THE BLOG
11/26/2014 02:20 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2015

Higher Education in Hawai'i

In 2008, Hawai'i's educational leaders set a goal to have 55 percent of working-age adults hold a two- or four-year degree by the year 2025 to position our state for competitiveness in the 21st century. Our current attainment rate of 41.6 percent is higher than the national average, but we still have a long way to go. To achieve this "55 by '25" goal, we need to collectively meet the educational needs of our students and ensure access to high-quality higher education right here in Hawai'i.

Education can have an invaluable impact on individuals, families and communities. Our university was founded on the idea that the people of Hawai'i should have higher education alternatives available. A mix of strong public and private universities is a common characteristic of vibrant cities in states from California to New York, and we believe Hawai'i should be no different - private and public universities are essential to creating a strong higher education system nationwide.

As former Yale University President Richard C. Levin said, "competition encourages excellence." From the Olympic Games to major Fortune 500 companies, competition encourages excellence. We find this to be the same among colleges and universities. Our efforts to attract the best and brightest students and faculty encourages healthy competition between universities, benefitting students, faculty and communities while raising the bar on the quality of education.

While we all work toward similar goals, private and public universities are certainly different. With strong public and private universities represented in Hawai'i, students and faculty have the opportunity to choose where to study or work based on the unique qualities of a university.

At HPU we've capitalized on our unique qualities as a university for the benefit of our students and our community. Hawai'i Pacific University has leveraged its location in the heart of downtown Honolulu, providing students direct access to our business district, encouraging them to pursue internships and gain active learning experiences. We have also made a significant investment to revitalize Aloha Tower Marketplace for both our students and the greater community to help enrich Honolulu's intellectual and cultural scene. Beyond HPU's urban focus is the research and innovative work at the Oceanic Institute, and also cultivating a unique educational experience made possible by our diverse student body.

Colleges and universities have faced a fair amount of challenges in recent times. Still, fiscal constraints, criticism and negative outlooks have not put a damper on the spirit and resolve of HPU or our industry. We know our industry will continually have to change and adapt to society and the needs of our students, but ultimately, we remain optimistic because a strong higher education system can have transformative effects on people and communities.

According to a study by a group called CEOs for Cities, differences in four-year educational attainment between cities account for three-fifths of the difference of income in those cities. In short, how educated your city is explains 60 percent of how wealthy your city is. Our future 20 to 30 years from now greatly depends on our investment in quality education for our emerging leaders today. Whether students attend a public or private university, the goal is to provide an educational experience that continues to affect students positively long after they leave college, and hopefully, the communities in which our students will live, work and play.

Imagine - HPU began as a vision of four citizens in the 1960s. Fast forward to 2014 and we are now an international university that graduates more than 1,500 students each year. There is no doubt in my mind that we will continue to apply this same determination and dedication to provide Hawai'i with the private institution it deserves as we embark on the next 50 years.