Reducing tuition and raising employee wage

Bellevue College was recently successful in getting an operating budget and a grant approved. The budget will bring a tuition reduction to BC students by fall quarter 2015, and the grant will be used to develop a computer science baccalaureate program at BC by 2016.

“The Operating Budget Office at the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges prepares a single operating budget request to go to the governor and legislature,” explained Evan Epstein, public relations manager at Bellevue College.

According to an article in the Seattle Times, the accomplishments of the 2015 Washington Legislature regarding the operating budget request were historic. Seattle Times regarded the approval for the operating budget as record new investments in K-12 education and a boost in mental-health services.

Regarding Bellevue College, the legislature approved a two-year operating budget. This budget will cause a 5 percent reduction in tuition fees starting in the fall quarter of 2015. In other words, students who paid $4,000 in the fall of 2014 will now be paying $3,800 this fall.

Vice President of Administrative Services Ray White explained, “The tuition for all community and technical colleges is set by the state legislature as part of their biannual budget process.”
Tom Nielsen, Vice President in the office of instruction, noted that with a steep price on education, there has been a declining support towards higher education  and so the tuition reduction was a last minute decision to give back to the Bellevue community.

According to the Bellevue College website, this is the first time in recent memory that the tuition in Washington state will be reduced.

Along with the tuition cuts, the Washington state Legislature also approved BC’s one-time request of $750,000 to develop a new bachelor of science for computer science, which Nielsen stated the college had wanted for a year or two.

Nielsen noted that a full bachelor’s degree was important, as it would allow first-year students to enroll in the program. The BC website stated that this is to address the growing nationwide demand for more computer science graduates. White added that if all goes well, the program would be set to begin in the fall quarter of 2016. “The college will work to build the curriculum and further authority to offer this degree,” said White.

The new budget also includes a 3 percent cost of living raise for all academic employees of community and technical colleges in the state of Washington. According to White, “BC faculty and staff will receive the additional pay as of July 1, 2015.” The three percent cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is supposed to be in place for the 2016 fiscal year before dropping to a 1.8 percent increase for the 2017 fiscal year, according to a post on Washington’s SBCTC’s official blog.

While the state legislature does most of their work in Olympia, “Bellevue College sorts out a local annual budget that is heavily influenced by the choices the legislature makes,” White explained, noting an operation budget report he put together last month, which detailed the distribution of expenses and revenue at the college, such as 21 percent of the expenses going toward client services and 20 percent of the college’s revenue being made by the tuition.

“The COLAs, tuition decrease and the new computer science bachelor’s degree were the three biggest news items to come out of the budget at BC,” said Epstein. White, however, did note some innovation funds that Dr. Dave Rule, President at Bellevue College, set aside.

These funds “advance strategically important new measures for the college,” said White. These new measures include Talk-A-Phone Emergency Call Boxes for the Administrative Service Department, a Bridge to Success Boot Camp for the Student Services Department and multiple funds directed toward the Instruction Department, which will replace BC’s Voyager library system with the current Alma.