A Guide to Online Colleges in Hawaii

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The 50th and final state to be inducted into the Union in 1959, Hawaii is also the 8th-smallest and the 11th-least populous. Still, despite its remoteness, people have been living here for thousands of years, with the earliest inhabitants estimated to have lived around 300CE. Though Spanish explorers first landed on the archipelago in the 16th century, the first documented European contact wouldn’t come until Captain Cook arrived in 1778, and the islands’ jarring beauty immediately captivated non-natives: pristine beaches, sheer cliffs, dense rainforests, and, of course, volcanoes. While tourism has been a major economic factor, Hawaii has been a hub for the military, agriculture, textiles, and more. Education has also played a major role, and the list of Hawaiian colleges and universities includes 4 public four-year universities, 5 private schools, and a half-dozen community colleges. To keep pace with national trends in higher education, many of these schools are now offering online degrees to support affordable, flexible education opportunities.

In-state tuition is often applied to public schools offering online programs. Many online programs require some face-to-face time, or more numerous support services at their brick and mortar locations. Intensive study experiences–often on the weekends or in several week long bouts–enable many online students to accelerate their time until graduation. And students looking at online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees that can be taken partially, or mostly online). Finally, one of the most common stipulations in scholarships is that students be from a certain state or region, often more funds are available to students seeking degrees in-state.

There are at least six public schools in Hawaii that offer online degrees, the largest of which is University of Hawaii at Manoa, offering 25 — the most in the state. Hawaii Community College is the second-largest public provider at 22 online degrees. Kauai Community College is a close third, totaling 21 online degrees. From there, University of Hawaii at Hilo, University of Hawaii at West Oahu, and Leeward Community College offer a total of ten online degrees. There are two private schools in Hawaii that offer online degrees — Chaminade University of Honolulu and Hawaii Pacific University.

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Featured Online Schools

Potential Resident

For a variety of reasons, a student may look to move to the state of their online college program whether specifically required by the program or not – be it for a job, location desirability, school benefits, etc. Different states have different policies, however, and some of them can be rather demanding. Hawaii’s requirements are best enumerated here. In short, students must have been a “bona fide” resident — i.e., established a legal domicile — of Hawaii for at least 12 months prior to the first day of classes. Among the documents you may need to prove permanent residency include personal income tax proof, a state voter certificate, employment verification, active bank account, lease agreement, etc. Note that exceptions include military personnel and dependents; members of the Hawaii National Guard or Hawaii based Reserve; East-West Center student grantees; and Native Hawaiians.

For 2015-16, the average tuition for a four-year public school in Hawaii was $10,175 per year, compared to a $9,142 national average. That represents a 5% increase from 2014-15, compared to a 3% national average, and a 25% increase over the last 5 years, compared to to a 13% national average. Two-year community colleges fared better: 2015-16 average tuition was $3,664, or about $300 less than the national average. Still that’s a 5% increase from the prior year, and a 24% increase over the last 5 years. While this may be troubling in general, it’s worth noting that historically Hawaii tuition has often been lower than the national average — sometimes significantly so — so the recent spike may be an aberration.

There are four schools in Honolulu County that offer online degrees: Chaminade University of Honolulu, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hawaii Pacific University, and Leeward Community College. The largest of these is UH Manoa, which is the largest online education provider in the state, offering eight bachelor’s, 13 master’s, and four


Population: 337,256
Cost of Living: 196.9%
Top Industries: Tourism, Defense
Local Online Degrees: 4

Pearl City

Population: 47,698
Cost of Living: 164%
Top Industries: Tourism, Education
Local Online Degrees: 4


Population: 43,263
Cost of Living: 91%
Top Industries: Tourism, Education
Local Online Degrees: 1


Population: 10,699
Cost of Living: 98.2%
Top Industries: Tourism
Local Online Degrees: 1

    Best Online Colleges in Hawaii

  • 1. University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • 2. Chaminade University of Honolulu

    Online Programs: 12
    Type: Private

    Chaminade University of Honolulu, founded in 1955, is a private Catholic liberal arts school with a total enrollment of around 1,900.As a top-ranked school in the West region, US News has also recognized Chaminade as a top-30 university for veterans. With a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, CUH is able to support an intimate, tailored education model that balances one-on-one instruction and collaborative learning. Nearly 60% of classes consist of fewer than 20 students, and less than .5% have 50 or more. Online, CUH offers three associates — in Business Administration, Early Childhood Education, and Liberal Arts — plus nine bachelor’s in Criminology And Criminal Justice, English, Religious Studies, Historical & Political Studies, Psychology, and Education concentrations, among others. For those interested, 71% of undergrads receive some form of financial aid, and the average need met is 70%.

  • 3. Hawaii Community College

    Online Programs: 22
    Type: Public

    Founded in 1941 as the Hawaii Vocational School, Hawaii Community College, a two-year college based in Hilo, is one of 10 campuses in the University of Hawaii system, with a mission to promote an education that develops life-long learners and productive, engaged global citizens. HCC offers 22 online degrees, including eight bachelor’s, ten master’s, and four doctoral tracks, making it one of the largest online education hubs in the state. Some undergraduate highlights include an RN to BSN, BA in Business Administration, and BA in Public Administration (Healthcare). From there, HCC offers at least six MEd concentrations, an MSN, Master of Social Work, MS in Rehabilitation Counseling, and doctorates in Education and Nursing. In addition to regional accreditation, HCC holds specialized accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc. (NLNAC).

  • 4. Hawaii Pacific University

    Online Programs: 6
    Type: Private

    Founded in 1965, Hawaii Pacific University has an enrollment of 4,700, most of which are undergraduates. Ranked by US News as one of the best colleges in the West region, Hawaii Pacific enjoys a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio, which promotes a vibrant and tight-knit educational community that combines individualized instruction with collaborative learning opportunities. Nearly 60% of classes have fewer than 20 students, and just 1% have 50 or more. HPU offers six online degrees, all of which are masters-level, in Integrated Marketing Communications, Information Systems, Medical Informatics, Global Health, Predictive Analytics, and Policy & Administration. All students have access to online tutoring, writing assistance, library services, and more. For those interested in financial aid opportunities, more than half of undergraduates receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 56%.

  • 5. Kauai Community College

    Online Programs: 21
    Type: Public

    Kauai Community College, founded in 1965, is the third-largest online education provider in the state, with 21 degrees available, including seven bachelor’s, 10 master’s, and four doctoral tracks. Undergraduates may major in Business Administration, Social Sciences (Early Childhood Education), Elementary Education, RN to BSN, Public Administration, and Political Science, among other fields. From there, master’s degree opportunities are many: MEd concentrations, an Executive MBA, Computer Science, Nursing, Social Work, Rehabilitation Counseling, Library & Information Science, and more. Doctorate tracks are offered in Educational Foundations, Educational Policy Studies, Nursing Practice (DNP), and Nursing (PhD). Student support services include counseling, advising, tutoring, tech assistance, and enrollment and registration assistance.

  • 6. University of Hawaii at Hilo

    Online Programs: 3
    Type: Public

    Founded in 1947, University of Hawaii at Hilo has a total enrollment of 3,800, most of which is undergraduate. As one of the top universities in the West, US News ranks UH Hilo in the top 15 among public schools in the region. The school’s 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio is the lowest on the list, helping to build an intimate, tailored educational setting that combines personalized instruction with peer-to-peer learning. Nearly half of classes consist of less than 20 students, and just 2% have 50 or more. Online, Hilo offers bachelors in Business Administration and Nursing, an MA in Indigenous Language & Culture Education, and Doctor of Nursing Practice. Courses are designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate individual schedules, and hybrid delivery is available for some classes. Student services include academic advising, tech support, writing assistance, financial aid, and placement testing, among others.

Monitoring the accreditation of a university you are interested in attending is incredibly important. Accreditation ensures your credits can transfer that you can receive Federal financial aid, and most importantly that certain standards of educational quality are during your schooling. The highest accreditation standard for most programs in the United States is provided by regional accreditation agencies. The regional accrediting agency for Missouri is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in California, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Micronesia, Palau, and Northern Marianas Islands, as well as schools for American children in Asia..

Making sure that a University you’re hoping to attend is regionally accredited — or accredited by a real and respected accrediting agency — is one of the most important choices you can make in ensuring the quality of your education.

Three Steps for Securing Financial Aid

  • Submit your FAFSA.
  • Check to see if additional forms are needed at your university of choice.
  • Search and apply for private scholarships.

Through the previous three steps most students find themselves offered some sort of federal grant, work study, private grant, scholarship, or stipend.

Great Hawaii Higher Education Resources

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