guarantee a four-year fixed tuition rate for students entering the University of Hawaii and a two-year fixed tuition rate would be guaranteed for those entering one of the University of Hawaii community colleges.

Over the last six years, tuition for full-time undergraduate students at the University of Hawaii (UH) has increased approximately 71 percent, or nearly 14 percent per year. The current tuition rate per year for a full-time undergraduate student who is a resident of Hawaii is approximately $3,792.

“As a working father who had to save for tuition for my four children, I know how hard it is to save money for a child’s college costs,” Aiona said. “Our plan would help parents give their son or daughter a higher education, and students wouldn’t have to drop out due to rising tuition costs. By linking the plan to a college and career ready diploma, our young people would have more of an incentive to put in the extra work before they graduate from high school.”

The Tuition Assurance Program would be available to all Hawaii public school students who graduate with a College and Career Ready Diploma. Currently this diploma, which includes extra coursework in math, science and English, is offered on a voluntary basis in Hawaii high schools.

The state has committed through its successful federal Race to the Top application to make the college and career ready diploma mandatory for all high school students by 2018.

This commitment is part of the state’s broader effort to significantly improve student achievement over the next six years.

The Tuition Assurance Program rewards those students who commit to pursuing this more rigorous diploma now.

Under the proposed Tuition Assurance Program, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents would set the freshman fixed tuition rate two years in advance. This ensures parents and high school students know in advance what tuition expenses they can anticipate.

The rate would be adjusted for each incoming freshman class. As governor, Aiona will work with the UH Board of Regents to set a four-year fixed tuition rate for all eligible university freshmen. A two-year fixed rate would be set for freshmen entering the community college system.

“Most families must save for two large costs — buying a home and sending their children to college,” Finnegan said. “This program locks in the cost of a college degree, similar to locking in a mortgage interest rate. Duke and I have never waivered in our support for education reform and big ideas to improve the quality of our public education system. Our opponents, on the other hand, have not demonstrated they are ready or willing to take responsibility and make the tough decisions to reform our public education system.”

Several former and current regents are supportive of the Tuition Assurance Program, including Kitty Lagareta, Marlene Hapai, Jimmy Haynes, Ramon de la Pena, Teena Rasmussen and Al Landon.

Hawaii’s College Tuition Assurance Program is modeled after successful fixed-rate tuition programs in states, such as Florida, Illinois, Georgia, and programs at specific universities, such as George Washington University, the University of Texas at Dallas and Central Michigan University.

Currently about 6,100 sophomores and seniors in Hawaii public high schools are enrolled in the college and career ready diploma program. If the majority of them elected to attend UH under the Tuition Assurance Program, they would save more than $9.9 million in tuition costs.

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