Hawaii community colleges were recently named the most affordable in the nation by a study conducted by the Pennsylvania State University of Graduate School of Education. Hawaii colleges were ranked third in overall college affordability including community college, four-year non-doctoral and private colleges.
This news might come as a shock to many people who actually live here, the most expensive place in America to reside. According to the study, the affordability of each state was determined by the percent of “family income” that would go towards the cost of tuition and cost of living while attending college.
According to the study, it would take 13 percent of family income to attend a public two-year college full-time and 21 percent of family income to attend a public four-year non-doctoral college in Hawaii. The average family income (according to the state Department of Business and Economic Development) in Hawaii is $69,592 which means that it would take $9,047 to attend a community college in Hawaii.
Amazingly enough, the cost per credit that didn’t seem to have any effect on the ranking. When looking into how much a school will cost, you usually look into how much tuition and room and board will cost. In Hawaii, community colleges–ranked third–charge $120 per credit while community colleges in New Hampshire–ranked last–charge $200 per credit. This seems to make sense until you take into consideration that community colleges in Alaska, which ranked first overall, charge $192 per credit.
The study did say that Hawaii was one of 12 other states where “students can work their way through a public two-year institution while working 20 hours or less per week” at the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour). That number, before taxes, equates to $6,960 per year.
Among other states that were part of the 12 were more obvious states: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia. In these states it would make sense that students would only need to work the federal minimum wage at 20 hours a week to attend college full time. Five of those states are ranked in the top ten lowest cost of living in the nation. All but Hawaii, Connecticut and Virginia are ranked in the cheapest half of the states with the lowest cost of living, so what puts Hawaii in this group?
The study doesn’t seem to consider many other factors about the economic landscape of Hawaii, namely, the real cost of living in Hawaii. The study didn’t include the numbers that they were using to average the cost of room and board in Hawaii, an amount you’d think would play a large role in this sort of a study. Considering that to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Hawaii you have to make an average of $34 per hour working 40 hours a week, according to a City Lab analysis in May.
On the site for Hawaii state community colleges, it states that the estimate for off-campus housing is $11,782 and zero for living with parents. Unfortunately, not everyone going to college has the ability to live with their parents during their time at school. If the study had taken this into account, it’s doubtful it would have ranked Hawaii as so affordable, and it wouldn’t have stated that a student working 20 hours a week at minimum wage could afford to pay for school without taking on any debt.
Sure, it’s safe to say that if you want to go to school while living with your parents and using your family’s gross income, than yes–Hawaii community colleges will be extremely affordable. But those of us who live on our own are going to have to work for a bit more than minimum wage and work full-time to climb above Hawaii’s cost of living and go to college here.
Photo of ramen, the universal meal for Hawaii students: BrokenSphere