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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1954 No. 333 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


Trustees of the colleges of education cannot authorize tuition charges as to students, other than extension students enrolled therein, but may authorize the assessment ofspecial fees for special or extra classes and activities.

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                                                                 October 5, 1954

Honorable Paul W. Ellis
Legislative Auditor
Legislative Budget Committee
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as: AGO 53-55 No. 333

Dear Sir:

            In answer to your request of September 16, 1954, regarding fees and tuition charged by colleges of education, it is our opinion that the express words of RCW 28.81.080 must be followed.

            You asked the question, whether the trustees of the colleges of education may charge fees and tuition comparable to those charged by the University of Washington and the State College of Washington for similar courses.  We conclude that the trustees of the colleges of education cannot charge a student, other than an extension student, tuition fees, but that special or extra fees may be assessed for special or extra classes and activities.


            The apparent intent of the legislature in enacting RCW 28.81.080 was to induce as many students as possible to follow the teaching profession by giving them a tuition-free education.  RCW 28.81.080 provides:

            "No tuition shall be charged but an annual fee of ten  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] dollars may be charged to each student; one‑half to be applied to the support of the library, the other half to be returned to the student at the end of the school year less just charges for loss or damage to books caused by him.  Fees for extension courses may also be charged which shall be uniform in all state colleges of education; these fees shall be held in a special revolving fund for carrying on the extension work."

            The above statute, expressly forbids a tuition charge in any of the three colleges of education in Washington State.  The legislature, however, apparently intended to differentiate betweentuition, as such, and other fees, which here is expressly allowed in regard to library charges.  The statute permits a fee of ten dollars annually, half to be returned if there is no loss or damage of any books secured by the student from the school library, as a library fee.  The statute indicates that this fee "may be charged" which would appear to suggest a permissive but not mandatory charge without expressly stating a limit.  Under RRS § 4619, however, from which part of RCW 28.81.080 was taken, the student "may be required to pay into the library fund of the school a sum not to exceed ten dollars * * *"  This apparent conflict is resolved by RCW 1.04.020, which in essence states that the previously existing meanings are not to be construed as changed by the Revised Code of Washington.  Therefore the limit on the library fee is ten dollars, if the trustees deem it advisable to so assess the charge.

            By distinguishing fees and tuition, as they have above, the legislature evidently intended to leave certain other fees unregulated.  Therefore it would appear that if the trustees, under the discretionary power granted to them by RCW 28.81.050 (19), which permits them to "do anything reasonably implied from the powers granted and necessarily implied from their offices;" deemed it necessary to make certain special or extra charges for activities and classes of a special nature, they could do so without violating the express terms of RCW 28.81.080.

            Extra or special classes or activities, as we have designated them, may well be illustrated by reference to the 1953-55 catalog of the Eastern Washington College of Education.  The catalog provides on page 7, under the heading "expenses," as follows:

            "Tuition.  There is no tuition at Eastern Washington College.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "Minimum Fees:

            "Student Activities Fee (athletics, lectures and entertainments, social life, publications) . . .                     ............................................................................. $17.50

"Laboratory, Equipment, and Building Fee                     9.50    

"Library Fee (books and magazines) . .                         ......... 3.00......

"Health Fee (student health and infirmary

            support)............................................................................................ 2.50      

"Guidance Fee (materials) . . . . . . . .                .50      

                                "Total . . . . . . . . . .           $33.00

            "Each regular student pays each quarter minimum fees amounting to $33.00.  These are paid during the first three days of the quarter in accordance with appointments arranged by the registrar's office.  The student should bring money in the form of a cashier's check or bank draft made out to the Eastern Washington College of Education.  There are additional fees for such purposes as individual instruction in music, graduation, breakage, registration changes, late registrations, transcripts."

            In addition to those fees, there are Music, Bachelor's Degree, Master's Degree, Certification, Breakage and other miscellaneous fees, all relating to things which a school would not ordinarily be required to furnish free.  The Student Body fee for example, is for the student's representative organization, and the fee usually includes all the sports events and many other extra-curricular activities.  It was not the intent of the legislature that fees of this nature be furnished by the college without charge.

            From that analysis, therefore, we conclude that the present fees being charged, such as those indicated by the quotation from the Eastern Washington College of Education catalog, are within the spirit of RCW 28.81.080.

            As to tuition charges, the decisions have consistently held that "tuition" means precisely what it says, and except in extension courses, no charge may be made for the privilege of attending a college as such.  In a March 27, 1947 [[to Dr. W. W. Haggard, Western Washington College]], ruling, this office stated that no tuition may be charged for graduate work at the colleges of education.  Other decisions have similarly construed the statute.  If it becomes necessary, for the welfare of the colleges involved, to make a  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] tuition charge, it will be necessary to amend the statute to permit it.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General