State Highlights

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources

WICHE is closely monitoring the outbreak of “SARS-CoV-2,” and the disease it causes, which has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”). To inform and facilitate your response to a rapidly changing situation, WICHE has compiled the following set of resources, which will be updated as new information becomes available.


Year joined: 

Hawai‘i's students who studied out-of-state saved $24.9 million through WICHE Student Access Programs in 2018-19.

WICHE Student Access Program student savings and State Return on investment graphic


  • Tens of thousands of students from Hawai‘i have attended undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in other Western states through WICHE’s Student Access Programs, 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 $271 milllion since 1988 when the program was founded.
  • 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.

Programs and Participation

WUE Student Distribution from Hawaii

WUE Student Distribution from Hawai‘i

WUE Student Distribution to Hawaii

WUE Student Distribution to Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i is active in all three WICHE Student Access Programs: the Western Undergraduate Exchange, the Professional Student Exchange Program, and the Western Regional Graduate Program. In 2018-19 Hawai‘i’s students and families saved $24.9 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 2018-19, 2,467 students from Hawai‘i are enrolled in out-of-state programs at reduced rates (150 percent of resident tuition), saving $23.4 million in tuition and fees – the average student savings amounted to $9,500. In the last 10 years, students have saved $161.6 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 2018-19 Hawai‘i received 2,683 students through WUE.

Professional Student Exchange Program. Hawai‘i has sent 1,319 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 65 percent of PSEP students return to Hawai‘i to pursue their professional careers. In addition, in 2018-19 the state received three students and $73,275 in support fees from other Western states.

65% of HAWAIʻI’s PSEP graduates (2007-16) returned home to practice; students are required to return home and serve.
Field # of
Hawai‘i students
Support fees
Dentistry 9 $244,300
Occupational Therapy 2 36,534
Optometry 12 216,300
Physical Therapy 12 180,900
Veterinary Medicine 12 388,800
TOTAL 47 $1,066,834

Western Regional Graduate Program. Hawai‘i’s postgraduates also participate in graduate programs through the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which offers access to more than 700 high-quality, distinctive programs at some 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 2018-19 Hawai‘i sent 28 students to out-of-state institutions, while receiving 59.

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

WICHE’s 9th edition of Knocking at the College Doorreleased in December 2016, projects U.S. trends in high school graduate populations through 2032.

There is an abundance of information on, including the publication and other reports, projections data, interactive data dashboards, recorded webinars and presentations, and Hawai‘i’s state profile, which indicates that:

  • Hawai‘i is projected to produce 14,600 high school graduates per year, on average, between school years 2012 and 2032. Hawai‘i will produce about 12% more high graduates by 2026, before they decline in number about 5% by 2032.
  • The number of Hispanic public high school graduates in Hawai‘i is projected to more than triple, from about 500 in 2012 to 1,900 in 2032. White and Asian/Pacific Islander graduates will be relatively steady in number throughout the projected years, with minor increases out through 2026.

Hawai‘i has participated in projects supporting better-informed decision-making at the state level. WICHE initiatives have been sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Helmsley Charitable Trusts, the Ford Foundation, 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. In January 2015, the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents sought to explore and analyze the current structure of the University of Hawai‘i system. Specifically, they wanted to address whether the Board of Regents should reconsider the 2001 separation of roles of the president of the University of Hawai‘i system and the chancellor of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa or seek other changes in the management and leadership structure of the system in order to better serve the state and its citizens. To accomplish this, the Board of Regents engaged WICHE to lead a research effort that included reviewing historical documentation; reviewing relevant literature and research; and conducting interviews with past and present stakeholders, national experts on leadership and governance, and leaders in other state higher education systems similar to that of Hawai‘i.

Hawai‘i was one of four original states chosen to participate in the Gates-funded Facilitating Development of a Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange pilot project (the others were 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.

In FY 2017 and continuing into FY 2018, WICHE conducted an analysis of University of Hawai‘i graduates who work in other states, and an analysis of Hawai‘i high school students who go to universities in other states and their work patterns.

WICHE also seeks assistance and advice from policymakers, educators, administrators, and legislators. WICHE’s Legislative Advisory Committee (LAC), composed of legislator-members from each state—including Rep. Angus McKelvey and Sen.Kaiali‘i Kahele—has been crucial in this regard. The LAC works to keep the commission’s Executive Committee and staff current on significant legislative issues related to higher education, provides input on WICHE initiatives, and advises staff on a host of issues. WICHE staff also serve the LAC by informing members about emerging policy issues in the West.

Regional Academic Leadership Initiatives

Additionally, the University of Hawai‘i System, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, and University of Hawai‘i-West O‘ahu are members of the Western Academic Leadership Forum (the Forum). Their official representatives are the chief academic leaders of the four-year institutions and their related system and state agencies, who 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, Kapiolani Community College, Kauai Community College, Leeward Community College, University of Hawai‘i Maui College, University of Hawai‘i System, and Windward Community College are members.


Several Hawai‘i colleges and universities are active participants in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), the leader in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is widely recognized as an informative, reliable, and forward-thinking organization regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education, and includes more than 350 institutions, state and systemwide higher education agencies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and corporations in nearly all U.S. states and many Canadian provinces. 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, the popular Frontiers blog, issue briefs, and email list-based discussions among members. Major topics of interest to the WCET membership include student and faculty success, the Internet of Things, managing e-learning, emerging technologies, broadband and learning innovation, and evolving policy issues. In 2016, the University of Hawai’i System won the WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) award, which recognizes effective and innovative uses of technology to address specific needs in higher education for their initiative: Scaling Integration of Data Analytics and Tools to Transform Decision-Making for Student Success. 

Behavioral Health

WICHE has been very active in Hawai‘i, focusing on issues of behavioral health workforce development and providing technical assistance to state agencies involved in behavioral health services.   

  • The Behavioral Health Program continues to assist the state of Hawai‘i in the development and operation of an ultimately accredited psychology internship consortium. A primary goal of the internship program is the establishment of a pipeline to build Hawai‘i’s behavioral health workforce. Three Hawai‘i state agencies – the Department of Education, Department of Health, and Department of Public Safety – provide funding to support WICHE’s ongoing development and operations of the Hawai‘i Internship Program.
  • The Hawai‘i Department of Education contracts with WICHE to provide marketing, recruitment, screening, and referral services for behavioral health professionals to fill public school vacancies across the Hawai‘ian Islands.
  • The Mental Health Program is currently conducting a study of the Children’s and Adolescent Mental Health Division’s quality and performance improvement program and processes. 
  • The Hawai‘i Early Intervention Services (EIS) program contracted with WICHE to conduct an independent rate study to obtain comparative data about reimbursement rates and salaries paid by other states providing early intervention services.EIS contract service providers have experienced lengthy vacancies and gaps in service provisions which the providers and EIS believe may be due to State or Hawai‘i salaries being low in comparison to salaries paid by other Hawai‘i providers for similar services.

Other Initiatives

Interstate Passport® is a program that facilitates block transfer of lower-division general education based on learning outcomes and proficiency criteria. It includes learning outcomes for nine knowledge and skill areas developed by faculty at institutions in multiple states as well as an academic progress tracking system for Passport transfer students designed by registrars and institutional researchers. The goal of the Interstate Passport is to eliminate transfer students’ unnecessary repetition of learning previously achieved.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), SARA is a voluntary, nationwide initiative of states that makes distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and makes it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The effort initially was funded by $3.2 million in grants from Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is now supported by 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. Hawai‘i is among the WICHE states that are members of W-SARA in this reciprocal relationship.

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 160 campuses with total insured values of over $93.4 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.