Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1954 No. 299 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


A junior college operated by a first class school district is an institution of higher learning.  Such an institution may not construct student residential facilities.

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                                                                 August 17, 1954

Honorable Robert E. Conner
Prosecuting Attorney
Chelan County
306 Savings and Loan Building
Wenatchee, Washington                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 299

Dear Mr. Conner:

            By letter as previously acknowledged, you have requested the opinion of this office upon four questions arising out of the operation of a junior college by Wenatchee School District No. 146.

            You have proposed the following questions:

            "Can a first class school district operating a junior college

            "1. 'qualify as an institution of higher learning;'

            "2. authorize and construct domiciliary or student residential facilities;

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "3. incur indebtedness necessary for such construction;

            "4. execute a first mortgage on the building and land or pledge for additional security the gross anticipated revenues from the operation of the building?"

            It is our opinion that the first question should be answered in the affirmative and the second in the negative.  It is unnecessary to answer questions three and four, in view of the negative answer to the second question.


            It should first be stated that the Federal Housing Act of 1950 does not define "institution of higher learning."  The Revised Code of Washington provides as follows:

            "28.84.010 ‑ Authority to establish.

            "Public junior colleges shall be established as part of the public educational system.  They shall not exceed twelve in number and no public junior college shall be established or maintained in any county in which there is a recognized institution of higher learning of offering courses of study above the high school grades.  A junior college is an institution offering courses of study above high school grade, organized into academic and vocational curricula of not more than two years in length."

            The statute makes junior colleges a part of the public educational system, but prohibits their establishment in any county in which there is a recognizedinstitution of higher learning capable of offering courses of study above the high school grades.  This language infers that any regular educational institution offering courses of study above the high school grades is an institution of higher learning.  A junior college, though limited to two years of study, is an institution "offering courses of study above the high school grade."  In our opinion, a junior college is an institution of higher learning.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            In answering the second question, it is necessary to note that a first class school district is not vested with authority to provide residential facilities for its students.  If the authority to provide such facilities exists under the facts in this instance, it must arise from the statutes governing the establishment and operation of junior colleges.  The statute setting forth the powers granted boards of trustees of the junior colleges provides:

            "28.84.060 ‑ Organization of board‑-Powers and duties.

            "* * * Each board of trustees shall:

            "* * *

            "(4) Purchase supplies, libraries, reference books, and other equipment;

            "* * *

            "(8) Plan and supervise all provisions for the housing of the junior college and its equipment;

            "(9) Perform all other lawful acts necessary to the administration and operation of the junior college."

            Under subdivision (8) it is clear that the term "housing" refers only to the college and its educational facilities as distinguished from residential facilities.  This statute may be compared with RCW 28.76.180, defining certain powers vested in the governing boards of the University of Washington, the State College of Washington, and the state colleges of education in Ellensburg, Cheney and Bellingham.  These boards are authorized to contract for, erect, and finance buildings for dormitory, hospital, and infirmary, student, faculty and employee housing and boarding purposes.  The comparison points up clearly the limitations upon the boards of trustees of junior colleges.  It should be noted that the power to establish housing for the students of the state colleges of education is again specifically granted by RCW 28.81.050 (11):

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            "* * *

            "(11) May provide and operate boarding houses for the accommodation of students on a self-sustaining basis;"

            It is our opinion that junior colleges were intended to possess a local character.  The legislature sets forth the responsibility of the local residents for housing and permanent equipment for junior colleges as follows:

            "28.84.110 ‑ Buildings and equipment provided by residents.  Tuition fees and donations may be used to provide housing and permanent equipment for junior colleges.  Beyond that, the residents of the area served have the responsibility of providing the housing and permanent equipment of the junior college within that area."

            The term "housing" is here used in the same sense as hereinbefore indicated.  It would appear that the legislature intended that junior colleges should serve a community as an extension of the high school system.  This is evidenced by the provisions of RCW 28.84.160 providing for the discontinuance of a junior college and in lieu thereof the addition of two years of vocational or educational training to the usual twelve year course of common school education.  We believe that it was the intent of the legislature that junior colleges would be attended by students of the area in which such school was located, and it was therefore unnecessary to grant the power to provide domiciliary facilities.

            It is well settled that school districts, under our system of government, possess only such powers as may be conferred upon them by legislative enactment, (State ex rel. School District 301 v. Clausen, 109 Wash. 37, 186 Pac. 319).  The same rule would be applicable with respect to the board of trustees of a junior college.  Careful analysis of the statutes indicates that they do not, either expressly or by reasonable implication, grant any authority for the erection of student residential facilities for junior colleges.

            In view of the answer to the second question, it is unnecessary to answer the third and fourth questions.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]   We hope that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General