Whether you already live in Hawaii or dream of studying in paradise, you'll be happy to learn the island state has several high-quality education options. Among the choices are a robust public university system and private schools that let people learn on campus or earn an online bachelor's degree in Hawaii.
The University of Hawaii System is comprised of all the state's public institutions of higher education. These include three universities and seven community colleges and learning centers spread across four islands. Students who choose to start their studies at a community college can often easily transfer credits to a university thanks to articulation agreements between the institutions.
In addition to public schools, several private colleges and universities are authorized by the Hawaii Post-secondary Education Authorization Program. Among these are institutions with campuses in the state as well as schools based elsewhere but approved to award online Hawaii degrees.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Hawaii
Prospective students have several accredited Hawaii schools to choose from, and knowing which ones put up the best numbers for tuition cost, degree flexibility, financial aid and expected student debt can help you make an informed decision about your own education. Here's our list of the best colleges and universities in Hawaii. When you're done here, don't forget to read about the best community colleges in Hawaii, too.
Founded in 1907, the University of Hawaii at Manoa is the flagship institution of the University of Hawaii System. It has the largest student body among all Hawaii colleges and universities -- more than 17,500 students in 2017 -- and serves as the source campus for numerous online degrees and courses offered by the UH System.
All but two of UH's online degree programs for graduate students are based in Manoa, as well as a doctoral degree in nursing and five certificate programs for Hawaii teachers. On campus, UH Manoa offers more than 170 bachelor's and master's degree programs through its 17 colleges and schools.
UH Manoa has its campus in Manoa Valley, outside Honolulu on the island of Oahu. The list of available varsity sports includes swimming, diving, volleyball, sailing, water polo and more.
Brigham Young University may be best known for its main campus in Utah, but its satellite location in Hawaii is renowned as well. Owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the school brings together approximately 2,500 students from more than 70 countries. It has five colleges and employs a learning framework intended to help students "prepare, engage and improve."
Academics at BYU-Hawaii focus on undergraduate programs in three major categories: arts and humanities, math and sciences and professional studies. Business management, biological science and international cultural studies are the top three majors on campus, and the student-faculty ratio is 15:1.
The Oahu city of Laie, where the campus is located, is a relatively small community of just over 6,100 residents. Outdoor recreation, cultural events and breathtaking views in the area can help you recharge between semesters.
Offering more than 50 degree programs, Hawaii Pacific University pulls students from all 50 states and some 65 countries. The school was first chartered in 1965 and grew through accretion and mergers with other Hawaii colleges to become one of the largest private institutions in the central Pacific region.
Most students gravitate to HPU for its degree programs, but it may also be one of the best schools in Hawaii for non-degree career education. The Honolulu school offers a range of online courses designed for professional advancement in business, health and tech careers.
If you prefer a close-knit learning environment, HPU has got what you're looking for. The student-faculty ratio here is 12:1 -- 25 percent better than the national average for public universities -- and the average lecture class contains just 17 students.
The campus of Chaminade University of Honolulu dates back to 1928, when it housed a non-college institution called the Saint Louis School. It began offering college degrees as St. Louis Junior College in 1955 and became Chaminade University of Honolulu with the establishment of a graduate school in 1977.
This private school is one of just three higher education institutions in the country affiliated with the Marianist religious order and serves as the only Catholic university in Hawaii. It's also one of the top colleges and universities in Hawaii for online undergraduate degrees, offering more than a dozen bachelor's and associate study plans in the virtual classroom.
Students who feel at home on a small campus may want to give this one a second look. Chaminade reported an undergraduate population of fewer than 1,200 students in 2017.
The University of Hawaii at Hilo got its start as an outreach program of UH Manoa in 1947. By 1970, it became its own separate institution. Today, more than 3,500 students work toward their degrees in the 50 undergraduate and graduate programs offered here.
UH Hilo is one of the top schools in Hawaii for affordable degree programs, according to the numbers. Students here paid an average of around $7,600 for a full year of tuition and fees in 2017, which is close to 25 percent more affordable than the national average cost at public four-year schools the same year.
Students who live on and love the island of Hawaii may have an additional reason to enroll at UH Hilo. No other degree-granting Hawaii colleges operate on the big island as of 2018.
Founded in 1976, this outpost of the University of Hawaii System is one of the youngest institutions in the state. Although the school's campus is located in Kapolei -- Oahu's "second city" after the capital Honolulu -- distance education programs are available to serve students from all over the state.
In fact, the University of Hawaii - West Oahu may be one of the best online colleges in Hawaii, offering undergraduate business administration, psychology, education and political science degree plans in the virtual classroom. All online programs here require students to complete their lower-division coursework at a partnering community college or on campus in Kapolei.
UHWO has been recognized for the special focus it places on serving indigenous students. Although there is an emphasis on Native Hawaiian people and culture, students from all backgrounds are welcome.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Hawaii
In terms of sheer numbers, students enrolled in these particular programs at the highest rates. These courses of study are likely to reflect not only the industries supporting the state's economy, but also fields connected to potential career paths nationwide.
In-Demand Careers in Hawaii
Those hoping to land a job in Hawaii after graduation should consider choosing a degree that may lead to one of the following in-demand careers.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Solar Photovoltaic Installers||91.2%||350||$56,920|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||43.9%||8,650||$28,290|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||32.9%||190||$55,350|
|Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers||28.1%||1,880||$99,570|
|Physical Therapist Aides||26.4%||-||$31,740|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||24.3%||480||$144,330|
|Information Security Analysts||23.9%||340||$104,910|
|Operations Research Analysts||23.5%||150||$94,010|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||22.2%||190||$82,800|
|Religious Workers, All Other||21.9%||-||$37,990|
|Healthcare Social Workers||21.2%||760||$71,260|
|Septic Tank Servicers and Sewer Pipe Cleaners||21.1%||60||$49,100|
|Medical Secretaries and Administrative Assistants||20.7%||1,060||$43,240|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||20.4%||-||$57,520|
|Special Education Teachers, All Other||20.1%||80||$37,210|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||19.3%||420||$59,330|
|Dental Laboratory Technicians||19%||180||$40,380|
|Passenger Vehicle Drivers, Except Bus Drivers, Transit and Intercity||18.6%||2,190||$35,160|
|Forensic Science Technicians||18.2%||80||$56,500|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||18.2%||170||$102,140|
|Medical and Health Services Managers||18%||1,540||$133,320|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Hawaii
Students in Hawaii have access to both federal and state financial aid programs. At the state level, there are need-based and merit-based awards available. These are granted through programs such as the Hawaii State Incentive Grant, Hawaii B Plus Scholarship Program and the Hawaii State Need-Based Opportunity Grant. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs also maintains a number of scholarship programs for students of Hawaiian ancestry.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Award is renewable for up to a total of three years.
- University of Hawaii System
- University of Hawaii System Transfer
- Hawaii Post-secondary Education Authorization Program
- Hawaii State Department of Education
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed April 21, 2018: About, University of Hawaii at Manoa, https://manoa.hawaii.edu/about/; Degrees, Minors and Certificates, University of Hawaii at Manoa, http://www.catalog.hawaii.edu/degrees/degrees-cert.htm; Facts, Brigham Young University-Hawaii, https://about.byuh.edu/facts; Quick Facts 2016-2017, Brigham Young University-Hawaii, https://about.byuh.edu/sites/about.byuh.edu/files/17_02_28_QuickFacts1617%20-%20Revised%20Date%20Format.pdf; Majors and Minors, Brigham Young University-Hawaii, https://catalog.byuh.edu/requirements; Undergraduate Programs, Hawaii Pacific University, https://www.hpu.edu/academics/areas-of-study/undergraduate-programs.html; History, Hawaii Pacific University, https://hpu.edu/about-us/information/history.html; HPU by the Numbers, Hawaii Pacific University, https://hpu.edu/about-us/information/hpu-by-the-numbers.html; Career Advancement Program, Hawaii Pacific University, http://hpucap.learnercommunity.com/home; About Chaminade, Chaminade University of Honolulu, https://chaminade.edu/about/; Online Programs, Chaminade University of Hawaii, https://pace.chaminade.edu/undergraduate-program/online-prorams/; Fall 2017 Undergraduate Fact Book, Chaminade University of Honolulu, https://chaminade.edu/wp-content/uploads/Fall-2017-Undergraduate-Fact-Book.pdf; UH Hilo at a Glance, University of Hawaii at Hilo, https://hilo.hawaii.edu/prospective/glance.php; Why Students Choose UH Hilo, University of Hawaii at Hilo, https://hilo.hawaii.edu/prospective/facts.php; Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid, University of Hawaii at Hilo, http://hilo.hawaii.edu/catalog/tuition-fees-financial-aid; About UHWO, University of Hawaii -- West Oahu, https://www.uhwo.hawaii.edu/about-us/; Online Degree Programs, University of Hawaii -- West Oahu, https://www.uhwo.hawaii.edu/distancelearning/online-degree-programs/;
- The University of Hawaii System, accessed May 21, 2018: Campuses, http://www.hawaii.edu/international/campuses; Distance Learning, http://www.hawaii.edu/dl/programs;
- Laie CDP, Hawaii, QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed May 21, 2018, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/laiecdphawaii/PST045216
- Best of Laie, HI Tourism, TripAdvisor, accessed May 21, 2018, https://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g60656-Laie_Oahu_Hawaii-Vacations.html
- 21 Liberal Arts Colleges With the Lowest Student-Faculty Ratios, U.S. News and World Report, Jordan Friedman, April 19, 2016, accessed May 21, 2018, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2016-04-19/21-liberal-arts-colleges-with-the-lowest-student-faculty-ratios
- About Us, The Voice of Kapolei, accessed May 21, 2018, http://thevoiceofkapolei.com/about-us/
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Financial Aid Programs, University of Hawaii at Hilo, Accessed June 2017, https://hilo.hawaii.edu/financialaid/programs.php#state
- Authorized Schools, Hawaii Post-secondary Education Authorization Program, Accessed June http://cca.hawaii.gov/hpeap/authorized-schools/