By Sarah Hendrix | Staff Writer

Hawaiʻi State Sen. Kaiali‘i Kahele visited KCC Thursday afternoon to provide a question and answer time for students attending KCC. The question and answer time lasted 50 minutes where students asked questions regarding the concerns they had with their education. Many of the concerns focused on lowering costs and providing more resources for students.

Senator Kahele wanted to remind students that their voice and opinions matter in regards to their education. He encouraged students to voice their concerns in a room free of faculty members, so that students could feel free to bring up any issues they had in regards to their experiences at KCC so far.

“Very rarely do we get testimonies from students unless its like a real hot button issue,” Sen. Kahele said. “But I will tell you that as the chairs and as the committee members, at least as higher education goes, when we get testimonies from the students, I think it bares a little bit more weight.”

State Sen. Kahele answers a students question on funding better equipment for the pre-engineering program here at KCC. (Photo by Sarah Hendrix)

Students brought up many questions and concerns such as lowering the prices of bus passes at KCC, implementing mandatory courses in Hawaiian language and culture, providing more hands-on equipment for KCC’s pre-engineering program and much more. Currently at KCC a student bus pass is $225.00 in comparison to the required fee a UH Mānoa student pays which is less than $70.00.

Sen. Kahele encouraged students and thanked them for bringing many of their questions to his attention. He reassured them that their testimonies help legislators when making decisions about policies in the UH system.

Sen. Kahele represents Hilo, Hawaiʻi in the State Senate and is the chair of the Committee on Higher Education. The committee oversees the entire University of Hawaiʻi system and creates legislation to turn into policy initiatives and they also work on the universities budget.

He is currently on a statewide higher education tour this fall to all 10 University of Hawaiʻi System campuses. His goal in touring is to hear from students first hand because they are the center of the higher education system. Throughout his travels to each UH campus, he has provided an opportunity for students and staff to address issues and concerns to him personally. Going to different UH campuses Sen. Kahele has been able to see issues that resonate with students throughout the UH system.

“One of the things that we’ve learned about that kind of resonate throughout all of the campuses is students that are having a hard time getting the credits that they need, or they’re signed up for classes that get cancelled at the last minute and they’re not able to get into the replacement class,” Sen. Kahele said. “And so they’re basically prolonging how long it takes them to graduate. That’s one of the big problems we are finding.”

Sen. Kahele recognizes many of the issues college students are facing, whether it is a prolonged graduation date due to the cancellation of classes or the added costs that come along with a higher education. Back in 2012 Hawai‘i residents paid $2,328 in tuition and now five years later tuition has increased to $3,084 in 2017.

Many of the concerns have been brought to his attention by the students attending the UH campuses across the islands. Ultimately he hopes to remove many of the barriers college students are faced with so that they can pursue their higher education goals.

“The different costs and fees associated with going to college,” he said. “Whether it’s tuition … we talked extensively today about this bus pass … and the high cost of books. So what we’re really trying to do is remove those barriers for students to pursue their higher education, dreams and goals. Whether it’s convert more to open source resources or more free textbooks, or lower the cost of tuition or lower the cost of student fees. So those are the kinds of things that are resonating across the state.”