To identify the Best Colleges in Hawaii for 2017-2018 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in Hawaii anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Hawaii
The best colleges in Hawaii have a strong, dedicated commitment to meeting the specific needs of the Hawaiian people and land. Hawaii is a small and highly independent state, working to meet its own needs in many ways, and some of the most popular and important degree programs are those designed for the specific social life of Hawaii – nursing, business, law, and criminal justice among them. However, the life of Hawaii is also deeply tied to its land, ocean, and people, so Hawaii colleges and universities follow suit making Hawaii one of the main destinations for environmental sciences, oceanography, marine biology, and volcanology. Hawaiian higher education has also played a key role in preserving Polynesian culture, as well as community service and engagement to care for the people of the state.
Currently, only 4 Hawaii universities have enough national rankings and student reviews to calculate a Consensus score. These represent the known quantity of Hawaii’s best colleges, but as other institutions raise their national and international profile, The College Consensus will continue to update. These are the top Consensus colleges for the Aloha State.
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
A small, private undergraduate university, Brigham Young University-Hawaii is part of the Church Educational System of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, like sister institutions BYU (in Provo, UT) and BYU-Idaho. Founded in 1955, BYUH was instituted as part of the strong Mormon presence in Hawaii, which formed after an official Edict of Toleration by the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1839 made the islands a safe haven for Latter-Day Saints being persecuted in the US. One of the original purposes of the college was to prepare Mormon missionaries for service in the Pacific region, and that commitment is maintained today in the Polynesian Cultural Center, one of the most important institutions for protecting and fostering traditional Polynesian life.
With around 2500 students from Hawaii, the mainland US, and across the Pacific, BYUH is a highly diverse institution, including more than 70 nationalities and ethnicities. Of course, BYUH is a Latter-Day Saints institution, and around 97% of students are church members. BYUH is a model of student support; tuition is kept at one of the lowest rates in the nation (with LDS support from church tithing), making BYUH the only Hawaii school regularly ranked as a best value, and around two-thirds of students are employed by the Polynesian Cultural Center, providing valuable experience and financial aid. BYUH has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top 25 regional institution in the West, high marks with so much competition.
Chaminade University of Honolulu
A small, private Catholic institution, Chaminade University of Honolulu was founded in 1955 by the Society of Mary and named for the order’s founder, Father William Joseph Chaminade, but its roots go back to 1883, when Marianist missionaries came to Hawaii and established a school to support the local Catholic population. The Marianist order is rooted in Chaminade’s values, which put education in the forefront of Catholic life and religious service. Chaminade’s curriculum combines the traditional liberal arts with holistic spiritual education, public service, and useful career preparation.
With a majority Asian/Pacific Islander student body, Chaminade is officially designated as a Native Hawaiian Serving Institution, with significant cultural and financial incentives for Hawaiian students. Chaminade has made professional education central to its curriculum, including top-ranked programs in nursing, criminology, forensics, and business, which have made Chaminade an important educator for Hawaii’s social infrastructure. Service learning is also a key component of Chaminade’s education, and students take an active role in supporting their community through a variety of engagement activities. Chaminade is deeply Hawaiian, deeply committed, and set on the right path for linking Hawaii’s past and future.
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Founded in 1907, the University of Hawaii at Manoa is the flagship of the UH system, a major public research institution, and Hawaii’s land-grant university. As a land-grant institution, UHM originally developed to focus on agriculture and applied sciences, as the land-grant mission dictated, but in subsequent years UH has built research programs that participate directly in the unique life of Hawaii, including oceanography, marine biology, tropical agriculture, and geology (since Hawaii is, after all, a string of volcanic islands). Polynesian culture is also a key component of UH’s curriculum and research.
The University of Hawaii is exceptionally diverse, with a quarter of the student body identifying as white, and native Hawaiians, Asian, and other ethnic groups filling out the rest. All American states and more than 140 nations are represented in the student body. With Hawaii’s unique geography, UH has put an exceptional emphasis on online learning, giving students access to UH programs in a flexible way, whether they come from across the Hawaiian islands or across the Pacific. And it’s no small attraction that Hawaii’s tuition is among the lowest in the US for a major public research university, making UH a perpetual best value and one of the best colleges in Hawaii or anywhere in the US.
Hawaii Pacific University
The largest independent, private university in the region, Hawaii Pacific University was founded in just 1965, but in that time its reputation has grown into one of the top regional universities in its class according to U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review. HPU was founded to provide the excellent education and mentorship of a liberal arts college in a nonsectarian setting, and continues in that mission today, with a vision to bring together a diverse, international community founded on ethical and spiritual responsibility, honesty, and the Hawaiian principle of Aloha – kindness, unity, and humility.
While Hawaii Pacific’s curriculum is based in a traditional liberal arts format, the university’s most popular and acclaimed programs include nursing and business, along with the HPU Entrepreneurship Center. Because of its location, HPU is also a highly military-friendly institution, with a robust ROTC program and majors that appeal directly to military and security fields: Diplomacy and Military Studies, International Studies, and the Military Campuses Program, which brings course directly to the many military bases throughout Hawaii. Distance learning further provides around 3000 students access to HPU degrees, including military students and students across Hawaii and the Pacific Rim.