UH President: Medical School Budget Cuts "A Serious Blow"

R.J. Brown/Civil Beat

This was a tough year at the Legislature for the University of Hawaii.

The 10-campus university system will have to put some capital improvement projects on hold, rely on fewer faculty and use more tuition dollars to pay salaries, UH President M.R.C. Greenwood told Civil Beat in a private meeting Wednesday. Hardest hit could be the medical school, which lost $4 million, or 17-18 percent of the state's contribution to its operations.

"It's a serious blow. A very serious blow for us. It's going to force some changes at the medical school that we're not going to be very happy with," Greenwood said.

The budget discussion came as part of a sweeping conversation about the importance of the university system. The $1.4 billion public institution is Hawaii's third largest employer and its success is inextricably linked to the success of the state and its economy, she said.

Greenwood pointed with pride to the sweep of the system, from community college to research campuses, spread across the islands, describing it as a source of hope for many in Hawaii. She was realistic about the budget challenges and spoke with pride about the initiatives the university is taking with regards to distance learning and other efficiencies, as well as the depth of its scholarship.

The financial reality this year at the Capitol was that legislators ran out of time to approve a $100 million revenue bond that would have paid for at least a dozen capital improvement projects for the university system.

The finalized state budget also did not include the $12 million UH requested to help restore professors' salaries to pre-recession levels. Faculty had taken a pay cut to help the university weather the economic storm.

And beginning in July, the school of medicine will lose $4 million a year from the state's tobacco settlement.

These financial disappointments compounded others from recent years, Greenwood said. Although she plans to protect faculty salaries, other areas will suffer.

Have feedback? Suggestions?