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AGLO 1979 No. 33 - September 25, 1979
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

COMMUNITY COLLEGES ‑- TUITION ‑- FEES ‑- WAIVER OF TUITION FOR STUDENTS ENROLLED IN HIGH SCHOOL COMPLETION PROGRAMS

The amount of tuition and fees waived by a community college for its students enrolled in high school completion programs as required by chapter 148, Laws of 1979, 1st Ex. Sess., must be included in the 4 percent maximum waiver limitation contained in chapter 262, Laws of 1979, 1st Ex. Sess.

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                                                              September 25, 1979

Honorable H. A. "Barney" Goltz
State Senator, 42nd Dist.
3003 Vallette Street
Bellingham, Washington 98225                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1979 No. 33

Dear Sir:

            This is written in response to your request for our opinion on the following question:

            "Must the amount of tuition and fees waived by a community college for students enrolled in high school completion programs as required by (House Bill 358) Chapter 148, Laws of 1979, 1st Extraordinary Session, be included in the four percent maximum waiver limitation contained in (Senate Bill 2451) Chapter 262, Laws of 1979, 1st Extraordinary Session?"

            We answer the foregoing question in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Your question involves the interrelationship between two acts passed by the 1979 legislature, both involving tuition and fee waivers by the various community colleges.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            First, by its enactment of § 1, chapter 148, Laws of 1979, 1st Ex. Sess., the legislature amended RCW 28B.15.520 to read as follows:

            "Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter or chapter 28B.50 RCW as now or hereafter amended ((the college board shall be authorized to permit the)) boards of trustees of the various community colleges ((to)) shall waive general tuition fees, operating fees, and services and activities fees, ((, and any other fees)) for ((needy)) students nineteen years of age or older who ((are enrolled))enroll in a course of study or program which will enable them to finish their high school education and obtain a high school diploma or certificate, and for children after the age of nineteen years of any law enforcement officer or fire fighter who lost his life or became totally disabled in the line of duty while employed by any public law enforcement agency or full time or volunteer fire department in this state."

            This measure, in the form of House Bill No. 358, was passed by the House on April 2, 1979, by the Senate on April 25, 1979, and was signed by the Governor and filed with the Secretary of State on May 10, 1979.  Since it carried no emergency cluase it took effect on September 1, 1979, or 90 days after adjournment of the session.1/

             Thereafter, however, the legislature enacted a second law, chapter 262, Laws of 1979, 1st Ex. Sess., § 1 of which added the followingnew section to chapter 28B.15 RCW:

            "(1) The total dollar amount of tuition and fee waivers awarded by any state university, regional university, state college, or in the case of the state's community colleges, all of the community colleges considered as a whole, shall not exceed four percent of an amount determined by estimating the total collections from tuition, operating, and services and activities fees had no such waivers been made and deducting the portion of that total amount which is attributable to the difference between resident and non-resident fees:  PROVIDED, That  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] at least three‑fourths of the dollars waived shall be for needy or disadvantaged students under the program authorized by RCW 28B.15.530.

            "(2)The limitation on total tuition and fee waivers shall apply only to the following programs:

            "(a) Waivers for needy or disadvantaged students as authorized by RCW 28B.15.530;

            "(b)Waivers for students enrolled in a course of study or program which will enable them to finish their high school education and obtain a high school diploma or certificate as authorized by RCW 28B.15.520;

            "(c) Scholarships or waivers for foreign students as authorized by RCW 28B.10.200 and in section 2 of this act: PROVIDED, That awards which are a part of a reciprocal placement program based on contracts with institutions in foreign countries shall be exempt from the limitation in subsection (1) of this section; and

            "(d) Tuition and fee waiver programs authorized by sections 2, 3 and 4 of this act."  (Emphasis supplied)

            This measure, in the form of Substitute Senate Bill No. 2451, was passed by both the Senate and the House on June 1, 1979, and then was approved by the Governor and filed with the Secretary of State on June 25, 1979.  It, likewise, contained no emergency clause and thus also became effective on September 1, 1979.

            In your letter you have made note of the fact that the question here posed was previously considered, informally, by Senior Assistant Attorney General Richard M. Montecucco who serves as chief of the Education Division within our office.  Based upon the express reference to ". . . waivers for students enrolled in a course of study or program which will enable them to finish their high school education and obtain a high school diploma or certificate as authorized by RCW 28B.15.520 . . ." in § 1(2)(b) of the latter enactment, chapter 262,supra, as one of the types of tuition and fee waivers to which the limitation set forth in § 1(1) of that law would apply, Mr. Montecucco opined as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            "Therefore, it would appear that SSB 2451 does in fact limit the ability to grant unlimited waivers as contained in H.B. 358."

            Upon review, we can conceive of no legitimate basis for reaching any other result.  It must be presumed that the legislature which passed chapter 262, supra, on June 1, 1979 was fully aware of its earlier passage, in April, of § 1, chapter 148, supra, amending RCW 28B.15.520.  Accord,Daly v. Chapman, 85 Wn.2d 780, 539 P.2d 831 (1975) and numerous similar cited cases therein.  Furthermore, we must also presume that the legislature did not then engage in an unnecessary or meaningless act.  State v. Wanrow, 88 Wn.2d 221, 559 P.2d 548 (1977).  Therefore, the only legally sustainable conclusion which we can reach in this instance is that, by virtue of § 1(1)(b) of chapter 262, supra, the amount of tuition and fees waived by a community college for students enrolled in a high school completion program in accordance with RCW 28B.15.520, as amended, must, in the words of your question, ". . . be included in the four percent maximum waiver limitation contained in . . ." § 1 of that same 1979 enactment.

            We have considered the opening language "notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter or chapter 28B.50 RCW as now or hereafter amended . . ." in RCW 28B.15.520, supra, but we note that this language was not added by the 1979 legislature; rather, it existed in the statute before and was placed there when the waiver provision related only to "needy" students rather than both the needy and non-needy. Accordingly, that language affords no basis for, in effect, ignoring § 1(2)(b) of chapter 262, supra, and thereby arriving at a negative answer to your question instead.  In addition, we have considered the suggestion stated in your letter that it might be possible ". . . for the language of SB 2451 to accommodate 'needy and disadvantaged' students within the three‑fourths of the maximum four percent allowed while HB 358 serves all others seeking a high school diploma. . . ."  The problem with this suggestion, however, is that waivers for needy or disadvantaged students are separately covered in subsection (2)(a) of the later enacted law‑-meaning, necessarily, that the legislature had both waiver situations in mind when it enacted that law‑-and it elected to treat both waiver situations the same by separately including each of them within the limitation therein prescribed.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            Therefore, once again, our answer to your question must be in the affirmative.  In view of what the legislature did, no other result seems possible.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Accord, Washington Constitution, Article II, § 41 (Amendment 26).

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