Best Colleges & Universities in Hawaii
The Hawaiian Islands are known for their world-class surfing, scuba diving, hiking, beaches, and resorts. Hawaii’s mountainous volcanoes, vast treasure troves of wildlife, and breathtaking beach fronts are the perfect setting for any student to settle into their college routine. In Hawaii, the pressures of college can quickly melt away just by stepping outside your front door and taking in all the paradise that surrounds you.
The state boasts 16 colleges and universities in total, several of which can be found in Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital city. The University of Hawaii itself boasts ten campuses, but Brigham Young University-Hawaii takes the claim for the best value of any school on the islands. Because of its tropical location, some of Hawaii’s colleges and universities offer uniquely-designed, hands-on courses in marine biology, volcanology, and geology–all of which cannot be studied the same way anywhere else.
Hawaii is one of sixteen states that participates in the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program, which allows enrolled out-of-state students to pay no more than 150% of in-state tuition rates. It’s no surprise that Hawaii is committed to making sure people from all over the world can come and enjoy the opportunities its state universities have to offer. If you’re looking for a blend of diverse cultures in a picturesque setting, and a top-of-the-line education to boot, Hawaii is the place for you!
Colleges in Hawaii Fast Facts
Fall enrollment (2017) = 64,125
Degrees awarded in Hawaii(2016) = 15,698
Median in-state public tuition (2016) = $7,200
Median out-of-state tuition (2016) = $20,160
Largest schools by the number of degrees awarded = 1. University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2. Kapiolani Community College, 3. Hawaii Pacific University
EDsmart assesses colleges in Hawaii based on data that covers four main areas:
- Cost (average net price)
- Academic quality (graduation rate)
- Student satisfaction (retention rate)
- Salary After Attending (the median earnings of former students who received federal financial aid, at 10 years after entering the school)
This ranking aims to help students assess the affordability and value of top colleges in Hawaii so they can make informed decisions about which college to attend.
Best Colleges in Hawaii
1. the University of Hawaii at Manoa
Average Net Price: $15,286
Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 61%
Salary After Attending: $74,576
Founded in 1907 on the small island of Oahu, the University of Hawaii at Manoa is located a hop, skip, and a jump from downtown Honolulu. As the flagship campus of the University of Hawaii, Manoa offers several unique Asian and Pacific culture study programs. Fully committed to fostering a culturally diverse and enriching college experience, the Manoa campus is well-equipped to offer a variety of both undergraduate and graduate degrees, ranging from the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology’s degree in marine oceanography to the John A. Burns School of Medicine tropical medicine programs. UOH-M athletic teams also compete in the NCAA Big West Conference every year, making campus life that much more exciting.
With over 12,000 undergraduate students, the university works to structure its academic year into semesters for the benefit of the student body. In-state fees and tuition average around $12,186. Manoa is truly saturated with the aloha culture, meaning that U of H students is free to celebrate that ancient strength, which honors their individuality while simultaneously uniting them as one collective student family.
2. Kapiolani Community College
Average Net Price: $6,803
Retention Rate: 62%
Graduation Rate: 27%
Salary After Attending: $81,702
Kapiolani Community College was founded in 1946 at the base of the towering Diamond Head volcano! As an institution, its original goal was to offer career training and education exclusive to the foodservice industry. As time went on, however, programs in nursing, business education, and dental assisting were added to the school’s repertoire. Today, Kapiolani offers a variety of programs such as Culinary Arts, Liberal Arts, Hospitality and Tourism Management, and more. In-state tuition averages around $3,284 for the academic year. The college maintains an acceptance rate of 100%, enrolls approximately 7,800 students in total, and operates in close affiliation with the University of Hawaii. It also holds accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. As far as long-term ambitions go, Kapiolani aims to revitalize 21st-century technical education for the better.
Named in honor of Queen Julia Kapi’olani, the first Hawaiian queen to visit the United States, KCC strives to maintain a high standard of service to community and country. Through practicing values of honesty, service, and responsibility, KCC further honors its namesake, providing quality education and career preparation to its students in the process.
3. University of Hawaii-West Oahu
Average Net Price: $10,519
Retention Rate: 69%
Graduation Rate: 51%
Salary After Attending: $48,667
The University of Hawaii–West Oahu was established in 1976 in Oahu’s “second city” of Kapolei, just 30 minutes west of Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. Today, UOH-WO prides itself on being “puʻuhonua,” where, similar to the concept of communal child-rearing, every student is individually guided and mentored throughout their learning process. In the Hawaiian tradition, students are a part of what sustains the community and the island, and UH-West Oahu’s curricula reflect the principles of this unique and timeless culture.
Students can choose one of 9 bachelor’s degrees, 45 different concentrations, and 10 certificates. In-state tuition and fees average around $7,584. With a total enrollment of just over 3,000, the student-to-faculty ratio sits at around 18:1. Most students live off-campus, so UOH-WO is considered a suburban campus.
4. University of Hawaii at Hilo
Average Net Price: $15,125
Retention Rate: 67%
Graduation Rate: 41%
Salary After Attending: $72,357
The University of Hawaii-Hilo was founded in 1947 as a rural liberal arts institution, publicly funded and located about 200 miles from the state’s capital. Though it mainly offers undergraduate degrees, UH-Hilo also operates graduate programs in fields like education, tropical conservation biology, and more. The school’s doctorate programs include Nursing, Pharmacy, and Hawaiian Language Revitalization. A world-class observatory sits at the top of Mount Maunakea, and the campus is located just around the corner from the Hilo Forest Reserve. The university uses the island’s diverse ecosystem as a living, hands-on laboratory for students, offering one-of-a-kind learning experiences and fostering real-world experience.
With an undergraduate population of just 2,818, the university is a tight-knit community that prides itself on small class sizes and a personalized curriculum. For residential students, tuition and fees average around $7,300. The university also holds recognition from the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
5. Kauai Community College
Average Net Price: $9,732
Retention Rate: 66%
Graduation Rate: 27%
Salary After Attending: $54,661
Kauai Community College was has been providing more affordable education to striving students since 1964. Operating in close affiliation with the University of Hawaii system, it offers 89 vocational and technical degrees and certificates in a variety of career fields. Programs range anywhere from accounting to engineering, and the small class sizes and affordable tuition make it one of the best options in Hawaii for direct career training. Kauai is also officially recognized by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.
Tuition averages around $3,200 for in-state students and $8,328 for out-of-state students. The majority of students attend part-time and work toward certifications or toward completing associate credits that transfer easily to four-year institutions. Ultimately, Kauai is the perfect place to jumpstart your career and start on the path toward your goals.
6. Brigham Young University-Hawaii
Average Net Price: $12,793
Retention Rate: 63%
Graduation Rate: 63%
Salary After Attending: $38,600
Operating in affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYU-Hawaii aims to integrate both the spiritual and secular aspects of education to foster life-long learning. The Oahu-based campus is home to just under 3,000 students in total and is located approximately halfway between the mountains and the beach, both of which happen to be within walking distance. With a diverse student population representing over 70 countries, BYU-H is the ideal place to find purpose and direction. Tuition and fees are subsidized by both Church and Non-Church membership donations, lowering Church member student cost to around $5,720 for a three-semester academic year.
All students are expected to be actively engaged in their learning and regularly reflect on their experiences. A few of the more popular majors are Arts and Humanities, Math and Science, and Professional certification. BYU-Hawaii awards minors and professional certifications, and several of the school’s traditional undergraduate degree programs operate alongside unique major tracks, like Hawaiian language study. Students are encouraged to personalize their degree plans and become “holokai,” which translates to “seafarer”–an appropriate designation for any BYU-Hawaii student on their journey to success.
7. University of Phoenix-Hawaii
Average Net Price: $13,118
Retention Rate: 45%
Graduation Rate: 45%
Salary After Attending: $88,250
From the heart of Honolulu, the University of Phoenix-Hawaii operates as a for-profit institution in direct affiliation with the University of Pheonix. It offers bachelor’s degrees in business, education, computer technology, and healthcare, as well as master’s programs in the fields of education, business, and nursing. The school’s doctorate-level programs cover the same fields. Tuition averages around $9,552, and with an enrollment of only 313 undergraduate students, the community is very tight-knit. Faculty members and instructors are all committed to personalizing education to fit the needs of individual students.
UP-Hawaii’s curriculum is built to benefit working students with multiple demands on their time and for whom a traditional college schedule is unrealistic. Most students are over the age of 25 and are either looking to increase their employability or shift their careers. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited UP-Hawaii since 1978 for its more personalized, interactive administration methods.
8. Chaminade University of Honolulu
Average Net Price: $23,119
Retention Rate: 78%
Graduation Rate: 38%
Salary After Attending: $62,373
Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, The Chaminade University of Honolulu was founded in 1955 as a private, Catholic college operating in affiliation with the Marianist tradition. From its location in the Kaimuki Honolulu neighborhood, students live just around the corner from Waikiki Beach and have easy access to both Diamond Head and the Pacific Ocean. It maintains an average enrollment of around 2,100 students and a student-to-teacher ratio of only 11:1. Tuition is just under $27,000, but most students receive financial aid and scholarships, keeping in custom with the school’s creed that learning should not be impeded by the inability to pay.
Chaminade is focused on promoting the Marianist values of peace, justice, and dignity for all through service-oriented learning. Students can earn bachelor’s degrees in fields such as accounting, forensic science, or religious studies, and nine different graduate degrees are offered, including Education, Criminal Justice, and Pastoral Studies. Ultimately, Chaminade is the perfect place to start on your path toward a life full of service and success.
9. Honolulu Community College
Average Net Price: $8,002
Retention Rate: 57%
Graduation Rate: 24%
Salary After Attending: $74,747
Honolulu Community College is a 2-year institution that was originally established as a technical school in 1920, but the University of Hawaii adopted HCC into its subsidiary system in 1964. Today, the school is home to about 4,600 students in total. HCC offers liberal arts associate’s degrees that transfer directly to the University of Hawaii. Students can pursue degrees in either Aeronautical Maintenance or Commercial Aviation at HCC’s auxiliary campus, located just around the corner from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, and the school’s Marine Education and Training Center can be found among the secluded scenery of Sand Island. Honolulu Community College holds recognition from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. With resident tuition set at only $3,174, tuition and fees are comparable to those of other Hawaii community colleges.
Honolulu Community College offers unique opportunities through its Pearl Harbor Apprenticeship Program, which combines classroom instruction with paid, cooperative work experience at the shipyard. All credit earned through this program contributes to an associate’s degree in Applied Science. HCC also offers a limited Flex AA program to encourage working adults to return to school and finish their degrees. Ultimately, this institution strives to broaden students’ knowledge and deepen their understanding to foster lifelong success.
10. Leeward Community College
Average Net Price: $4,461
Retention Rate: 64%
Graduation Rate: 23%
Salary After Attending: $37,208
Opened in 1968 as a direct affiliate of the University of Hawaii, Leeward Community College (LCC) is a public institution located in Pearl City, Hawaii, just half an hour from Honolulu. Certified by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, LCC’s mission is to serve the community by providing quality, affordable education. The school offers associate degrees in Automotive Technology, Teacher Education, TV Production, and much more. Additionally, Leeward provides professional assistance to its freshmen students as they choose their career paths.
Fall 2019 tuition for resident students was $131 per credit hour, plus an additional flat rate fees of $35. In state tuition ends up being around $3,200. Leeward’s acceptance rate is 100%, with an average enrollment of around 2,800, making it one of the best colleges in Hawaii in terms of accessibility. The school also runs the Children’s Center, which serves as a preschool and daycare facility for the kids of Leeward’s students, staff, and faculty. This extra support makes life infinitely easier for aspiring parents to actively pursue their goals.
11. Hawaii Pacific University
Average Net Price: $27,139
Retention Rate: 62%
Graduation Rate: 35%
Salary After Attending: $64,990
Hawaii Pacific University is a private, urban institution that was established in downtown Honolulu in 1965. Today, it offers over 30 undergraduate degrees covering the fields of math, science, arts, humanities, and more. Six graduate degrees are available, a few of which include the Master of Education, MBA, and the Master of Social Work. Students can also choose to pursue the school’s one doctorate-level nursing program. The wide range of online course options adds to the school’s versatility, and students can choose between undergraduate, graduate, and associate-level degrees in several other fields.
As it is primarily a liberal arts college, HPU emphasizes a diversified curriculum that reflects the student population. The school’s average enrollment sits at just under 5,000 students, making for a more personalized college experience. Tuition and fees average around $27,500 per year for in-state students.
12. Hawaii Community College
Average Net Price: $10,742
Retention Rate: 59%
Graduation Rate: 26%
Salary After Attending: $58,673
Hawaii Community College was originally known as the Hawaii Vocational School at its founding in 1941, but was renamed Hawaii Community College when it became a University of Hawaii subsidiary in 1970. The two-year, public institution currently works alongside community leaders to design efficacious and sustainable curricula that enable students to serve the island community effectively. Hawaii Community College holds recognition from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, upholding its four core principles of community, technology, Hawaiian culture, and environmentalism. HCC’s tropical forestry and agroforestry programs even use the island as a hands-on, real-world laboratory!
With a student population of around 2,600, the most popular programs include Liberal Arts, Fire Science, and Culinary Arts. In-state tuition averages around $3,204, while out-of-state tuition sits at $8,340. According to Niche.com, alumni can expect to earn $26,600 on average, and 74% are employed just two years after graduation. In one survey, students were very impressed with Hawaii Community College’s professionalism and appreciated the presence of Hawaiian culture in day-to-day campus life.
13. Windward Community College
Average Net Price: $10,637
Retention Rate: 55%
Graduation Rate: 20%
Salary After Attending: $27,488
Located at the base of the mountains of Ko’olau, Windward Community College is a rural campus that specializes in the creative arts, Hawaiian culture studies, and environmental sciences. With a 100% acceptance rate and approximately 2,700 students, the student-to-faculty ratio is only 18:1. This means that instructors are responsive to student feedback and are highly qualified in their fields. In-state tuition sits at around $3,194, while out-of-state students pay $8,330.
Like all other University of Hawaii community college subsidiaries, Windward holds recognition from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The school strives to maintain indigenous Hawaiian culture through its Hawaiian music studies, sustainable agriculture, and veterinary assisting associate-level programs. Courses such as orchid culture, Polynesian surf culture, and the Hawaii Fishpond Lab are specifically designed to represent Hawaiian customs and values. The Aloha spirit is ever-present in the Windward community.