6 Most Popular Colleges in Hawaii

The largest schools in Hawaii, from enrollment numbers to tuition costs.

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For such a small state, Hawaii has quite a strong higher education system. From its four state universities to private institutions, students have a range options when it comes to pursuing their degree.

But Hawaii’s schools aren’t all about academics. They’re also some of the most affordable colleges in the nation – and that includes the private universities. Here are Hawaii’s six most popular schools and their price tags.

6. Chaminade University of Honolulu

Type of College: Private university

Enrollment: 2,899

Cost: $19,330

Best Programs: With over 200 students, nursing is the biggest program at Chaminade. Unlike many other schools, the university allows students to start the major as freshmen, giving them more experience in the field. Criminology is also a popular major, with 126 students. The criminology program isn’t just a big deal today, however, it’s the oldest and biggest criminal science department in the state.

Fun Fact: If you’re looking for a college with a religious foundation, Chaminade is the only Catholic university in Hawaii.

5. University of Hawaii, Hilo

Type of College: Public university

Enrollment: 4,172

Cost: $5,880 for residents, $17,472 for out-of-state students

Best Program: The social sciences are very popular at UH Hilo. Over 30 percent of undergraduates major in a social science, choosing from departments such as sociology and anthropology.

Fun Fact: The University of Hawaii, Hilo is the only national liberal arts university in Hawaii.

4. Honolulu Community College

Type of College: Community college

Enrollment: 6,200

Cost: $88 per credit for residents, $281 per credit for out-of-state students

Best Programs: The college is split into two programs – liberal arts and career and technical education. Both provide students with a general education that prepares them for any future, whether they’re interested in pursuing further degrees or a career.


Fun Fact: Unlike other community colleges, Honolulu gives freshmen students the First-Year Experience, which helps newcomers transition from high school to college. The program includes free tutoring, mentoring, and even computer training.

3. Hawaii Pacific University

Type of College: Private university

Enrollment: 8,200

Cost: $18,500

Best Program: Hawaii Pacific isn’t just home to a great nursing program – their department is also one of the best in the U.S.

Fun Fact: Hawaii Pacific University has been named one of the best-priced and most affordable colleges in the country by more than four sources.

2. Kapi’olani Community College

Type of College: Community college

Enrollment: 9,023

Cost: $2,424 for Hawaii residents, $3,636 for Pacific Islanders, and $7,104 for all other out-of-state residents

Best Program: Liberal arts is the biggest program on campus. Nearly half the student body enrolls in liberal arts classes, which prepare them for the University of Hawaii transfer process.

Fun Fact: Kapi’olani offers a unique curriculum of non-credit “classes”, such as community outreach activities and clubs, that are combined with regular classes to give students in-and-out of class learning experiences.

1. University of Hawaii, Manoa

Type of College: Public university

Enrollment: 20,429

Cost: $9,404 for residents, $25,652 for out-of-state students

Best Program: The William S. Richardson School of Law is the top program at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. It has an excellent student-faculty ratio and is one of the most selective and competitive departments at the university.

Fun Fact: Manoa is ranked one of the best schools for minority students.

Quick Facts

  • Most high school graduates in Hawaii choose to enter the workforce immediately, meaning the higher education system is much smaller than most states. As a result, student-to-faculty ratios are excellent.
  • Although Hawaii is a small state, it has seven community colleges – more than some much larger mainland states.
  • Hawaii has two somewhat unusual “colleges” as well as public and private schools. There are two medical institutes in the state that teach students pursuing graduate degrees in acupuncture and oriental medicine.

Stats source: U.S. News.

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