In 1947, the University of Hawai'i at Hilo began on Haili Street as an extension of the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. In 1955, the UH Hilo branch moved to its current location at Lanikaula Street. The UH Hilo branch began as a two year university.

Since then, it has expanded. Now, the university is home to a number of four-year undergraduate degrees, masters degrees, and two doctoral programs.