For West Oahu, A UH Campus At Last

Nanea Kalani/Civil Beat

KAPOLEI — The University of Hawaii system has a $235 million maintenance backlog and has absorbed the athletic department's $10 million debt. Does it make financial sense to build a new campus?

The numbers say yes.

On Monday, construction crews broke ground on a new $150 million campus in Kapolei for the University of Hawaii-West Oahu.

UH officials say an ideal location in one of the fastest-growing regions on the island, along with strong student demand, make the campus a promising business venture for the university, one that has been a long time in the making.

"We’ve been looking forward to (this) for well over three decades,” said Chancellor Gene Awakuni.

And if student projections are on track, UH-West Oahu will be more financially self-sustaining than UH's Hilo campus.

Since its founding as West Oahu College in 1976, the school has operated out of wooden portables next to the Leeward Community College campus in Pearl City. Plans for a permanent campus stalled for years because of scarce funding. And yet, the students keep coming.

Enrollment at UH-West Oahu has grown at a faster rate than at UH’s other two four-year campuses in recent years. In four years, enrollment at the West Oahu campus nearly doubled from 850 students in 2005 to more than 1,350 in 2009. It saw a 16.5 percent increase in students between 2008 and 2009, while UH’s flagship Manoa campus saw a 2 percent increase during the same period, and the UH Hilo campus reported a 5.5 percent gain.

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