Hawaii Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2017-2018

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Best Online Colleges In Hawaii

In Hawaii, numerous colleges and universities have shown great dedication to providing a variety of distance learning options to accommodate busy student’s lives as they balance work, outside commitments and education. To provide the flexibility needed for success, many of these same institutions now offer degree programs taught fully online. With many options available, it can be overwhelming when deciding where to begin. For students seeking an academically excellent program that is both adaptable and reasonably priced, our ranking of the Best Online Colleges in Hawaii for 2016-2017 is a great place to start.

Rank School Annual Tuition Score # of Online Programs
1 Chaminade University of Honolulu $20,940 99.65 24
2 Hawaii Pacific University $21,130 99.30 30
3 University of Hawaii at Manoa $10,620 97.94 3
4 University of Hawaii at Hilo $7,036 97.75 3
5 University of Hawaii-West Oahu $6,888 86.00 9

Online Learning in Hawaii: Expansive and Expanding

Distance learning is an ever-expanding option for undertaking postsecondary education. Once mainly a product of private colleges and universities, online degrees have risen to become a prominent feature in the educational offerings of many institutions, and those in Hawaii are no exception.

At the University of Hawaii, students can choose from nearly 40 fully online programs at the certificate, associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. In addition to numerous programs focused on education and health, U of H offers options in business administration, the social sciences, and computer science.

Chaminade University, the only Catholic higher education institution in the state, has a robust selection of fully online and hybrid courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Honolulu Community College’s Distance Education program offers high quality online courses in a range of subjects. Cable courses are also available, allowing students to view live or pre-recorded courses on select cable TV channels.

Distance Learning Opportunities in Honolulu

Prospective students should review universities and colleges located in Honolulu, which serves as the state’s educational anchor. With multiple academic institutions offering both two and four year degrees online and on campus, students will have no trouble finding a program matched to their needs.

Although Honolulu is a bustling city, many parts of Hawaii are rural, which can significantly limit higher education options. As a result, many colleges and universities in Honolulu offer distance learning options to serve students restricted by geography.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa is the flagship campus of the University of Hawaii system, maintaining headquarters in Honolulu. UH Manoa consistently receives accolades, including recognition for its graduate programs by U.S. News & World Report, and placement in the top 30 public universities for federal research funding by the National Science Foundation.

UH Manoa has several degree programs, mostly at the graduate level. Examples include master’s degrees in computer science and educational foundation, an executive MBA, and a bachelor’s program in elementary education. UH Manoa’s campus-based offerings include bachelor’s degrees in 92 fields, master’s degrees in 84 fields, and doctoral programs in 51 fields.

Honolulu Community College is also part of the University of Hawaii system and offers several career and technical degrees. HCC students can transfer to select UH campuses if they wish to complete a four-year degree. Kapi’olani Community College offers further option in Honolulu, including a world-class culinary arts program based in the state-of-the-art Culinary Institute of the Pacific. KCC also offers strong STEM and health programs.

Lastly, Hawaii Pacific University is the state’s leading private university and also one of the most culturally diverse universities in the United States. HPU has won numerous honors, especially its nursing program, which was recognized by U.S. News & World Report in 2013.

Preparing for the Cost of College in Hawaii

No matter the region of the United States, students hoping to begin a degree program should consider the various costs attached to their education. Tuition costs are often based on whether a school is public or private, its location and a student’s residency status. Residents of Hawaii paid an average combined cost of $7,805 for tuition and fees per academic year in 2012. The annual fees, costing an average of $80, are often mandatory and cover anything from charges for lab materials and student life activities to parking.

Students need to consider not only fees and tuition when budgeting, but also living expenses. These can include housing, gasoline, and food and vary state by state. Hawaii’s cost of living (COL) is well above the national average. The following data is a breakdown of the COL indexes for Honolulu as it compares to the national average of 100:

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Honolulu 65.7% 149.0% 60.1% 46.6% 26.2% 20.0% 17.9%

Choosing the right college is one of the most important choices you’ll ever make. After reviewing the costs associated with postsecondary education, examining return on investment is a critical component of the decision making process. While schools with higher cost structures often provide graduates with the footing to garner top salaries after earning a degree, students should be wary of colleges with affordable tuition and fees offering below-average career prospects after graduation. The following schools represent the very best in Hawaii for return on investment (ROI), as measured by lifetime salary of the average graduate minus total cost of attendance for four years:

  1. University of Hawaii at Manoa
  2. Hawaii Pacific University
  3. Chaminade University
  4. University of Hawaii at Hilo

Affording College in Hawaii: Scholarships and Financial Aid

Financial aid and budgetary concerns play an important role in making decisions about postsecondary education. Both federal aid and scholarships provide funding for students seeking degrees from any one of Hawaii’s public and private institutions. Federal aid requires students fill out a FAFSA® form and then awards financial support based on student need. In 2012, 56 percent of Hawaii’s undergraduate students accepted federal funds.

In addition to federal financial aid, a number of Hawaiian companies and organizations provide money to students who enter degree programs. It is also not uncommon for students to receive scholarships from the institution directly. The following associations offer scholarships in the state of Hawaii:

  • Hawaii Community Foundation
  • Fukunaga Scholarship Foundation
  • MGMA Western Section
  • Hawaii Hotel Industry Foundation
  • Hawaii Chapter-David T. Woolsey
  • The University of Hawai‘I System
  • Hawaii Chapter: Society of Fire Protection Engineers
  • Korean University Club of Hawaii
  • Seattle Foundation
  • Office of Hawaiian Affairs
  • Ke Ali‘i Pauahi Foundation
  • Pearl Harbor Hawaiian Civic Club
  • Kona Hawaiian Civic Club
  • Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association

Accreditation of Hawaii Colleges and Universities

Students pursuing an online education in Hawaii must also consider the accreditation of prospective institutions before going too far down the path to a decision. Many financial aid opportunities are open only to students attending accredited schools. Organizations such as The Western Association of Schools and Colleges evaluate schools in Hawaii to verify that they uphold academic excellence within both campus and online learning environments. Hawaiian colleges may also seek accreditation from various specialized agencies to vet the quality of their medical schools, business programs or similar academic offerings. For example, the University of Hawaii's Shidler College of Business is accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB).

Affordable Online Colleges in Hawaii

Online colleges in Hawaii are dedicated to offering a rigorous education to everyone in need of flexible learning. While Hawaii Pacific University offers the most online programs, there are still a few other top colleges prospective students can consider. Take a look at the highest ranking universities, along with details on important criteria such as annual tuition and financial aid.

  • Score: 99.65
  • Annual Tuition: $20,940
  • Financial AId %: 100%
  • # Online Programs: 24
  • Student-Teacher Ratio: 11:1
  • Grad Rate: 49%
  • Credit for Experience: Yes
  • Placement Services: Yes
  • Counseling Services: Yes
Learn More

With more than 20 online associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a variety of fields, Chaminade University provides many options for students on Oahu and students studying from a distance. The school offers accelerated 10-week terms beginning in January, April, July and October, which help students to complete their degrees faster. Online courses are ideal for students who are not in Honolulu or who work full-time. The school also caters to military personnel and their spouses by offering on-base courses or classes taught at satellite campuses. Non-military personnel are also welcome to take the on-base classes.

  • Score: 99.30
  • Annual Tuition: $21,130
  • Financial AId %: 78%
  • # Online Programs: 30
  • Student-Teacher Ratio: 13:1
  • Grad Rate: 42%
  • Credit for Experience: Yes
  • Placement Services: Yes
  • Counseling Services: Yes
Learn More

With a student population of nearly 7,000 undergraduates, Hawaii Pacific University is one of the most culturally diverse universities in the U.S. with students from all 50 states and nearly 80 countries. The school prides itself on strong academic programs, small class sizes, diverse faculty and one on one attention between student and teacher. These values are not absent from Campus Pipeline, the University’s intranet that provides students access to online classes, library services and resources. The university also caters to military personnel with distance education partnerships with the Navy College Program Distance Learning Partnership.

  • Score: 97.94
  • Annual Tuition: $10,620
  • Financial AId %: 61%
  • # Online Programs: 3
  • Student-Teacher Ratio: 13:1
  • Grad Rate: 56%
  • Credit for Experience: No
  • Placement Services: Yes
  • Counseling Services: Yes
Learn More

The University of Hawaii Manoa is one of 10 University of Hawaii campuses to offer distance learning through a network of various technologies including cable, interactive video, audio and online. Students who are committed to earning a degree, but may be limited by time commitments or geography can still complete the program of their choice. Students will interact with faculty without having to be physically present and will interact with other students in multiple locations. Familiarity with using a computer and basic online skills is required for all online students. Tutorials are available and students will be given a technical checklist. Computer requirements may vary per course.

  • Score: 97.75
  • Annual Tuition: $7,036
  • Financial AId %: 46%
  • # Online Programs: 3
  • Student-Teacher Ratio: 14:1
  • Grad Rate: 38%
  • Credit for Experience: Yes
  • Placement Services: Yes
  • Counseling Services: Yes
Learn More

The University of Hawaii at Hilo offers the Laulima online learning system to their growing university of 4,000 students. The university offers a wide range of liberal arts and professional programs, as well as a number of graduate and doctoral programs. While the campus and island setting are exceptional, the online learning is a collaborative effort that partners with the University of Hawaii. The student population is diverse and the campus provides a unique blend of local, mainland and international students. The surrounding community is rooted in agricultural history and is one of the most ethnically diverse in the country.

  • Score: 86.00
  • Annual Tuition: $6,888
  • Financial AId %: 35%
  • # Online Programs: 9
  • Student-Teacher Ratio: 20:1
  • Grad Rate: 40%
  • Credit for Experience: Yes
  • Placement Services: No
  • Counseling Services: Yes
Learn More

The Office of Distance Learning at the University of Hawaii Oahu was established to support the growing needs of students, faculty and staff. The program offers online and hybrid courses. There are no online-only degrees available, but the university does offer online coursework in the most popular areas of study. After completing lower division coursework in-person and online at Oahu and/or partnering University of Hawaii Community College, students may pursue UH West Oahu's distance learning upper division coursework in business administration, public administration, social sciences, early childhood education, political science and psychology entirely online.

Search Accredited Hawaii Online Colleges

Although a small state, Hawaii is home to a number of public and private higher education institutions offering two and four year degrees. Prospective students can use the search tool below to navigate the state’s 30 colleges and universities and review factors such as tuition, enrollment, and degree types to find a program that fits their educational needs.

Degree Level:
Student Population:
School Type:
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Best Online Colleges in Hawaii for 2015

RANK COLLEGE Tuition And Fees Enrollment Accredited MORE INFO
1 Brigham Young University-Hawaii$4,6303,771YES
Brigham Young University-Hawaii offers a limited selection of online college courses, allowing students to earn their associate degree in arts and sciences, as well as graduate certificates in entrepreneurship, American sign language, or intercultural peace building. These online college courses are meant as preparation for physically attending the college but can be used as a platform for a number of pursuits.
2 University of Hawaii-West Oahu$5,6022,104YES
Like many online colleges in Hawaii, the University of Hawaii-West Oahu offers a vast array of degree options and fields of study and provides a comprehensive system of support to provide the highest quality education possible. Students will utilize a number of resources, including video chat, interactive television, and much more.
3 University of Hawaii at Hilo$6,1844,179YES
The University of Hawaii at Hilo offers an array of online college degree programs that let students earn their associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in several fields, many of which have a strong focus on either education or health care. The college offers a number of resources for online students, including video conferencing and course management systems.
4 University of Hawaii at Manoa$9,40416,886YES
The University of Hawaii at Manoa offers a huge number of online college degree programs, allowing students to attain their associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degrees in a wide variety of fields. Course material and classes are delivered in several different methods, including via online management systems, live and prerecorded teaching sessions in actual classrooms, and much more.
5 Remington College-Honolulu Campus$16,1401,021YES
Remington College-Honolulu Campus provides both associate and bachelor’s online degree programs, both of which offer several fields of study, all of which have a strong focus on either business or the legal system. The college offers a complete set of resources for online students, including virtual classrooms, video chat, and more.

Interviews with Insiders at Hawaii’s Online Colleges

While affordability is a key factor in choosing a school, colleges and universities are much more than numbers on price tags. In order to better understand the landscape of online learning in Hawaii, we asked two deans what made their online programs worthwhile. Read the interviews here:

Online Departments in HAWAII

Brigham Young University-Hawaii

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

Our approach to online learning is hallmarked by our attention to interpersonal student/student and student/teacher interaction. All of our online courses have low enrollments so that the teacher can interact with the students on an individual basis. This interaction happens not only through text but also through video interaction. We chose our learning management system to promote these kind of interactions.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Our online program is designed for students who wish to come to campus or transfer to another university. These courses are designed to help students meet the rigorous academic standards at BYU-Hawaii. For international students we have a high-quality English training online program. These English as an International Language (EIL) courses are designed to help students communicate effectively in the academic arena.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

In five years I expect that our online program will be serving the same purposes of preparing students to come to BYU-Hawaii and providing international students with high-quality English language training focused on academic preparation. This means that we do not expect to offer a lot of degrees and certificates online. However, we do expect our online EIL program to grow significantly.

University of Hawaii-West Oahu

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

The University of Hawaii - West Oahu's distance education program takes pride in offering quality online coursework that is open, accessible and affordable. We have many non-traditional students who take advantage of our online opportunities and find the classes convenient for balancing home and work life with school. 63% of students at UH West Oahu take at least one online course while attending the University.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

UH West Oahu's online courses meet the expectations of an in-person class by utilizing innovative multimedia tools to enhance the classroom experience. Through a variety of technical tools, distance education coursework is dynamic, collaborative, and offers the online student a complete educational experience.

Where do you see your online programs in the next 5 years? Beyond?

UH West Oahu strives for continued expansion of our online programs at an affordable rate and the development of additional quality course offerings.

Resources for Online Students in Hawaii

Whether choosing a college or researching funding options, making sense of the educational landscape can be challenging for prospective students. Below is a list of resources designed to make the process easier by introducing students to both federal and state-specific information about scholarships, financial aid, loans and grants, and tips for selecting a college. Hawaii-specific resources from entities such as the State Department of Education and nonprofits such as the Hawaii Learning Resource are also provided.