Monday, December 1, 2014

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.

This blog was originally published in the Huffington Post.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Military and Hawai‘i’s Economy

Hawai‘i stands to lose nearly 50,000 people, more than 25,000 jobs and $1.35 billion in total economic impact by 2020, if we do not step up to keep thousands of soldiers and their families here in the islands.
In June 2014, the United States Army released the Army 2020 Force Structure Realignment report, assessing the impacts of potential reductions in personnel and base operations. Among the 30 installations at risk for downsizing are Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter.
The report discusses "Alternative 1," the potential population loss of 3,800 from Fort Shafter and 16,000 from Schofield Barracks, representing an 83 percent cut in permanent party population. Imagine, for a second the impact on O‘ahu from the potential reductions to Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks Scenario:
  • Loss of almost 50,000 people or 5.1 percent of our island's population.
  • Loss of more than 25,000 jobs, which translates to 4.3 percent of all O‘ahu's jobs.
  • Loss of 1.35 billion in total economic impact is equal to 1.2 percent of our island's income.
The impact island-wide is certainly troubling, yet, it is nothing compared to the potential impact on the surrounding communities which are so closely tied with the military bases. Now, imagine the likely effect to the neighborhoods — Wahiawa, Schofield, Mililani, Kunia and Waialua — immediately surrounding Schofield Barracks:
  • The five surrounding neighborhoods would likely lose close to 40,000 people, 38 percent of the population in the aforementioned areas.
  • Nearly 20,000 jobs could be lost. That's equivalent to losing the State's largest non-government employer more than three-times over.
  • Close to 9,000 spouses and more than 15,000 children would be affected.
Big picture, these losses would likely mean:
  • Miliani, Waipio and Wahiawa would be set back for decades.
  • The impacts would be felt right along the H-2 all the way back to both coasts from Haleiwa to Pearl Harbor.
  • The State would lose significant tax revenues.
  • Hardest hit economic entities would be in the following sectors, especially in this five zip-code area: construction, retail, restaurants, real estate, and professional scientific and technical service professions.
  • Further and significant repercussions would be to real estate values, unemployment rates and military tourism visitors.
  • Further cuts might even result in loss of the 25th Infantry Division, a loss that would be a severe blow not just to Hawai‘i, but to the entire Pacific region.
Although these are illustrative impacts, it is clear that the impact of military base change is less of a general deflation across our local economy as whole, but a crater in the economic geography of our community. Put simply, "Alternative 1" would not be a "potentially significant" socioeconomic impact. It's an existential threat to several of our local communities and, while no final decisions have been made, reductions to personnel are a forthcoming reality for the army.
Military service personnel, veterans and their families are an important part of our history and community. I hope this will continue for years to come.
This blog was originally published in the Huffington Post.

Friday, October 3, 2014

S&P Update on HPU

Yesterday, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s announced that it has affirmed Hawai‘i Pacific University’s maintenance of its 'BB+' long-term bond rating.  HPU’s unchanged rating comes at a time when Standard & Poor's expects that downgrades of private universities will outnumber positive changes. Today’s Star-Advertiser inaccurately reported the S&P announcement as a downgrade on its cover page. This headline is wrong and the university has sent a letter seeking an immediate retraction. (Note: Star-Advertiser's correction ran in the Sunday, Oct. 5, edition.)

S&P noted that HPU continues to have good financial resources for the rating category, with an above-average endowment and focused efforts on fundraising. The agency cited HPU’s good financial resource ratios, low tuition discount rate and a senior management team that has refined its plans that “adequately suit the university’s business position.” The administration had a positive conversation with S&P representatives last week. They complimented the university on its thoroughness and transparency.

We continue to report to the Board of Trustees on how best to improve in rating categories so that we could strive for that in the future. Nevertheless, we recognize it will take a number of years and successful implementation of the ATM project, but a path forward is being charted. We will continue the important work of implementing the university’s strategic plan and vision.

Geoffrey Bannister