Hawai'i and WICHE

Working Together for Over a Half Century
Year joined: 

Since 1959 Hawai‘i has been a member of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), a 16-member commission working to boost access to higher education for students in the West and, as importantly, to ensure their success.

In the five-plus decades since Hawai‘i joined the commission, the state has benefitted in a number of essential ways.

> Tens of thousands of students from Hawai‘i have attended undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in other Western states through WICHE’s Student Exchange Program, saving millions of dollars, thanks to reduced tuition rates. In just one of the programs, the Western Undergraduate Exchange, Hawai'i students and their families have saved $189.9 milllion since 1988 when the program was founded. (See “Doing the Math,” below, for Hawai‘i’s return on investment.)

> Hawai‘i has received funding to be part of numerous WICHE policy initiatives, including those focused on financing and financial aid, workforce policy, and other areas.

> Hawai‘i has participated in WICHE initiatives related to distance education, workforce development, and behavioral health.

WICHE and Hawai'i have shared a remarkably fruitful history. But their prospects for the future are even more exciting.

Return on investment: 

In 2014-15 Hawai‘i, its institutions, and its students saved or brought in some $16.2 million through WICHE and spent $137,000 for membership in the commission, yielding a 118-fold return on investment.

In the last 5 years, Hawai‘i savings from WUE alone have totaled $68 million, yielding a 106-fold return on the state’s investment in WICHE.

Student Savings WUE: 
Programs and Participation: 

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). SARA is a voluntary, nationwide initiative of states that will make distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and make it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The effort is funded by a $3 million grant from Lumina Foundation, $200,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and fees paid by institutions. The initiative is administered by the country’s four regional higher education compacts the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) and overseen by The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states and better resolution of student complaints. The state of Hawai‘i is not yet a member of W-SARA.

Hawai‘i is active in all three WICHE Student Exchange Programs: the Western Undergraduate Exchange, the Professional Student Exchange Program, and the Western Regional Graduate Program. In 2014-15 Hawai‘i’s students and families saved $16.2 million in tuition. Hawai‘i saved money, too, through not having to establish and maintain costly programs in a number of areas, including some in healthcare.

Western Undergraduate Exchange. Hawai‘i students have enrolled in undergraduate programs on the mainland through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) since 1988. In 2014-15, 1,788 students from Hawai‘i are enrolled in out-of-state programs at reduced rates (150 percent of resident tuition), saving $14.9 million in tuition and fees – the average student savings amounted to $8,341. In the last 10 years, students have saved nearly $121.9 million.

Hawai‘i benefits from WUE in another way: by receiving students from out of state. Hawai‘i’s institutions can choose how many out-of-state slots to offer and in which areas, allowing them to make the best use of their resources by accepting students in underenrolled programs. There’s a workforce benefit for the state, too, as students often stay in Hawai‘i after graduating. In 2014-15 Hawai‘i received 2,574 students through WUE.

Professional Student Exchange Program. Hawai‘i has sent 1,265 students to professional programs through the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP), with students studying in a host of critical fields, including dentistry, occupational therapy, optometry, physical therapy, and veterinary medicine. Historically, some 67 percent of PSEP students return to Hawai‘i to pursue their professional careers.

Western Regional Graduate Program. Hawai‘i’s postgraduates also participate in graduate programs through the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which offers access to 383 high-quality, distinctive programs (“distinctive” meaning they’re offered at only four or fewer institutions in the WICHE region) at 60 institutions in all WICHE states. WRGP programs run the gamut, but emerging social, environmental, and resource-management fields are particular strengths, as are innovative interdisciplinary programs. In 2014-15 Hawai‘i sent 19 students to out-of-state institutions, while receiving 39.

The Interstate Passport is a new framework for block transfer of completed lower-division general education requirements that is based on learning outcomes and transfer-level proficiency criteria. Conceived in 2011 the project addresses barriers to degree completion posed by uneven transfer policies and practices across states. The two-year pilot project (Phase I) ended in April 2014 with the first part of the framework complete. Phase II, due to be completed in fall 2016, is underway with the participation of over 20 two- and four-year institutions in seven states (CA, HI, ND, OR, SD, UT, and WY). Students who transfer with the Passport will have their learning recognized regardless of differences in course titles and credits, and will not be required to repeat general education coursework.

The Consortium for Healthcare Education Online (CHEO), funded (2012-2016) with a $14.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, is making use of the North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO). With WICHE as its hub, NANSLO is an international network of web-based science labs using robotic software to allow students to  conduct science experiments over the Internet.

WICHE’s Added Value

Hawai'i gains added value from WICHE’s programs in policy, workforce development, technology, mental health, and other areas.

Policy & Workforce Development. Hawai‘i has participated in projects supporting better-informed decision making at the state level. WICHE initiatives have been sponsored by the Ford Foundation, Lumina Foundation for Education, the U.S. Department of Education, and others. In addition, WICHE policy experts often visit the state to present or consult on a number of vital issues, including the state’s workforce needs and balancing the financial aid portfolio between grants, loans, and scholarships, as well as between merit- and need-based aid.

WICHE has assisted in Hawai‘i with its planning around tuition-setting and financial aid policy at the University of Hawai‘i (UH) system. WICHE staff discussed options and shared ideas from other states.

Hawai‘i was one of four states chosen to participate in the Gates-funded Facilitating Development of a Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange pilot project (along with Idaho, Oregon, and Washington). The project attempts to enable a more comprehensive regional view of the creation of human capital and its flow among multiple states by exchanging data across K-12 education, postsecondary education, and the workforce. Hawai‘i is receiving customized technical assistance, including a Hawai‘i-specific report, to aid the state in its examination of the data governance in place for each of those sectors, how data governance might be improved, and how the state can advance its efforts in developing its statewide longitudinal data system to meet state needs and fulfill commitments it made to the federal government as part of its successful Race to the Top application. The success of that pilot led Gates to fund a second phase in which the MLDE project will expand to other states.

The implementation of the Common Core Standards (CCSS) or other similar academic standards is well underway in most states, and the corresponding assessment systems are set to go live in the current academic year. As implementation continues, there are a variety of challenges that K-12 and higher education leaders will face in the coming years related to student movement across state lines. To begin the conversation about these challenges, WICHE, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, convened higher education and K-12 leaders from the Western region and additional bordering states in October 2014. Hawai‘i was one of 17 states along with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to participate.

The state also participated in a Gates-funded meeting that brought together the stewards of the data systems in 14 of the WICHE states for discussions around linking data internally and with other states. A central topic of conversation was how to address the challenges to data sharing presented by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Additionally, Hawai‘i has participated in the Western Academic Leadership Forum (the Forum), whose members address regional higher education issues and engage in  resource sharing. The Western Alliance for Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance), brings  academic leaders of community colleges and technical schools and systems together with state governing and coordinating boards associated with two-year institutions to exchange ideas and information, share resources and expertise, and collaborate on regional initiatives. Hawai‘i Community College, Honolulu Community College, Leeward Community College, Kapi‘olani Community College, Kaua‘i Community College, University of Hawai‘i Maui College, and Windward Community College are members.

Technology. Several Hawai‘i colleges and universities are active participants in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), the leader in the practice and policy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. Two from the University of Hawai‘i, President David Lassner and Director of Academic Technologies Hae Okimoto, have received WCET’s highest honor, the Richard Jonsen Award, for their contributions to educational technology developments in higher education.

WCET members have access to trusted information on emerging trends, policies, and exemplars of successful learning technology innovation in practice. Key WCET activities include an annual meeting, leadership summits, national webcasts, and listserv-based discussions among members. Major focus areas include student success, managing e-learning, emerging technologies, adaptive learning, evolving policy issues, and the high school to higher education transition.

Mental Health. A nucleus for researching mental health policy and a provider of technical assistance in such areas as service innovation, system reform, workforce development, program evaluation, and other areas, WICHE’s Mental Health Program is another well-used resource. Program staff recently wrote a successful application to receive funding through the Health Resources and Services Administration Network Development Planning Grant to develop a rural psychology internship consortium in Hawai‘i. WICHE staff is leading the planning phase with local partners.

Other Initiatives. Another initiative, the Master Property Program (MPP), helps institutions reduce their insurance premiums and improve their coverage. Created by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact in 1994 and expanded to the WICHE region in 2004, the MPP includes more than 170 campuses with total insured values of over $120 billion. WICHE is also partnering with MHEC to offer MHECare, a new health program providing vetted, competitively priced medical benefits for students. Underwritten by UnitedHealthcare StudentResources, MHECare offers a variety of plans. In a third collaboration with MHEC, WICHE extends the benefits of MHECtech to colleges and universities in the West enabling them to purchase from competitively bid purchasing agreements to reduce costs on a range of hardware and software products and services.

Former commissioners: 

Francisco Hernandez, retired vice chancellor for students, Univerity of Hawai'i at Manoa; Steven Wheelwright, president, Brigham Young University, Laie, Hawai'i; Roberta Richards, principal, Pauoa Elementary School, Honolulu; Helene I. Sokugawa, former institutional analyst, office of the vice president of academic affairs, University of Hawai'i Manoa; Doris Ching, emeritus vice president for student affairs at the University of Hawai'i; Clyde T. Kodani, president of Kodani & Associates; Raymond S. Ono, vice president and COO, First Hawaiian Bank; Gerald DeMello, director of university relations at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo; Richard Kosaki, former president of Tokai International College; and Patricia Saiki, former state senator from Honolulu and U.S. representative.

Student Savings PSEP: 
Student Savings WRGP: 
Student Savings Total: