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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 30, 2010

Greenwood charts the course ahead for Maui CC, UH system

By Harry Eagar
The Maui News

KAHULUI, Maui - Although the formal designation is not expected until next month, University of Hawaii President M.R.C. Greenwood told a group of Maui business leaders Friday that she is ready to start calling MCC "Maui College."

Formally, the new name is proposed as the University of Hawaii-Maui, Maui College, a step ahead from Maui Community College (MCC).

At a Business before Hours breakfast sponsored by the Maui Chamber of Commerce at the Elleair Ballroom, Greenwood said it might sound a bit like "inside baseball," but "it means a lot symbolically." Already, MCC has been advanced from the junior to the senior commission in accreditation, in recognition that it now provides upper-level courses.

It has done so for years, but it is now providing more courses and more four-year degrees on campus.

"Nobody should think they cannot get the education they need in the state of Hawaii," Greenwood told about 50 people.

And for the most part, they can now get it without having to travel to another island, she said. Greenwood said it's fine if people want to go to the Mainland for personal reasons, but she said they should not feel they have to go because Hawaii cannot accommodate them.

Most of her talk concerned the economic impacts of the UH system.

Coming in, enrollment is booming. MCC is now the largest Neighbor Islands' educational institution within the state university, with 4,093 students. At UH-Manoa, applications for the fall semester are 25 percent ahead of last year.

"It's a reflection of the economy," Greenwood said. People who have lost their jobs go back to school, or young people who had planned to defer college for a few years to work "find there is no work force to go into."

Beyond that, she said, American workers need to get used to the idea that they will be going back to school anyway. Typically, a worker in his or her 30s or 40s will work for five to seven employers over a lifetime. That will require retraining or additional training.

She said 45 percent of the coming jobs in the islands will require a bachelor's degree.

At the same time, schools and teachers need to rethink the way they accommodate these late learners. Responding to a question about selection and remediation, Greenwood said it isn't always a matter of students who missed or skipped basic courses. It's also that people who haven't been in school for decades may need a refresher.

MCC Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto said the inquiry is also designed to tell the school how to ease the returning students in at the proper level as quickly and easily as possible. New computerized instructional software can tell a teacher where a student is hung up. That's something a teacher can't always detect just by watching a student who might be clammed up in class.

Greenwood said she rejects the claim that "I'll never need that math in the job I am planning for." At least 90 percent of those new, desirable jobs will require the ability to quantify, and the goal will be to turn out students who know math at least up to calculus.

The reason those jobs are more desirable is that they will pay a million dollars more over a lifetime than jobs requiring only a high school diploma, she said. She cited the MCC courses in dental hygiene and dental assisting as the kinds of paying jobs where there is a big demand. On the other side, she cited the amount of money and jobs the university brings in as an economic engine.

Last year, UH researchers garnered $400 million, and if the pace so far this quarter keeps up, UH will surpass half a billion in extramural grants for the first time.

She compared that with the $345 million in state general fund appropriations made to the school.

She said the Legislature will be asked to approve a general obligation bond issue to pay for university maintenance and repair.

That will boost the economy three ways, she said. First, it will put construction workers on the job right away. The university also wants to build new plant, but that will take years. Fixing roofs can start immediately. It will allow faculty to compete better for research funding, Greenwood said.

The final point, Greenwood said, is more subtle. Research grants include a contribution toward school services and overhead. For other high-ranked research schools, the amount is sometimes 60 or 70 percent. For UH grants, it averages 37 percent.

These overhead payments are determined on a complicated scale, but an up-to-date physical plant earns more points and more money.

She said the university is preparing another capital fund drive. The recently completed drive pulled in more than $300 million. It also attracted 90,000 new donors, with 79 percent of them from the islands.

That shows people support and care about the university, she said. The target of the next drive is not firm but is likely to be around half a billion dollars, Greenwood said.

State funding has been cut by $192 million over the past two years, so trimming the budget "is a very, very hard thing to do," she said.

"Higher education is forever changing for all of us," Greenwood said.