Best Colleges & Universities in Hawaii

If you attend college in the Aloha State, you’ll also enjoy the perks of paradise.

The state’s world-class surfing, hiking, scuba diving, and resorts provide ample opportunity for college students to destress from the rigors of school. Hawaii’s volcanos, wild areas, and breathtakingly beautiful beaches are the perfect surroundings for relaxing during college.


In paradise, the stress of college will quickly melt away as you step outside your front door and take a look at the beauty that surrounds you.

Besides the fun of the place, the state boasts several colleges and universities on its islands. Brigham Young University Hawaii is the biggest bang for your buck. Because of its prime location, Hawaiian colleges and universities often offer courses studying the flora, fauna, and marine life of Hawaii in more profound and engaging ways than most other colleges can.

Hawaii is one of 16 states that participates in the Western Undergraduate Exchange program. The University of Hawaii system participates in this program. Learn more about it here:

Hawaii is committed to providing educational opportunities for people from all around the world. Look to Hawaii for the gathering of many cultures, fun excursions into its beautiful paradise, and a top-of-the-line education.

Popular Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.


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)

All data was gathered from the U.S. Dept of Education websites College Scorecard and College Navigator.

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

Four Year University's

1. The University of Hawaii at Manoa

Score: 100.0

Average Net Price: $14,687
Retention Rate: 81%
Graduation Rate: 62%
Salary After Attending: $52,862

Founded in 1907 on the small island of Oahu, the University of Hawaii at Manoa is located a hop, skip, and jump from downtown Honolulu. As the flagship campus of the University of Hawaii, Manoa offers several unique Asian and Pacific culture study 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 $14,687. 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. University of Hawaii-West Oahu

Score: 99.6

Average Net Price: $13,860
Retention Rate: 75%
Graduation Rate: 50%
Salary After Attending: $48,268

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, 43 different concentrations, and 11 certificates. In-state tuition and fees average around $13,860. Most students live off-campus, so UOH-WO is considered a suburban campus.

3. Chaminade University of Honolulu

Score: 99.0

Average Net Price: $25,360
Retention Rate: 84%
Graduation Rate: 45%
Salary After Attending: $44,647

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. Tuition is just under $26,000, 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.

4. Brigham Young University-Hawaii

Score: 98.8

Average Net Price: $14,499
Retention Rate: 63%
Graduation Rate: 66%
Salary After Attending: $49,232

BYU-Hawaii, operating under the affiliation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, endeavors to intertwine the realms of spiritual and secular education, nurturing a culture of continuous learning. Remarkably, it finds itself nestled between the majestic mountains and the inviting shoreline, both of which conveniently lie 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 costs to around $5,720 for a three-semester academic year.

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.

5. University of Hawaii at Hilo

Score: 98.6

Average Net Price: $13,503
Retention Rate: 72%
Graduation Rate: 43%
Salary After Attending: $43,823

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.

For residential students, tuition and fees average around $7,800. The university also holds recognition from the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

6. Hawaii Pacific University

Score: 97.2

Average Net Price: $29,484
Retention Rate: 62%
Graduation Rate: 35%
Salary After Attending: $56,483

Hawaii Pacific University is a private, urban institution that was established in downtown Honolulu in 1965. Today, it offers over 46 undergraduate degrees covering the fields of math, science, arts, humanities, and more. Seventeen 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 one of the school's four doctorate degrees. 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 4,600 students, making for a more personalized college experience. Tuition and fees average around $29,000 per year for in-state students.

Two Year College's

1. Kapiolani Community College

Score: 99.2

Average Net Price: $6,051
Retention Rate: 69%
Graduation Rate: 31%
Salary After Attending: $44,467

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 4,300 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.

2. Kauai Community College

Score: 97.4

Average Net Price: $7,934
Retention Rate: 70%
Graduation Rate: 27%
Salary After Attending: $38,375

Kauai Community College 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.

3. Honolulu Community College

Score: 97.2

Average Net Price: $7,700
Retention Rate: 56%
Graduation Rate: 28%
Salary After Attending: $40,612

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 2,300 students in total. HCC offers liberal arts associate 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 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.

4. Leeward Community College

Score: 97.2

Average Net Price: $7,790
Retention Rate: 65%
Graduation Rate: 25%
Salary After Attending: $38,747

Opened in 1968 as a direct affiliate of the University of Hawaii, Leeward Community College is a public institution located in Pearl City, Hawaii, just half an hour from Honolulu. 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 fee of $35. In-state tuition ends up being around $3,209. 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.

5. Hawaii Community College

Score: 96.4

Average Net Price: $12,330
Retention Rate: 64%
Graduation Rate: 28%
Salary After Attending: $31,054

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 1,800, 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 the most recent data, alumni can expect to earn $31,054 on average. 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.

6. Windward Community College

Score: 95.8

Average Net Price: $10,223
Retention Rate: 63%
Graduation Rate: 24%
Salary After Attending: $35,517

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. This means that instructors are responsive to student feedback and are highly qualified in their fields.

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.

Honorable Mention

University of Phoenix-Hawaii

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.

Online Programs That Might Interest You

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