The rising tuition, along with the price of living in paradise is taking its toll.
"While I dealt with tuition expenditures, it was the cost of living that was what really took its toll on my savings," said PhD student Shannon Hillman.
Now, under pressure to keep the University of Hawaii at Manoa affordable, and to run a tighter ship, Chancellor Tom Apple is taking drastic action.
He is proposing to freeze positions, cut low-performing programs, and save ten million on utility bills.
It’s no easy feat.
Power and water bill are to tracking to hit about $52 million this year.
Apple told UH regents that he hopes to reduce his overall budget by five percent over two years.
”I'm using taxpayer money, student tuition and we just have to use it in a better way than we have in the past. In any given year we hire 50-70 faculty. We are going to freeze that and accrue those savings to make sure out budget is balanced," said Tom Apple, UH Manoa Chancellor.
He does expect some pushback.
The dean of the College of Arts and Sciences is eight positions short, but Peter Arnade said he began to slow hiring last year out of concern for the bottom line.
"In arts and sciences, we want to ensure if there is going to be a retrenchment that whatever we do, we don’t want to hurt the undergraduate experience of the students," Arnade said.
Apple believes he can protect the low 11-1 student faculty ratio and keep graduation rates trending up.
UH officials also heard an appeal for a summit of sorts with the business community and lawmakers about the university's future.
"Ponder where we are going, who we are, and what the priorities should be so when someone walks in and says hey we need a new car, that maybe that's not what we as a community see as a priority," said Jim Shon of the Educational Policy Center.
Shon pointed to a $45,000 budget proviso for a car for the golf program set aside by lawmakers in the face of the larger general fund budget cuts, that now have UH Manoa feeling the squeeze.
But that is only part of the picture.
Apple is clearly troubled by a different looming shortfall,
In order to keep a National Cancer Institute designation for the Hawaii Cancer Center, it must reach a higher bar and hire more faculty.
"In order to meet that designation. we are going to have to hire more and its fairly significant and that shortfall is going to go from $10-$15 million a year," said Apple. "We do not yet have a plan for that."
"I am not happy about that because that shortfall , if that is not fixed with a legislative change, it will fall on my students," Apple said.