Palamanui academic master plan taking shape


Full build out of Hawaii Community College at Palamanui could cost about $150 million over the next 10 years, a consultant who drafted an academic master plan for the campus said Thursday.

Operating costs would add about another $300 million to that price tag, Jay Siegel told college faculty and community members at a meeting at the University of Hawaii Center at West Hawaii in Kealakekua. Siegel emphasized that those numbers were his own projections, not the university system’s, and were based on his years of campus planning experience around the country.

“Those numbers are not there to say this is an insurmountable task,” Siegel said after questions and comments from meeting attendees about the feasibility of reaching full build out.

West Hawaii resident Marni Herkes said Siegel’s figures were lower than she expected, and said she believed if the community didn’t push for the campus now, it might never be built at all.

“What we did 20 years ago, we looked for resources,” Herkes said. “We’re doing it again. There are a lot of resources here.”

Not all of those attempts to reach out to various resources, including potential private donors with deep pockets, are visible to the public, Hawaii Community College Chancellor Noreen Yamane said. In late May, when university officials broke ground within the Palamanui development, President MRC Greenwood also attended a dinner with businessman and investor Charles Schwab, who owns property on the Kona Coast.

“There are very high level discussions that are occurring,” Yamane added.

Palamanui at full build out will likely be able to enroll about 4,000 students, some part-time and some full-time, and will need about 100 faculty members and a total of 250 employees.

Siegel said the campus is well positioned geographically — with access to a number of industries from astronomy and alternative energy production to hospitality and agriculture — as well as in an area that has a high level of need for higher education opportunities. The University of Hawaii system sees about a third of Hawaii’s high school students enter its system somewhere in the state. In Hilo, home to UH-Hilo, 42 percent of students enroll in the UH system. In West Hawaii, only 18 percent of students do.

“There isn’t a beacon here (for the UH system),” Siegel said. “Kids aren’t thinking about it.”

The proximity to a variety of industries, as well as the potential to bring on experts who happen to live in the community as part-time instructors, could create many opportunities for public-private partnerships, Siegel said. Those partnerships will be vital to the college’s success, he added.

Yamane said UH-Hilo Chancellor Don Straney recently committed to trying not to compete with Hawaii Community College, which will offer associate degrees, as well as help students meet the requirements for their first and second year of classes toward four-year degrees. Straney said he wouldn’t try to recruit first- and second-year students for programs both UH-Hilo and Hawaii Community College offer, instead focusing on enrolling those students for their third- and fourth-year of classes.

Siegel said the West Hawaii residents and business owners he spoke with listed a number of new programs they would like to see offered at Palamanui. Yamane said the Hawaii Community College system has about 25 programs, although not all of them are offered in West Hawaii, and not all of them will be offered even at the new campus.