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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Board of Trustees approve new Ethnic Student Center, lower tuition

The current Ethnic Student Center. // Photo by October Yates
The current Ethnic Student Center. // Photo by October Yates

Western’s Board of Trustees meetings brought changes students have been calling for, including lowered tuition for undergraduate resident students and the approval of a new Ethnic Student Center.

This was the last meeting to be organized by President Bruce Shepard, who approved a motion to lower tuition by 15 percent in the 2016-2017 academic year.

The move aims to help ease the financial strain of Western’s residential undergraduates that make up 86 percent of its student body.

The reduction is coupled with earlier tuition decrease of five percent for the 2015-2016 academic year. The smaller decrease was the university’s response to recent state legislature demanding the lowering of tuition for resident undergraduates.

According to FinAid.org, tuition should be expected to rise at about twice the rate of inflation.  Right now, the cost of tuition rises on average eight percent each year.

Seeing as Western is a state funded university, its tuition rises and falls with legislation. Washington State’s economy has begun to recover from the recent recession, and with it comes better tuition prices, said Paul Cocke, University Director of Communications and Marketing in an email.

Western resident undergraduates should expect to save approximately $1,387 on their tuition in the next year, combining the two drops of five and 15 percent.

The same meeting planned to raise tuition by 2.9 percent in the 2016-2017 academic year for non-resident graduates, resident graduates, non-resident undergraduates and MBA students.

Another major result of the meetings was the approval of a new Ethnic Student Center, which is planned to grow to more than five times its current size.

The approval followed the call of Western students for the building, with 63 percent of them voting for it in the most recent Associated Students elections on Tuesday, April 26.

A $30 fee will be added to each student’s tuition starting fall 2017 in order to pay for the project.

Architects from Portland have been hired to renovate the spaces above the Viking Union Multipurpose room and the bookstore, with the  consideration of a skybridge to merge them.

The project is estimated to cost around $17 million. The estimated finish date is yet to be determined, Cocke said in an email.

The Board also announced its plan to better compensate Western’s professors. This will result in better access to quality professors, more openings in smaller classes and more innovative learning programs, President Bruce Shepard said in a statement.

Better compensation makes Western more of a competitor to peer colleges, Cocke said.  With better salaries, Western can afford the “top-notch” faculty it’s known for, he said.

The trustees and administration recognized Shepard’s legacy at Western. The Board passed a motion thanking him and his wife, Cyndie Shepard, for their hard work and devotion during their eight years here at Western.

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