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AGO 1960 No. 119 - May 26, 1960
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON - WAIVER OF TUITION FEES FOR CHILDREN OF PERSONS ENGAGED IN WAR SERVICE FOR THE UNITED STATES WHO ARE KILLED OR TOTALLY INCAPACITATED IN SUCH SERVICE

The comptroller of the University of Washington is required to waive the collection of tuition for children of persons engaged in war service for the United States who were killed or totally incapacitated by reason of such service even though the legislature fails to make an appropriation to carry out the provisions of chapter 224, Laws of 1947.

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                                                                   May 26, 1960

Honorable Lloyd J. Andrews
President, State Board of Education
Old Capitol Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                          Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 119

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested an opinion of this office on the following question:

            "Is it incumbent upon the Comptroller of the University of Washington to waive the collection of tuition for children of persons engaged in war services for the United States who are killed or totally incapacitated by reason of such service, when the Legislature of the State of Washington fails to make an appropriation to carry out the provisions of Chapter 224, Laws of 1947?"

            We answer your question in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The codification of chapter 224, Laws of 1947, is found in chapter 28.76 of the Revised Code of Washington.  RCW 28.76.150 provides as follows:

            "Matriculation fees and other incidental and special fees other than tuition, and board and room, rent,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] and books and supplies to the extent of the appropriation therefore shall be paid for the use and benefit of persons attending a state educational institution who are not under sixteen and not over twenty-two years of age, and have for twelve months had their domicile in the state of Washington, and whose parents or one of them was killed or totally incapacitated from engaging in any normal employment by reason of service in the armed forces of the United States.  No tuition fee shall be charged to any such person by any state educational institution."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            RCW 28.76.160 reads as follows:

            "The amounts due to any state educational institution under the provisions of RCW 28.76.150 shall be payable to the institution on vouchers approved by the state board of education.  Said board shall determine the eligibility and need of the persons who may make application for such benefits, and satisfy itself of the attendance of the persons at any such institution and of the accuracy of the charge or charges submitted to it by the authorities of any such institution, on account of the attendance thereat of any such person.  No member of the board or the secretary shall receive any compensation for any such service."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            It is an oft-quoted rule of statutory construction that, in arriving at the intent of the legislature, the first resort of the courts is to the context and subject matter of the legislation, because the intention of the lawmakers is to be deduced, if possible, from the words used.  Hatzenbuhler v. Harrison, 49 Wn. (2d) 691, 306 P (2d) 745 (1957); Guinness v. State, 40 Wn. (2d) 677, 246 P. (2d) 433 (1952).

            Our court has said that legislative intent is to be ascertained from the statutory text as a whole, not from merely a portion thereof, interpreted in terms of the general object and purpose of the act.  See Guinness v. State, 40 Wn. (2d) 677, 249 P. (2d) 433, supra.  Where the language of a statute is plain, unambiguous and well understood according to its natural and ordinary sense and meaning, the statute itself furnishes a rule of construction beyond which the courts cannot go.  Parkhurst v. Everett, 51 Wn. (2d) 292, 318 P (2d) 327 (1957); City of Seattle v. Ross, 154 Wash. Dec. 794 [[54 Wn.2d 655]], 344 P. (2d) 216 (1959).

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Applying these rules to the foregoing statutes, it appears that the legislature in passing chapter 224, Laws of 1947, intended to establish standards of eligibility whereby children of deceased military personnel or totally disabled war veterans could secure educational opportunities.  The qualifications for benefits under the act may be stated as follows:  (1) the person must attend a state educational institution; (2) he must not be under sixteen (16) and not over twenty-two (22) years of age; (3) he must have been domiciled in the state of Washington for twelve (12) months; (4) his parents or one of them must have been killed or totally incapacitated from engaging in any normal employment by reason of service in the armed forces of the United States.

            Where the above qualifications are met, matriculation fees and other incidental and special fees other than tuition, and board and room, rent and books and supplies of persons are paid for by the State Board of Education on the basis of need.  The assistance, if any, of the state board to such students is, of course, completely dependent upon the amount of funds which are appropriated.  However, the legislature has expressly provided that "No tuition fee shall be charged any such person by any state educational institution."

            Accordingly, it is our opinion that the waiver of tuition by the educational institution is not a matter for the exercise of discretion.  It is a mandatory duty imposed on the institution where the State Board of Education otherwise determines the eligibility of the person in question.  Most certainly it is unfortunate that the legislature made no appropriation for the payment of the expenses other than tuition set forth in RCW 28.76.150, supra.  Be that as it may, the failure of the legislature to make this appropriation does not excuse a state educational institution from the performances of its duty in respect to those students -"No tuition fee shall be charged . . ."

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

ROBERT J. DORAN
Assistant Attorney General

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