Online Colleges in Hawaii

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Hawaii may be a relatively small state, but it’s making big waves when it comes to distance education.

The state was one of the first to offer distance learning opportunities in an attempt to connect to those in rural parts of the islands and even those on the mainland. Today, increased focus is on online program availability as Hawaii strives to meet the changing needs of college students.

Overview of Higher Education in Hawaii

Across its 8 islands, Hawaii hosts 18 degree-granting institutions, according to a 2018-2019 report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Of those, 10 are public schools, 5 are private non-profit schools and 3 are private for-profit schools.

NCES reports that Hawaii residents attending an in-state 4-year school will pay an average of $9,952 in tuition and fees. Not surprisingly, tuition is much higher than the US average for non-residents. Out-of-state students hoping to study at one of the island schools will need to come up with $31,581, on average.

If they’re from one of the western states, though, they may get a break. Hawaii is a member of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), which is a collaboration of 16 states and territories focused on innovation and resource sharing. Through this program, residents of those 16 states may enroll in degree programs at any of the participating states for no more than 150% of the in-state tuition rate.

About Online Colleges in Hawaii

While the metropolitan area around Honolulu has nearly a million residents, a large portion of Hawaii is rural, and travel between the islands can be difficult. This inconvenience, in addition to above average tuition rates and a high cost of living, has made distance learning an attractive option.

For many years, the University of Hawaii has offered distance education in three formats:

  1. Cable Television – Students watch live or pre-recorded programs from anywhere. Typically there is an online component as well, for course materials and assignments
  2. Interactive Video – Students gather at satellite locations to watch and interact with the instructor and classes meeting elsewhere. Typically there is an online component as well, for course materials and assignments.
  3. Online – Students log on independently and complete coursework from anywhere.

While all three formats are still utilized today, the University of Hawaii has been working hard to increase the number of programs available completely online. They currently offer nearly 100 fully online programs.

According to a 2018 report by the NCES, 13.4% of postsecondary students in Hawaii are enrolled in an online only degree program. Another 21.8% are enrolled in a hybrid program, taking some classes on-campus and some online.

Outside of the University of Hawaii, which offers the bulk of the state’s online opportunities, there are additional options to consider. Private schools such as Chaminade University and Hawaii Pacific University offer a wide variety of fully online undergraduate and graduate degree and certification programs.

Scholarships and Financial Aid in Hawaii

If you live in and/or plan to pursue a degree in Hawaii, first you will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will give you access to federal, state and private financial aid.

Many students who do not believe they will qualify for assistance, are surprised to receive grants, scholarships and low interest loans to help pay for college.

The FAFSA becomes available each year on October 1st, and should be filled out as soon as possible because funds are distributed on a first come, first served basis.

The application itself is free and easy to fill out. You will need to input financial information for yourself and your parents (unless you’re considered “independent”). The data will be used to determine what type of and how much financial aid you qualify for.

Grants and scholarships are the ideal types of assistance since they do not have to be paid back. Grants tend to be based on financial need, while scholarships may also be awarded based on things like academic accomplishment, geographic location, chosen field of study, unique hobbies, and so on.

College grants for Hawaii students

One valuable resource for islanders is Hawaii Community Foundation. Visit this site and create a user account to gain access to information about and applications for dozens of college scholarships available exclusively to Hawaiian residents and those seeking a degree from a Hawaiian postsecondary institution.

Here’s a sample of some of the scholarships available to Hawaiians:

Scholarship Name Details Scholarship Amount
Fukunaga Scholarship Foundation GPA of 3.0 or higher; Demonstrate leadership; Majoring in business or related fields

$4000 per year (with academic requirements)

Gates Millennium Scholars Program Minorities including African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American and Hispanic American students; Must demonstrate financial need

“Good through graduation” full-ride

Albert and Dorothy Shigekuni Scholarship Fund Must demonstrate financial need; GPA of 3.1 or higher; Enrolled in a University of Hawaii System school; Priority will go to a student planning to study abroad and who has not traveled outside Hawaii

Up to $2000

Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Native Hawaiian Scholarships GPA of 2.0 or higher; Native Hawaiian ancestry

Multiple scholarships / Varies

Bank of Hawaii Foundation Scholarships GPA of 2.0 or higher; Children or grandchildren of active Bank employees


Additional opportunities may be found at scholarship search sites such as, where you can enter basic information and be matched with dozens of scholarships both nationwide and local.

Individual schools also offer assistance. Check with the financial aid office at the school of your choice to find out what you qualify for and how you can apply.

List of Online Colleges in Hawaii

Online Colleges in Hawaii Location Annual Tuition Accreditation Application Fee
Hawaii Pacific University Honolulu, Hawaii  $23,440  Regional  $50
University of Hawaii – Manoa Honolulu, Hawaii  $11,732  Regional  $70
University of Hawaii – West Oahu Kapolei, Hawaii  $7,440  Regional  $50


Hawaii is more than a vacation destination.

From two-year community colleges to advanced postgraduate research institutions, the state is also a prime destination for higher education. Their strong focus on distance learning proves they’re committed to meeting the ever-changing needs of college students and providing excellent opportunities to people no matter where they live.

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Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.