University of Hawai‘i President David Lassner addresses some of the concerns from the state senate during a nearly four-hour long meeting at the Capitol on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.

The state senate criticized the University of Hawai'i on its spending and enrollment during a nearly four-hour meeting on Friday at the State Capitol.

With only three of the 10 topics discussed, the next meeting will be held on Jan. 3, 2020.

Among the topics, the senators questioned the university's enrollment service provider.

The company, EAB – which provides research, technology and consulting information for learning institutions – assists schools that want to look at increasing enrollment by recruiting students from high schools and community colleges.

UH has spent $2.7 million for a five-year contract with EAB in 2018. The goal was to boost enrollment by recruiting more high school students and transfers from community colleges.

“The investment we believe will result in long-term enrollment growth,” UH President David Lassner said.

But Sen. Kurt Favella challenged UH’s decision in disagreement with the money spent on the hired firm.

“I don’t think it’s necessary having an outside consultant company coming in,” Favella said. “You guys should do the leg work yourself.”

Enrollment was another target for the senate.

This year, the total headcount of enrollment across 10 UH campuses is 49,977 – 17,490 at UH Mānoa – a slight decrease from previous years. 

Lassner said enrollment is decreasing because graduation rates are increasing.

According to data reported by the university, throughout the 10 campuses, six have increased graduation rates. Both four and six-year rates for four years campuses and three-year rates for UH community colleges. 

Donna Mercado Kim, chairwoman of the Committee on Higher Education, asked what the "goal number" was for the enrollment. 

“I’m not so focused on raising enrollment,” Kim said. “What I’m trying to find out is what is right, what should we be looking at. Is 20,000 or 19,000 wishful thinking...what we’re seeing is a drop in enrollment and an increase in expenses...we’re always chasing for a number that we cannot achieve. That’s crazy.”

But Lassner responded that it’s not overachieving. 

“Our peak was over 60,000 at the time of the recession,” Lassner said. “I don’t want to hope for a recession, but that’s the time when the people of Hawai‘i need their university the most.”

Toward the end, the senate heavily chastised some of the administrators' pay raises, specifically taking aim at Vice President for Academic Planning and Policy Donald Straney.

The BOR granted Lassner responsibility on the salary adjustments for administrators –  vice presidents for example – to be paid an annual salary of $272,040. 

All salary increases are performance based, according to Lassner.

Bothered by the pay raise, Favella said, “We can’t give everyone how much the quarterback is getting paid in the NFL because they won’t be a team. I understand you want to reward them because they’re doing a good job, but rewarding them this kind of pay increase... I’ve never seen this before.”

Topics on the agenda for Jan. 3, 2019

  • Cancer Center

  • Tuition Reserve Fund

  • S397 Special Fund and Fringe Benefits

  • ST 149 S.D.1 (2019 Session)

  • Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

  • Atherton Innovation Center/Sinclair Library

  • Space Utilization Study and Analysis

  • Repair and Maintenance Backlog

Managing Editor

Cassie Ordonio double majors in Journalism and Pacific Islands Studies. The former Bay Area native is a transfer student from City College of San Francisco where she previously served as Editor in Chief at The Guardsman.