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AGLO 1979 No. 23 - June 01, 1979
AGO Opinion Header Image
Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

COMMUNITY COLLEGES ‑- CONTRACTS ‑- NATUROPATHY ‑- AUTHORITY OF COMMUNITY COLLEGE TO OFFER BASIC SCIENCE COURSE UNDER CONTRACT WITH COLLEGE OF NATUROPATHY

(1) Under the authority granted to it by RCW 28A.50.140(16), a state community college district may offer, under contract with a private college of naturopathy, a two-year course in basic science representing the middle two years of a six-year curriculum leading to the issuance, by the private institution, of an N.D. (doctor of naturopathic medicine) degree, which two-year basic science program would be required to be preceded by two years of college level studies.

(2) The Council for Postsecondary Education is statutorily authorized to review the conduct of such a program and/or make advisory recommendations regarding the conduct thereof.

                                                                 - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                    June 1, 1979

Mr. C. Gail Norris
Executive Coordinator
Council for Postsecondary Education
908 East Fifth Avenue
Olympia, Washington 98504

Dr. John N. Terrey, Director
State Board for Community College
Education
319 Seventh Avenue
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1979 No. 23


Gentlemen:

            By letter previously acknowledged you jointly requested our opinion on the following two questions relating to the authority of a community college district and the Council for Postsecondary Education with regard to the offering of a two-year course under contract with a private college of naturopathy:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "(1) May a state community college legally offer, under contract with a private college of naturopathic medicine, a two-year course in basic science representing the middle two years of a six-year curriculum leading to the issuance, by the private institution, of an N.D. (Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine) degree, which two-year basic science program would be required to be preceded by two years of college level pre‑med studies?

            "(2) Assuming an affirmative answer to question (1), does the Council for Postsecondary Education have the statutory authority to review the conduct of such a program and/or make advisory recommendations regarding the conduct thereof?"

            We answer both questions in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The factual background leading to this request should first be briefly summarized.  As we understand it, a certain community college district proposes to contract with a private college of naturopathy to offer a two-year course in basic science.  That course would represent the middle two years of a six-year program conducted by the private institution leading to the ultimate issuance by that institution of an N.D. (Doctor of Naturopathy) degree and would be preceded by two years of college level studies.  The community college district, on the other hand, would not grant a degree, diploma or certificate of completion for the two-year program.  Under the contract, the fees charged to the private institution would be sufficient to fully cover all instructional costs.  Finally, the enrollments generated by the program would not count toward calculation of the college's full-time equivalent students for state funding purposes.

            Question (1):

            A community college district is an agency of the state.  Centralia Community College Education Ass'n v. Board of Trustees of Community College Dist. No. 12, et al., 82 Wn.2d 128, 508 P.2d 1357 (1973).  As such, it has only those powers  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] granted by the legislature, either expressly or by necessary implication.  State ex rel. Holcomb v. Armstrong, 39 Wn.2d 860, 239 P.2d 545 (1952);State ex rel. Eastvold v. Maybury, 49 Wn.2d 533, 304 P.2d 663 (1956).  The initial inquiry is thus whether the legislature has so authorized a community college district to contract to offer the two-year course here in question.

            The Community College Act of 19671/ sets forth the general purposes of community colleges in RCW 28B.50.020.  This section provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

            "The purpose of this chapter is to provide for the dramatically increasing number of students requiring high standards of education either as a part of the continuing higher education program or for occupational training, by creating a new, independent system of community colleges which will:

            "(1) Offer an open door to every citizen, regardless of his academic background or experience, at a cost normally within his economic means;

            "(2) Ensure that each community college district shall offer thoroughly comprehensive educational, training and service programs to meet the needs of both the communities and students served by combining, with equal emphasis, high standards of excellence in academic transfer courses; realistic and practical courses in occupational education, both graded and ungraded; community services of an educational, cultural, and recreational nature; and adult education;

            "(3) Provide administration by state and local boards which will avoid unnecessary duplication of facilities or programs; and which will encourage efficiency in operation and creativity and imagination in education, training and service to meet the needs of the community and students;

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

"(4) Allow for the growth, improvement, flexibility and modification of the community colleges and their education, training and service programs as future needs occur; and

            "(5) Establish firmly that community colleges are, for purposes of academic training, two year institutions, and are an independent, unique, and vital section of our state's higher education system, separate from both the common school system and other institutions of higher learning, and never to be considered for conversion into four-year liberal arts colleges."

            The governing body of a community college district is its board of trustees.  RCW 28B.50.100-28B.50.130.  The powers and duties of such boards are set forth in RCW 28B.50.140.  Two years ago, by its enactment of § 5, chapter 282, Laws of 1977, 1st Ex. Sess., the legislature added the following new subsection to that statute:

            "(16)Notwithstanding any other provision of law, [each community college board of trustees] may offer educational services on a contractual basis other than the tuition and fee basis set forth in chapter 28B.15 RCW for a special fee to private or governmental entities, consistent with rules and regulations adopted by the state board for community college education:  PROVIDED, That the whole of such special fee shall go to the college district and be not less than the full instructional costs of such services:  PROVIDED FURTHER, That enrollments generated hereunder shall not be counted toward the official enrollment level of the college district for state funding purposes."  (Emphasis supplied)

            Indeed, this authority to offer contracted educational services is couched in very strong terms since its language is preceded by the phrase "[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law, . . ."  And, as noted inDavis v. County of King, 77 Wn.2d 930, 932, 468 P.2d 679 (1970):

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            ". . . Notwithstanding means 'without prevention or obstruction from or by; in spite of' Merriam-Webster Third International Dictionary (1964);see also State ex rel. Morse v. Christianson, 262 Wis. 262, 55 N.W.2d 20 (1952).  This signifies the legislature declared its intent that despite any enactment to the contrary, and without prevention or obstruction by any prior act, the intergovernmental disposal of property must be preceded by the required superior court decree."

            Although we are unable to find any prior act which would obstruct or modify the clear authority set forth in the above‑quoted amendment to RCW 28B.50.140, even if such an obstruction or modification existed it thus could not override the clear import of that amendment.

            The primary consideration with any question of statutory construction is to determine and effectuate the intent of the legislature.  Intermediate School District No. 105 v. Yakima County, et al., 81 Wn.2d 443, 503 P.2d 104 (1972).  First resort in determining legislative intent must be to the context and subject matter of the legislation since the intention of the legislature is to be deduced, insofar as possible, from what is said in the statute.  Champion v. Shoreline School District No. 412, 81 Wn.2d 672, 504 P.2d 304 (1972). Words in a statute are to be given their usual, ordinary, commonly accepted and full meaning, absent some ambiguity and/or statutory definition.  Pope & Talbot v. Department of Revenue, 90 Wn.2d 191, 580 P.2d 262 (1978).

            Here, Merriam-Webster'sThird New International Dictionary (1971) defines "educational" as "of, relating to or concerned with education or the field of education."  "Education" is defined as "the act or process of providing with knowledge, skill, competence, or usu. desirable qualities of behavior or character or of being so provided esp. by a formal course of study, instruction, or training."  "Service" is defined as "the performance of work commanded or paid for by another."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            It thus follows that the offering of a basic science program of study, instruction, or training, paid for by a private college, falls clearly within the usual, ordinary and commonly accepted meaning of offering "educational services" as set forth in RCW 28B.50.140(16).  The terms "educational services" are neither ambiguous nor defined in the statute itself and, therefore, must be given their ordinary meaning.  Accordingly, we dispose of the initial issue raised by your first question by concluding that the contractual offering of the course here in question is expressly authorized by that statute.

            Next, having found the proposed course offering to be within the ambit of the authority granted by the legislature within RCW 28B.50.140(16), supra, a further issue is whether the offering would be "consistent with the rules and regulations adopted by the state board for community college education."  The state board has adopted WAC 131-28-027 concerning the costs and special fees for contracted educational services.  However, nothing on the face of the instant proposal as we understand it would preclude its favorable consideration as a contracted course under this state board rule and we can only assume that the course will be offered in a manner consistent with the rules.

            Finally, since a student must first complete two years of college level studies as a prerequisite to entry into this program, the question arises as to whether this would be inconsistent with the provisions of RCW 28B.50.020(5),supra.  The argument would presumably be that the community college involved would thereby be transforming itself into ". . . a four-year liberal arts college."  However, the offering of a contracted educational service amounting to the third and fourth year of college would not of itself convert the community college into a four-year institution.  Also one must read the purpose statute as a whole as evidencing an attempt to offer a rather broad range of courses with flexibility to meet the changing needs of students.

            Thus, in summary, we answer your first question in the affirmative.  In essence, we conclude that the authority to offer contracted educational services granted by the legislature in RCW 28B.50.140(16) is consistent with the general purpose of community colleges as set forth in RCW 28B.50.020,supra.  And, as stated inStrenge v. Clarke, 89 Wn.2d 23, 569 P.2d 60 (1977), the legislative intent is to be ascertained from the statutory text as a whole, interpreted in terms of the general object and purpose of the legislation.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 7]]

            Question (2):

            Having so answered your first question we turn to your second which asks whether the Council for Postsecondary Education has the statutory authority to review the conduct of such a program and/or make advisory recommendations regarding the conduct thereof.  We also answer that question in the affirmative.

            The legislature has authorized the Council for Postsecondary Education to perform certain general functions set forth in RCW 28B.80.030 which reads, in pertinent part, as follows:

            "The council may perform any of the following functions:

            "(1)Engage in overall planning for postsecondary education in the state, which shall include the collection and analysis of necessary data from public, and where appropriate private institutions of postsecondary education.  The purpose shall be to:

            "(a) Assess and define the educational needs of the state to be served by postsecondary education;

            "(b) Recommend and coordinate studies to ascertain how defined educational needs are being met;

            "(c)Study and make recommendations concerning adult education, continuing education, public service and postsecondary educational programs;

            "(d) Identify priorities among the defined needs and specify the resources necessary to meet them;

            "(e) Differentiate roles of the community college system and the individual public institutions and identify the most effective division of responsibility  [[Orig. Op. Page 8]] among them in meeting defined needs.  To facilitate this, review and recommend the creation of all new degrees and recommend which institutions shall award them; and evaluate proposals for the elimination of existing degrees.  Identify changing conditions which may require the revision of these roles and division of responsibility of the institutions.

            "(2) In the execution of the above planning responsibilities, develop criteria for the need for new baccalaureate institutions; and recommend the establishment, location and role of any new public baccalaureate granting institutions, and review the plans for the community college system in terms of their articulation with planning for postsecondary education in the state.

            ". . .

            "(7) Study and make recommendations for the development of improved practices of administrative management in order to facilitate the most efficient operation of the public institutions and the avoidance of unnecessary duplication among the institutions.

            "(8) At the request of the governor, legislature, state board for community college education, or baccalaureate granting institutions of higher education, and in conjunction with such legislative standing committees on higher education as may be in existence, study and make recommendations regarding legislation affecting postsecondary education."  (Emphasis supplied)

            Perhaps the clearest authority to review and make advisory recommendations in this case is found in subsection (1)(c) of this statute which authorizes the council to "[s]tudy and make recommendations concerning adult education, continuing education, public service and postsecondary educational programs."  The contracting for educational services  [[Orig. Op. Page 9]] anticipated by the question clearly falls within the category of a postsecondary educational program for which the council is given express authority to study and make recommendations.

            Several other subsections of RCW 28B.80.030, supra, provide a further basis for Council review and advisory recommendations concerning this community college contracted educational service program.  Under (1)(a) the Council may assess and define educational needs; under (1)(b) it may recommend and coordinate studies to ascertain the meeting of these needs; under (1)(d) it may identify priorities among the defined needs and specify resources to meet them; and under (1)(c) it may differentiate the roles of the public community college system and the individual public institutions and identify effective divisions of responsibility among them.  Further, under subsection (2) the Council, in its overall planning responsibilities, may also review the plans for the community college system in terms of articulation with planning for postsecondary education in the state.  And finally, the Council, under subsection (7), may study and make recommendations for the development of improved practices of administrative management in order to facilitate the most efficient operation of the public institutions and the avoidance of unnecessary duplication among the institutions.

            Hence, in direct answer to your second question, there appears to be ample statutory authority for the Council for Postsecondary Education to review the conduct of the two-year contracted educational service program here proposed and/or to make advisory recommendations regarding the conduct thereof.  The Council is not restricted in its review authority only to those programs in which degrees are awarded or to programs financed with public funds.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


THOMAS L. ANDERSON
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Chapter 8, Laws of 1967, 1st Ex. Sess.

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