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The 6 Cheapest Colleges in Hawaii

What’s Covered:


With great weather, rich culture, and idyllic beaches, Hawaii is a dream destination for many college-bound students. Earning a degree in paradise sounds expensive, but it’s possible to make it affordable by selecting the right school and employing a smart money-saving strategy. If you aspire to combine college life with island life, check out these affordable schools in Hawaii. 


Tips for Saving Money on College


Inflation is most noticeable at places like the gas pump and grocery stores, but those expenses ripple throughout the entire economy and colleges are not immune. Price increases are planned at numerous institutions, but luckily there are some easy ways to control college costs. 


1. Graduate On Time 


Graduating on time is one of the best steps college students can take to cut down on college expenses. Roughly a quarter of students who earn bachelor’s degrees (23.5%) take more than four years to complete their program—and incur a variety of extra expenses.


2. Get a Head Start on College 


Dual-enrollment programs allow students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously, while many colleges award credit to students who earn a 3 or 4 on their AP exams.


3. Start at Community College 


Attending community college is substantially less expensive than going to a four-year school. The average annual tuition and fees at community college in 2021-2022 was $3,800, compared to $10,740 at in-state, four-year public colleges. Transferring to a four-year college after completing general education requirements at a community college is a smart strategy for saving on college costs.


4. Choose a School that Meets 100% of Demonstrated Need 


Schools that meet 100% of demonstrated need commit to helping students meet their financial needs through some combination of grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study. They also help students avoid expensive private loans. 


5. Seek Out Scholarships 


Earning scholarships is a proven method for lowering college costs. While big-name scholarships attract a lot of attention, smaller regional and niche awards often have less competition and provide better odds of winning. Also, look to the schools themselves for scholarship dollars—colleges and universities fund $175 billion in scholarships annually compared to just $11 billion provided by other organizations.


The Six Cheapest Colleges in Hawaii


Below are the six cheapest colleges in Hawaii based on tuition, that is the total cost of attendance, including tuition, fees, room, and board.


1. Brigham Young University-Hawaii


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $13,924/$13,924

Location: Laie, HI 

Acceptance Rate: 88%

Undergrad Enrollment: 3,700


Brigham Young University-Hawaii is operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the university integrates academics and career preparation with spiritual and secular enrichment. The cost of attendance at BYU-Hawaii varies depending on church affiliation, with LDS students paying significantly less than non-church members. The website Niche places BYU-Hawaii 76th (out of 1,607 schools) on its list of most conservative colleges in the country. BYU-Hawaii also makes Campus Pride’s Worst List, a grouping of the most unsafe campuses for LGBTQ youth in the United States. 


Learn more about Brigham Young University-Hawaii and what it takes to get accepted.


2. University of Hawaii at Hilo


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $16,086/$29,046

Location: Hilo, HI

Acceptance Rate: 92%

Undergrad Enrollment: 3,100


The University of Hawaii at Hilo (UH Hilo) is one of the three University of Hawaii system university campuses (the system also includes seven community colleges). UH Hilo is located about 200 air miles from Honolulu on the island of Hawai’i. Ten of the world’s 14 climate zones exist on the Island of Hawaiʻi, which puts UH Hilo at the center of a living laboratory and is ideally situated for the study of volcanoes, astronomy, agriculture, marine science, and other natural sciences. Thanks in part to its location, UH Hilo attracts students from all over—the islands, the mainland, and internationally—and has earned a reputation for fielding an extremely ethnically diverse student body


Learn more about the University of Hawaii at Hilo and what it takes to get accepted.


3. Pacific Rim Christian University


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $20,600/$20,600

Location: Honolulu, HI

Acceptance Rate: 60%

Undergrad Enrollment: <200


Pacific Rim Christian University provides a Christ-centered education to students who aspire to become Christian leaders. PacRim offers six in-person bachelor’s degrees:


  • Theology
  • Theological Studies
  • Bible and Creative Arts
  • Bible and Christian Ministry 
  • Bible and Pastoral Ministry 
  • Bible and Christian Counseling 


PacRim is a fairly new institution—its roots were laid in 1995, however, it wasn’t officially established and accredited until 2015. 


Learn more about Pacific Rim Christian University and what it takes to get accepted.


4. University of Hawaii at Manoa | UH Manoa


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $25,828/$47,860

Location: Honolulu, HI

Acceptance Rate: 70%

Undergrad Enrollment: 15,500


The University of Hawaii at Manoa is the flagship campus of the University of Hawaii System. UH Manoa is one of roughly 140 R1 universities (the highest classification for research) in the U.S. In fact, UH Manoa has its own research island—Coconut Island. UH Manoa has played a significant role in government—44% of Hawaii state senators are graduates while 51% of state representatives count themselves among the university’s alumni. UH Manoa is another school of the University of Hawaii system known for fielding ethically diverse classes—the website Niche ranks it as the 43rd most diverse college in the country


Learn more about the University of Hawaii at Manoa and what it takes to get accepted.


5. Chaminade University of Honolulu


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $41,964/$41,964

Location: Honolulu, HI 

Acceptance Rate: 90%

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,800


Chaminade University of Honolulu is one of just three Marianist colleges in the U.S. Marianists are a type of Catholic who believes in educating the heart and mind to create learning that lasts and inspiring relationships that serve. Chaminade University has taken numerous steps to earn its place among the cheapest colleges in Hawaii. For example, local high school graduates can attend the school at the resident tuition rate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Furthermore, 97% of Chaminade undergraduates receive some form of financial aid. Chaminade University is a Native Hawaiian-serving institution


Learn more about Chaminade University of Honolulu and what it takes to get accepted.


6.  Hawaii Pacific University


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $46,064/$46,064

Location: Honolulu, HI 

Acceptance Rate: 85%

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,600


Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) has grown considerably since its first class of seven students graduated in 1972. Today, HPU is the largest private university in the state, home to more than 4,000 undergraduates, and attracts students from all 50 states and more than 65 countries. HPU offers more than 30 programs to undergraduates through its five colleges:


  • The College of Health and Safety
  • The College of Liberal Arts 
  • The College of Natural and Computational Sciences 
  • College of Professional Studies 
  • School of Nursing   


In addition to its main campus in downtown Honolulu, HPU has a suburban campus in the foothills of O‘ahu’s Ko‘olau mountains and an aquaculture research facility on the ocean. 


Learn more about Hawaii Pacific University and what it takes to get accepted.


How Much Will You Pay for College?


The overwhelming majority of students don’t pay the sticker price for college—the New York Times Magazine reported that 89% of students don’t pay the full price—so you can’t trust the sticker price to tell you your personal cost of attendance. Net price is a better indicator of what college will actually cost. You can discover the net price you can expect college to cost based on your individual financial circumstances using CollegeVine’s free financial aid calculator.


Our free Chancing Engine will tell you your chances of acceptance based on your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and demographics. Together, these tools can help you to improve your profile and plan for your college finances!


Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.