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Enrollment at State University of New York campuses fell by 13,000 students this fall -- but that number is "much less than was feared would be the case," interim Chancellor John W. Ryan told the SUNY board of trustees here Thursday.

The figures, not yet final, show a total of 369,881 full- and part-time students, compared with 382,859 this time last year, Ryan said.

At the same time, there has been a slight increase in the number of full-time students on SUNY's 64 campuses -- 238,047, compared, with 237,674 in the fall of 1995.

The trustees, in a departure from their usual procedure, held their monthly meeting on a campus -- the North Campus of the University at Buffalo.

Scott W. Steffey, vice chancellor for university relations, told them SUNY needs new ways to attract students, in particular high school graduates who are migrating from New York to go to college.

"At any given time, an estimated 115,000 New Yorkers are getting a college education outside the state," he said.

New marketing efforts need to be developed to recruit in-state and transfer students, adult returning students, first-year students from other states, international students "and the worldwide market for classes through distance-learning technology," he said.

"We should think about adjusting our out-of-state tuition level to make ourselves much more attractive to others."

While the trustees met upstairs in UB's Capen Hall, they missed a small rally by several student and labor organizations downstairs.

Calling themselves United for SUNY, the groups hoped to call the trustees' attention to expired employee contracts, fee increases and the threat not only of jobs being contracted out but also the loss of tenure and programs, including African-American and women's studies, at UB.

"We want the SUNY board to conduct an investigation into UB," said Fernando Maisonett, president of UB's undergraduate Student Association. "We feel the ranking of the university has fallen down."

Jean Dickson, president of United University Professions, said she represented professors and professionals concerned about "contracting out" provisions the state is asking for in new contract negotiations.

"This is exactly the same thing as getting rid of tenure," she claimed. "The state could contract us out of our jobs."

In other business, the board:

Authorized mandatory health insurance programs at SUNY's 64 campuses. Mandatory health insurance for full-time students has existed as a pilot program at five SUNY campuses, including UB, since 1976. Adoption of Thursday's resolution extends this possibility to all campuses. Students with comparable insurance coverage, or who object to coverage on the basis of religious beliefs, would be exempt.

Approved raising the $50 ceiling on intercollegiate athletics fees at the SUNY campuses to $100 per semester. The new ceiling at state-operated campuses will be effective starting with the spring 1997 semester. It is an option for the campuses.

Approved acquisition of a portion of the long-desired Ruslander property by Buffalo State College for $308,000 and up to $42,000 in moving expenses.

A total of $4 million was appropriated by the state, mainly for the purchase, three years ago. At the time, Buffalo State hoped to buy close to four acres and two buildings west of the campus from Ruslander and Sons.

The property the college now expects to buy, at 2 Letchworth Ave. at Grant Street, is currently owned by Jewett Refrigerator Co., a division of Ruslander. It consists of about 1.6 acres and a 38,000-square-foot building.

The college expects to sign for the property by the end of the year.

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