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UH Budget Cuts Don’t Make Financial Sense

Certain state legislators are notorious for biting the hands that feed them and the state. They over-crunch the numbers on the UH budget that curtail operations on the very things that generate revenue for the state. Short-sighted budget cuts to the UH have severe repercussions. These cuts hinder research that benefits our island home, adversely affects local jobs, and pushes faculty to competing universities where their research projects are more welcome. 

In the last fiscal year ending June 2023, the budget for the entire UH system was $1.112 billion. UH faculty attracted more than $672 million in federal awards that year for various research programs. See schedule of expenditures of federal awards in the University of Hawai‘i Financial and Compliance Audit, June 2023, beginning on page 9. 

Do the Math

Doing the math shows it doesn’t make financial sense to hurt the ones helping to sustain the university. Considering that another 30% of UH revenue is from tuition because of faculty teaching in the classroom and providing support to students outside the classroom, it’s easy to see why UH autonomy is justifiable, especially since state legislators do not generate any revenue for the state and their only “contribution” is controlling the UH purse strings.

Different Year, Same Pattern

Unfortunately, we see the same pattern recurring this year. The University of Hawai‘i is on track to exceed $550 million in extra-mural funds for this fiscal year 2024 according to an April 25, 2024 article in the University of Hawai‘i News publication.  Those dollars brought in through grants awarded to UH faculty members flow into the state’s economy through research- related purchases from local businesses, and wages and salaries for people employed through the research grant project.  The grants are estimated to support 5,400 jobs in the state.  The people employed in turn pay taxes into the state’s coffers and spend some of their earnings on housing, food, and other purchases, much of which stays in state.

These research dollars help improve the living and working conditions of the state’s residents in a number of areas.  These areas include renewable energy, sea level rise, wildfire mitigation, cancer research, other healthcare initiatives, and food and agroforestry

Certain Legislators Put Ongoing Extramural Funding at Risk

Yet in spite of these benefits to the residents and state built on the hard work of UH faculty, staff, and students, UH continues to be under funded and the target of damaging attacks from certain state legislators.  These legislators continually criticize, find fault, and introduce legislation intent on diminishing the work carried out at UH.  Finding fault and punishing are the twin weapons that continue to be aimed at UH.  Doing so, however, threatens our ability to continue to receive these valuable external funds that more than anything, help improve the lives and livelihood of the residents in our state of Hawai‘i.