KAHULUI – Maui Community College’s name change to University of Hawaii Maui College was one sign of its far-reaching ambitions. No longer simply MCC, the school shed its junior college status in an effort to better compete with four-year universities as a school where students can earn a baccalaureate degree. With about 4,400 students, enrollment at the Maui campus exceeds the populations at UH’s neighbor island colleges, including UH-Hilo.

And UH Maui College is the only UH community college that offers its own four-year degrees alongside the more typical associate’s degrees and vocational certificates. The name change — approved in 2010 by UH and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges — speaks to the college’s commitment to adapt to the needs of Maui County residents, said longtime Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto, who helped push for the change.

“It wasn’t that simple,” Sakamoto, 70, said. “But it really had to do with offering students and residents opportunities to access higher-compensating jobs in the community. Having a bachelor’s degree makes them eligible to compete.”

“What we were seeing for some time, especially in the area of tech, was that higher-paying jobs were going to candidates outside Maui County and Hawaii,” he said. “We knew we had to create the kinds of programs that would help our residents be responsive to those opportunities.”

The college designed three baccalaureate degree programs that it says were developed in direct response to Maui’s workforce needs.

The initial four-year degree program, a bachelor of applied science in applied business and information technology, graduated its first class of three students in 2007. The program has an entrepreneurial focus. Bachelor’s degrees in engineering technology and sustainable science management have since been added, and 44 students are currently pursuing one of the three degrees.

Throughout the change, the college has kept the general community college standards of low tuition and open admissions while filling an academic niche. For example, tuition is significantly cheaper on Maui than at UH’s traditional four-year campuses…

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