Legislature confirms tuition freeze

On Friday, June 28, the Washington state legislature passed the budget correct for the fiscal year of 2013-2014.  As predicted in Bellevue College’s anticipated budget, there will be no tuition increase for students this year. Since 2008, Bellevue College’s yearly allocation has been reduced by roughly 40 percent, according to Ray White, the vice president of Administrative Services.

The week before the budget correct was passed, BC President Dr. David Rule sent out a notice to the staff that if the state did not pass the budget and give BC the allocation as of July 1, the school would continue operation regardless. “We were prepared to use our own ‘piggy bank’ and local funds until it was passed. Dr. David Rule was promising that in the short run, in the matter of days and weeks, we would continue operations and nobody would have to not come to work or class,” said White. Luckily for BC, according to the preliminary operating budget, “overall revenues will moderately exceed expenses due primarily to savings realized during the year.” Around $400,000 from the college “piggy bank” will be used for the next fiscal year.

The Washington state budget allocation only represents 27 percent of the money it takes to pay for operations at BC for a year. White shared that roughly 33 percent of campus expenses are paid for by local funds.  When allocation funding drops, it is taken out of the 27 percent that the state

provides, not the entire provision of money to pay for college expenses.

In the preliminary operating budget plan for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the analysis came down to four comprehensive assumptions: First, there will be a two percent enrollment decline, which would follow the trend beginning in 2011. Second, the report indicated that the tuition rate would not increase. This was an issue that President Rule supported. Third, it was predicted that there would be restoration for staff that lost 3 percent of their salary and were told to come to work 3 percent less of the time. Lastly, the amount of money it takes to run the school, which is currently $100 million, was projected to increase by $2 million.

When asked if the budget correct would make changes to the budget constructed in June, White said, “I’m pretty confident that we don’t have any major changes going in to the next year. The big question is how many students are going to show up in the fall.”

Over the past four years, state budgets enacted have increased tuition at colleges and universities statewide to account for expenses. The budget benefits students not only in that tuition will be held stable, but also in that there will be no fee increase for students.

On June 20, The Seattle Times reported that tuition increases in recent years have reached the double digits as the state legislature pulls away from its institutions of higher education. While the tuition increases were not as dramatic for two-year institutions as they were for four-year institutions, Executive Director of Finance and Auxillary Services Jennifer Strother said tuition increases over the past few years have averaged 12 percent, despite the school’s attempts to cut corners elsewhere and keep costs low for students. “Bellevue College cut expenses during the last two years and the cuts were made across most college departments,” said Strother.

Overall, Strother remains optimistic about the college’s financial future. “I believe this is a positive outcome for students who have had to pay a greater share of their education costs as states have cut education funding and shifted the cost to students in the form of higher tuition,” she said.