Hawaii doesn’t mind being in the back of the pack

DollarsWith nearly two thirds of all students nationally graduating with more than $26,000 in student debt, it seems almost unimaginable that Hawaii’s student debt average is almost $10,000 lower. Even more astonishing is the fact that 62% of students graduating with their bachelor’s degree had zero student loans.

Other states came close to Hawaii’s low average debt numbers including California, Arizona and Nevada; Utah even beat Hawaii by a few hundred dollars, but no other state could come close the number of debt free students. To be fair Utah had more than 90% of their universities and college report their student debt statistics while only half of Hawaii’s schools were represented in the 2011 study.

While it’s uncertain what exactly is attributing to the low debt levels of Hawaii’s students, it’s fair to say that a portion is related to affordable tuition rates and generous grants. While the Manoa campus of University of Hawaii has a full time undergraduate tuition of $12,800, UH Hilo is very reasonable at $8,700 a year.

It would be folly to overlook the huge influence that Brigham Young University brings to both Hawaii’s and Utah’s statistics. With a tuition of just $4,450 for the Hawaii campus and $4,710 for the Provo campus, it plays a gigantic roll in affordable education. Tuition, room and board costs less than most state universities for residents living at home. Less than 1/3 of graduating BYU students carried debt which averaged roughly $14,000, almost half the national average.

There are also a wide variety of grants and scholarships for resident students of the islands thanks to many initiatives and charity organizations giving to the schools. UH Maui has just received a 3 year $4.7 million grant to develop a Native Hawaiian leadership program which will aid and support qualified students and provide scholarships.

The Bill and Melinda Gate foundation and other donors awarded the University of Hawaii system $434,000 to help transfer students of two year community colleges to a four year university to complete their associate degrees. The grant was awarded to just 12 universities across the country and was part of a $6.4 million dollar grant that also included the Helios Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Kresge Foundation and USA Funds.

Statistics came from the Project on Student Debt – Class of 2011 report. The Project on Student Debt is an initiative started by the Institute for College Access and Success, a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization. The group’s key focus is to provide accurate and relative information regarding education and financial costs to influence legislation in hopes of making a college education accessible and affordable for everyone. For more information visit their page here.