For some people, attending college in Hawaii evokes an image of cracking a textbook on the beach and studying under the shade of a gently swaying palm tree.  

While that can be your reality, attending one of the colleges in Hawaii offers so much more. For example, consider the opportunity to study marine science in a real-world setting, as well as the chance to explore environmental conservation across the islands’ incredibly diverse landscape.  

Additionally, the Aloha State’s institutions of higher learning offer an advantage that you might not have considered: value.  

In fact, a recent study named Hawaii among the top five states that provide the best college value. Nitro, a financial service company, compared the ratio of student debt and average postgrad earnings to determine where students can get the highest value per dollar spent on their education. Hawaii scored #5 on the list, behind Wyoming, California, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

If these perks aren’t enough to get you thinking about heading to the 50th state for college, we’ve compiled a list of Hawaii colleges to get you started, including both two-year and four-year programs. 

Colleges on Oahu: 4-Year Programs 

pali puka lookout oahu

Brigham Young University–Hawaii – Laie, HI 

Private, non-profit, 4-year  

Acceptance Rate: 27%

  • Brigham Young University is part of the Latter-Day Saints Church Educational System, with a mission to “integrate both spiritual and secular learning and to prepare students with character and integrity who can provide leadership in their families, their communities, their chosen fields and in building the kingdom of God.” 
  • The school hosts 2,500 students from over 70 different cultures and countries
  • Top bachelor’s degrees include biological science, business management, computer & information science, elementary education, exercise & sport science, hospitality and tourism management, international cultural studies, political science, secondary education, and social work.

Chaminade University of Honolulu – Honolulu, HI 

Private, non-profit, 4-year 

Acceptance Rate: 91%

  • Chaminade is the only Catholic university in Hawaii. Its mission is “guided by the understanding that both reason and faith are essential conditions in the pursuit of truth.”
  • The student body includes 1,099 undergraduate students, representing 14 countries, as well as 40 states and US territories
  • The top majors at Chaminade include nursing, criminology and criminal justice, forensic sciences, biology and business administration.

Hawaii Pacific University – Honolulu, HI 

Private, non-profit, 4-year 

Acceptance Rate: 75%

  • Hawaii Pacific University offers an American education built on a liberal arts foundation, set in the rich cultural context of Hawaii.
  • With students from all 50 states and more than 70 countries, HPU earned the title of #1 in the nation for diversity, as ranked by USA Today. 
  • The university also received the distinction of being ranked best in the state for return on investment. Graduates were discovered to have a 20-year return on investment of $250,500, which is more than $65,000 above its closest in-state peer.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa – Honolulu, HI 

Public, 4-year 

Acceptance Rate: 85%

  • The University of Hawaii at Manoa is the flagship campus of the University of Hawaii system, featuring “unique research opportunities, diverse community, and a nationally-ranked Division I athletics program.”
  • The student body boasts 17,490 students from 115 countries and regions.
  • Students enjoy access to 17 colleges and schools, including programs in architecture, Hawaiian knowledge, ocean & earth science & technology, travel industry management and more. 

University of Hawaii–West Oahu – Kapolei, HI 

Public, 4-year 

Acceptance Rate: 68%

  • The University of Hawaii–West Oahu reflects its unique location and culture in its mission, instilling “within students, faculty, and staff a conscious responsibility toward respecting, caring for, and sustaining our aina, both within the campus boundaries and beyond.”
  • 97.3% of its students hail from Hawaii, with those of Hawaiian and Filipino descent making up the majority of the student body.
  • The school’s most popular degrees include psychology, accounting, health care administration, business administration, and information security assurance.

Colleges on Oahu: 2-Year Programs 

Leeward Community College – Pearl City, HI 

Public, 2-year – A University of Hawaii campus 

  • Leeward Community College considers itself a “regional community center, creating both an environment for academic learning and a center of cultural life for our neighbors.”
  • It’s also the second-largest campus in the UH system and has become the community college serving both the largest number of 1) Native Hawaiian undergraduate students and 2) military and veteran students.
  • The college offers programs of study in both professional career areas as well as liberal arts

Windward Community College – Kaneohe, HI 

Public, 2-year – A University of Hawaii campus 

  • Windward Community College offers programs in the arts and sciences, along with opportunities to study and understand Hawaii and its unique heritage.
  • The college has a special commitment to supporting access and educational needs of Native Hawaiians, who make up 49% of the full-time student body.
  • Windward Community college offers 9 certificate programs and 5 associate degree programs in areas that include geology, biotechnology, veterinary technology, Hawaiian studies, pre-nursing, and pre-engineering. 

Honolulu Community College – Honolulu, HI 

Public, 2-year – A University of Hawaii campus 

  • Honolulu Community college is the oldest community college in Hawaii. Today, it offers certificate programs in more than 20 career and technical areas, integrated with a strong general education core program of study. One of the most robust of the Hawaii colleges.
  • The college offers significant opportunities for apprenticeship training in construction and mechanical trades, including apprenticeships at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard Training Facility. 
  • The school offers 25 associate degree and 31 certificate programs.  

Kapiolani Community College – Honolulu, HI 

Public, 2-year – A University of Hawaii campus 

  • Kapiʻolani Community College is known for its technical, occupational and professional programs. 
  • The college’s Culinary Arts program is accredited with the American Culinary Federation and is the only program in the state with a specialization in Pastry Arts.
  • The college’s programs in health sciences, emergency medical services and STEM have also received national recognition.

Colleges on Hawaii – The Big Island 

northern coast of the big island

The University of Hawaii at Hilo – Hilo, HI 

Public, 4-year 

Acceptance Rate: 69%

  • The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo fosters its community to “work together across disciplines and diverse perspectives to prepare student scholars to thrive, compete, innovate and lead in their professional and personal lives.”
  • With its natural diversity, the Big Island offers university students a unique natural laboratory for the study of volcanoes, astronomy, agriculture and marine sciences. 
  • UH Hilo offers several unique opportunities
  • It’s the only place in the nation where students can earn a master’s degree in indigenous language studies.  
  • Students at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy study at the only college of pharmacy in the Pacific region.  
  • UH Hilo offers two Ph.D. programs and three master’s programs that are unique in the UH system, as well as the Doctorate of Nursing Practice program, which features a rural focus. 

Hawaii Community College – Hilo, HI 

Public, 2-year – A University of Hawaii campus 

  • Hawaii Community College offers associate degree, certificate and non-credit programs in areas such as health services, hotel operations, business administration, trades and more.  
  • The college also hosts the University Center, West Hawaii, which allows students living in west Hawaiʻi to obtain degrees and certificates from other University of Hawaii campuses. 
  • Hawaii Community College teaches its students career and technical skills through programs like electronics, early childhood education, automotive mechanics and business technology.  

Colleges on Maui

maui sunset

University of Hawaii Maui College – Kahului, HI 

Public, 4-year and 2-year programs 

Acceptance Rate: Open admissions

  • The University of Hawai‘i Maui College aims to “inspire students to develop knowledge and skills in pursuit of an academic career, and personal goals in a supportive educational environment that emphasizes community engagement, lifelong learning, sustainable living, Native Hawaiian culture, and global understanding.
  • The college offers liberal arts, occupational-technical and transfer and certificate programs. Four-year and graduate degrees are offered through the University Center.  
  • The bachelor’s degree programs available through Maui College include: 
  • Applied Business & Information Technology 
  • Engineering Technology 
  • Sustainable Science Management 

Colleges on Kauai 

kauai rainbow

Kauai Community College – Lihue, HI 

Public, 2-year – A University of Hawaii campus 

  • Kauaʻi Community College’s vision is to “inspire, engage, and empower learners and educators to enrich our community and our world.”
  • The college offers a variety of vocational and professional training programs, with four-year and graduate degrees are offered through the University Center. 
  • 97.9% of the student body comes from Hawaii, and 39% of students are of Native Hawaiian heritage

Mainland Options for Hawaii Residents 

Finally, if you live in Hawaii, but you want to attend college on the mainland, you’ll have a unique opportunity to access discounted tuition rates through the Western Undergraduate Exchange.  

Under this program, select colleges in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Oregon offer Hawaii residents the ability to enroll at no more than 150% of the in-state tuition rate. This program offers Hawaii residents the chance to take advantage of mainland learning opportunities at lower tuition rates than other out-of-state students.  


Check out the full list of participating colleges here. 


Enjoy All the Perks of Paradise—and More at one of the Colleges in Hawaii! 

Attending college in Hawaii offers a variety of advantages for students and their families. For Hawaii residents looking to save some money and stay close to home, you’ll find learning opportunities on every island. For mainlanders looking to get a taste of Hawaii life—and explore its diverse ecological landscapes—college in the Aloha State offers a much different lifestyle than you’re likely used to.  

 No matter where you’re from, though, the colleges in Hawaii offer a fantastic opportunity to get an excellent education at a superior value, making it a good long-term choice for many students and families alike. 


Moving to Hawaii for college? We can help make your move easy! Whether you’re coming from the mainland or just moving between islands, we have affordable options for many different budgets. (If you’re a Hawaii resident, make sure to ask about our E-Z Move program!) Just reach out to us to get started with a complimentary quote. 

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