COMMUNITY COLLEGES ‑- TUITION ‑- FEES ‑- EXEMPTION FOR EMPLOYEES
The board of trustees of a state community college does not have the legal authority under existing law to grant either a partial or total exemption from general tuition fees, operating fees, or services and activity fees to employees of the college who are also attending classes there.
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June 25, 1973
Honorable Marion O. Oppelt
President and Secretary
Board of Trustees
Community College District No. 11
P.O. Box 3186
Tacoma, Washington 98499
Cite as: AGLO 1973 No. 70
This is written in response to your recent request for an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:
Does the board of trustees of a state community college have the legal authority under existing law to grant either a partial or total exemption from general tuition fees, operating fees, or services and activity fees to employees of the college who are also attending classes there?
We answer this question in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.
The boards of trustees of our several state community colleges, as provided for in RCW 28B.50.010, serve and function as agencies of the state of Washington. Accord, Centralia College Education Ass'n. v. Board of Trustees of Community College District No. l2, 82 Wn.2d 128, 508 P.2d 1357 (1973). As such, these boards possess only such powers as have been expressly granted to them by the legislature, or as may necessarily be implied therefrom. State ex rel. Holcomb v. Armstrong, 39 Wn.2d 860, 239 P.2d 545 (1952).
Applying this test, we must advise you that we find no existing statutory authority for a board of trustees of a community college to grant any sort of exemption, either partial or total, from the payment of general tuition fees, operating fees, or services and activity fees by its own employees attending classes at the college. The only state institutions of higher education which may, presently, be said to possess this requisite authority are the two four-year universities [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] (Washington State University and the University of Washington) in accordance with RCW 28B.15.380, which reads as follows:
"In addition to any other exemptions as may be provided by law, the board of regents at the universities may exempt the following classes of persons from the payment of general tuition fees, operating fees, or services and activities fees except for individual instruction fees: (1) All veterans as defined in RCW 41.04.005: Provided, That such persons are no longer entitled to federal vocational or educational benefits conferred by virtue of their military service: And provided further, That if any such veterans have not resided in this state for one year prior to registration said board may exempt them up to one half of the tuition payable by other nonresident students. (2) Members of the staffs of the University of Washington and Washington State University. (3) Teachers in the public schools of the state who supervise the cadet teachers from the University of Washington."
We further note that a proposal to extend this same general authorization to both the four-year state colleges (Eastern, Central, Western and Evergreen), and to the community colleges as well, was considered and rejected during the recently completed 1973 regular and first extraordinary sessions of the legislature. See, § 3 of House Bill No. 234 which, had it been enacted, would have added the following new section to chapter 28B.15 RCW:
"In addition to any other exemptions as may be provided by law, the boards of trustees of each of the state colleges and community colleges may exempt from the payment of general tuition fees, operating fees, or services and activities fees, except for individual instruction fees, members of the staffs at any of their respective colleges, pursuant to guidelines adopted by the state colleges' boards of trustees and the state board for community college education."
In AGLO 1973 No. 30, copy enclosed, which was written [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] to State Representative A. N. "Bud" Shinpoch on February 26, 1973, we advised that this section would be constitutional if enacted in that form, saying that although Article VIII, § 5 of the state Constitution prohibits gifts or loans of state money as well as credit,
". . . where, as here, an exemption from tuition and fees at a state college or university is limited in applicability only to employees of the respective institutions, it can well be reasoned in defense of the constitutionality of a provision such as § 3, supra, that the exemption or waiver constitutes a form of compensation to the employees for services rendered as such. . . ."
As a form of compensation, however, such a "fringe benefit" as this must be quite clearly authorized by statute ‑ as it now is for the two state universities, supra. Accord, AGO 61-62 No. 18 [[to Ray E. Munson, Prosecuting Attorney, Yakima County on March 21, 1961]], copy enclosed, at p. 3. In the case of state colleges and community colleges, on the other hand, it is not because, although House Bill No. 234 was ultimately enacted as chapter 46, Laws of 1973, Ex. Sess., § 3, supra, was stricken through the adoption of an amendment proposed by the House Committee on Ways and Means on March 17, 1973.
Therefore, absent such authorization as would thereby have been granted had this section not thus been rejected, our answer to your question as above paraphrased must be in the negative.
We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General