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SUNY Chancellor Unveils $5 Billion Budget for 2005-06

By Associated Press

Albany, NY – State University of New York Chancellor Robert King on Friday sought $144 million more in state aid, a 9 percent increase, under his budget request and refused to rule out a tuition increase to help make ends meet.

"Given the state's fiscal condition, we cannot completely rule out proposing a possible tuition adjustment," King said in a prepared statement hours after he released the budget request. "I have been discussing the need to move toward a rational tuition policy for more than a year and will continue that discussion in the upcoming budget cycle.

"A tuition policy would help to provide sufficient resources for the university and to protect students and families from large, unpredictable increases," King said. He has proposed regular increases in tuition tied to a price index to avoid larger increases.

Earlier, his aides said there would be no proposal to raise tuition in SUNY's budget request.

"Here we go again," said Assembly Higher Education Committee Chairman Ronald Canestrari. "I for one think it's unconscionable to place the financial burden on our students who are TAPed out and loaned out." He made reference to TAP, the Tuition Assistance Program that provides limited aid to income-eligible students.

The 2005-06 budget was presented to the SUNY Board of Trustees Finance Committee and referred to the full board's meeting next week. The only questions or comments from the trustees were by Trustee Stephanie Gross, the student representative, who questioned why the budget sought only to restore state aid to community colleges and equal opportunity programs for minority students to previous levels.

King, Gov. George Pataki's former budget director, and board Chairman Thomas Egan made no comment from New York City, where trustees were joined in Albany and Buffalo by teleconference.

King proposed a 9 percent increase to cover the increased cost of contracted salary raises, energy and other fixed spending, but no major new spending proposals, said King spokesman David Henahan. The proposal seeks 9 percent ($87 million) more for its core instructional budget, 4 percent ($14.8 million) more for community colleges and 39 percent ($36.8 million) more for SUNY's teaching hospitals, Henahan said.

"We have our work cut out for us again this year," Canestrari said.

Miriam Kramer of the New York Public Interest Research Group said SUNY "is letting the governor off the hook too easily by simply asking him to restore cuts."

King's proposal cites the need to balance the needs of SUNY with that of state government. Pataki has projected about a $5 billion deficit in the fiscal year beginning April 1.

The proposal to the Pataki administration calls for $5.036 billion in state, tuition and all other aid, including funding from counties for community colleges. Included in the request is $137.25 million from the state.

King's proposal is expected to be adopted by the full SUNY board next week and then presented to Pataki. The governor will then review and possibly change the plan for inclusion in his executive budget proposal that will be released in January to the Legislature.

In 2003, tuition rose $950 to $4,350 a year -- after the Legislature intervened and reduced the $1,400 increase King and SUNY trustees said was needed.

The average tuition at SUNY, including state and campus fees, is $5,250, according to SUNY.