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Opinion: HPU and student retention

    By Megumi Nomura . April 12, 2014 - 12:19 pm

downtown

When I first arrived back home to Hawaii as an Army veteran, I took some time looking at my options for college. It came down to University of Hawaii at Manoa or HPU.  

UH offers a wider selection of academic classes than HPU. In fact, UH was the only college in Hawaii that had the degree program I was interested in at the time (medical technology).

The campus, in my opinion, was a lot nicer than HPU’s; at least it actually looks like a college. Besides that, as a local I had several friends who were attending UH.

It seemed like an easy choice. So how did I end up at HPU instead?

The fact is that HPU treats military students better. UH was going to give me 18 transfer credits for my previous education and military training. HPU gave me 81.

UH gave me pages of paperwork to apply for my GI Bill benefits, and no member of the administration seemed willing or able to help me figure any of it out.

HPU has an efficient and friendly veteran’s center specifically for helping veteran students with this kind of stuff. HPU is recognized as a military friendly school for good reason.

While I commend HPU for the way it treats its military and veteran students, there are other areas where the school definitely needs some work. Cohesiveness is one of those areas.

As students, we have to work with both the school faculty and the administration. The two never seem to be on the same page, and there seems to be a mutual disdain between them.

Students are surprisingly intuitive, and we pick up on these things. It makes things pretty uncomfortable for us when we rely on both sides for a successful college experience. That being said, whether it is administration or faculty heads that are stretching the professors thin with bureaucracy and additional duties, it needs to stop.

The college professors’ focus should be on teaching the student. There’s a problem when professors don’t have time to grade and return papers because they’re being asked to teach too many classes; there’s a problem when professors aren’t available during their posted office hours because they have some mandatory meeting to go to; there’s a problem when professors are so stressed about all the little things they have to do to maintain their position, that they fail at their primary role of educator.

Can’t we hire someone to perform all these extra duties and file paperwork? We can’t? Well, that brings me to my next issue.

HPU needs to improve in the area of transparency. Students are aware that a number of staff members were recently let go. We are aware of all the budget-cuts going on (some students are more painfully aware than others).

And yes, we all received that e-mail regarding the increase in tuition. Students want to know where that money is going. If the school keeps taking away scholarships and funding for clubs and organizations, and threatening the shutdown of other student resources, we have to wonder how these sacrifices will benefit us. Not how these cutbacks will benefit the school in the long run, but how they will benefit the students who are paying for them, now.

It’s entirely possible that there are reasonable explanations for these matters; the problem is that students are not kept informed. These issues bother students, but not to the point where they’re going to go marching down to the administrative building and demand answers. They’re just going to talk amongst themselves, speculating, and growing resentment towards the school.

If HPU has legitimate reasons for the budget cuts and simultaneous tuition increase (which I’m sure it does), it is harming itself by keeping this information undisclosed.

I have to honestly say that all in all, I am enjoying my time here at HPU. There are several professors I am very fond of (although there are a couple that I detest); I have not had the so-called-common academic advising nightmare (my advisor’s been nothing but awesome); and I’ve been given several great opportunities that I know I would not have enjoyed at a larger institution.

A military-friendly school, with a diverse student population, small classroom sizes, set in the heart of paradise. The school practically sells itself to prospective students. All HPU has to do is devote some thought and care to student retention.

HPU has got a lot right. It just needs to work on tightening up the areas where it’s wrong.

One Response to Opinion: HPU and student retention

  1. AnnMarie Reply

    May 3, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Well said.

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