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With its picturesque beaches, vibrant culture, and ideal weather, Hawaii is considered a paradise by many. If you’re looking to attend college in this Pacific island state, you have several great options to choose from.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The main colleges and universities in Hawaii include the University of Hawaii system, Hawaii Pacific University, Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Chaminade University of Honolulu, and Hawaii Community College.

In this comprehensive guide, we will provide an overview of the public and private 4-year universities in Hawaii as well as its community college system. For each school, we will highlight key details like its location, size, academic programs, admission requirements, and more.

Public 4-Year Universities

University of Hawaii System

The University of Hawaii (UH) system is comprised of 3 universities and 7 community colleges located throughout the Hawaiian Islands. The flagship UH Manoa campus in Honolulu is a public research university offering over 300 degree programs to around 20,000 students.

UH Hilo on the Big Island and UH West Oahu in Kapolei also provide a range of 4-year degree options. Total enrollment across the 10-campus UH system exceeds 50,000 students.

Some key facts about the UH system:

  • Founded in 1907, it is the sole public university system in Hawaii
  • UH Manoa is ranked among the nation’s best public universities offering a first-class education at an affordable cost for Hawaii residents
  • Over $500 million per year in extramural funding supports diverse research activities, especially in astronomy, oceanography, volcanology, Hawaiian studies, biology, engineering and healthcare
  • Many programs focus on the unique location and environment of the Hawaiian islands, including Pacific Islands studies, tropical agriculture, tropical medicine, oceanography and Hawaiian language

The natural beauty of the islands paired with strong academic programs across liberal arts, science, business and law makes the UH system an attractive option. It provides accessibility and opportunity for students in Hawaii while attracting over 6,000 out-of-state students as well.

Hawaii Pacific University

Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) is a private university with campuses in downtown Honolulu and Kaneohe. HPU offers over 45 undergraduate and 15 graduate programs focused on business, nursing, social work, the natural sciences and more.

Here are some key facts about HPU:

  • Founded in 1965, HPU emphasizes small class sizes with a 12:1 student-faculty ratio
  • Over 20% of students represent over 70 foreign countries, making it one of the most diverse universities in the US
  • The Honolulu campus is located just blocks from Waikiki Beach in an urban setting while the Kaneohe campus has views of the Ko’olau Mountains
  • HPU has Division II athletic programs and over 60 student clubs and organizations to get involved in campus life

For students interested in living in vibrant Honolulu or tropical Kaneohe, HPU is an excellent private university choice providing personalized attention, diversity and adventure on the Hawaiian islands.

Private 4-Year Universities

Brigham Young University-Hawaii

Brigham Young University-Hawaii (BYU-Hawaii) is a private university in Laie, Hawaii affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Founded in 1955, it offers over 50 undergraduate and a handful of graduate programs in subjects like business, computing and technology, education, fine arts and humanities, mathematics and sciences, and religious education.

BYU-Hawaii enrolls over 2,500 students and promotes experiential learning opportunities. The school’s tropical location and emphasis on service learning allows students to gain cultural awareness and participate in impactful research.

Some key facts about BYU-Hawaii:

  • Student to faculty ratio is 18:1
  • Over 30 student clubs and organizations
  • Students come from over 70 countries worldwide
  • Offers study abroad programs in China, Japan, and New Zealand

Chaminade University of Honolulu

Chaminade University of Honolulu is a private Catholic university in Honolulu dedicated to preparing students for careers while fostering moral values. Founded in 1955, Chaminade offers over 23 undergraduate programs and select graduate programs in subjects like business, criminology and criminal justice, education, forensic sciences, nursing, and more.

Notable features of the school include small class sizes, accelerated degree options, and hands-on learning opportunities through internships and service projects.

Here are some vital statistics for Chaminade University:

Total enrollment 2,238 students
Student to faculty ratio 11:1
On-campus housing capacity 400 students
Varsity athletic teams 10 NCAA Division II teams

With intimate academic settings and mentoring from passionate professors, Chaminade empowers students to gain professional skills and make a positive impact on local and global communities after graduation. To learn more, check out the university’s website.

Community Colleges

Hawaii Community College System

The Hawaii Community College system consists of seven community colleges located throughout the Hawaiian Islands. These schools provide open enrollment, affordable higher education opportunities focused on career and technical education.

The largest community college in Hawaii is Kapi’olani Community College in Honolulu, with over 6,500 students. Other major campuses include Maui College, Hawaii Community College in Hilo, Leeward Community College in Pearl City, Kaua’i Community College, Windward Community College in Kaneohe, and Honolulu Community College.

In total, over 24,000 students are enrolled across the seven Hawaii community colleges. The schools offer associate’s degrees and certificates in over 40 academic and career programs. Popular majors include liberal arts, Hawaiian studies, nursing, business technology, culinary arts, and automotive technology.

The community college system provides an accessible and affordable option for Hawaii residents to obtain higher education without leaving their island. They serve an important role in workforce development and preparing students to transfer to four-year universities.

With partnerships between campuses and local businesses, the community colleges are designed to be responsive to the needs of Hawaii’s job market. Their career-focused programs in healthcare, hospitality, and skilled trades align with major industries in the state.


In conclusion, Hawaii offers several excellent higher education options ranging from large public universities to small private schools to affordable community colleges. With campuses spread out over several islands, you’re sure to find a Hawaii college or university that suits your needs and takes full advantage of the state’s unmatched beaches and natural beauty.

We hope this guide gave you a comprehensive overview of the main colleges and universities across the Hawaiian islands. By understanding the unique features, programs, admissions criteria, and more for each school, you can determine which one is the best fit as you seek out a quality education in one of the country’s most desirable locations.

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