Located on the Eastern side of Hawai'i, the University of Hawai'i at Hilo was founded in 1947 as the “Hilo Program”, an extension of the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. Since 1970, the university has existed independently under its current name and is now a member of the ten-campus University of Hawai'i system.
The state-supported University of Hawai'i system incorporates the original University of Hawai'i campus at Mānoa, UH West O’ahu and seven community colleges. UH Hilo is a relatively small institution with a diverse student body of around 4,000 students. While UH Hilo does offer a number of graduate programmes at master’s and PhD level, the university’s main focus is the education of undergraduate students. The institution boasts a low student to faculty ratio and small class sizes.
The university’s campus in the city of Hilo is 200 air miles from the state capital, Honolulu and just 10 minutes from Hilo International Airport. Hilo is a green city, with tropical foliage and a low-density population of 45,000. The city also offers stunning views of the nearby Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes. The rich geographic diversity of the island gives students the opportunity to explore a range of ecosystems, from lava flows and rainforests to coastal reefs and pastures. UH Hilo describes the island as a "living laboratory" for its students and strives to incorporate practical outdoor learning into its programmes.
The communities that live in Hawai'i are famous for preserving and sharing the island’s indigenous host culture, as well as being one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the United States. In 2000, UH Hilo was designated a Title III Native Hawaiian Serving Institution by the US Department of Education. This new source of funding has successfully increased access to UH Hilo for native Hawaiian students, as well as improving retention and graduation rates.