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CHANCELLOR PUSHES SUNY TUITION HIKE

State University of New York Chancellor Robert L. King will resign from his job in just five weeks, but he's still out on the road promoting an ambitious tuition change for SUNY.

Tuesday, he stopped by Buffalo State College to push a proposal that never won support from the State Legislature and was not included in the new budget.

King insisted that the proposal -- which would tie annual tuition increases to an inflation index -- remains alive and could be approved for the 2006-07 school year.

"We'd all like to say no tuition (increase), but I think it doesn't realistically meet the needs of the university," said King, speaking in Warren Enters Theater.

King may not be around to see that happen. Officials in Nevada announced this week that King is one of two finalists for chancellor of the state's university system.

Currently, he is in line to be Potsdam State College's interim president and later move into a $206,000-a-year position as a university professor.

That appointment is drawing criticism.

"It's not justifiable, and it's not affordable, either," said Anthony Burgio, president of the University at Buffalo Student Association.

King's proposal would have tuition for an entering class rise by an amount tied to a higher-education inflation index, and those students would be guaranteed that rate for four years.

But several aspects of the proposal have been criticized, particularly that tuition could rise above the rate of inflation if the state does not meet its commitment to cover staff raises, increased energy expenses and other mandated costs.

Assembly Majority Leader Paul A. Tokasz, D-Cheektowaga, said that Assembly Democrats are open to the idea of guaranteed tuition but that he and other officials doubt that any action would be taken in the current session.

Tokasz criticized King and the SUNY board of trustees for seeking tuition increases instead of prodding Gov. George E. Pataki to boost state aid. Most of the trustees, like King, are Pataki appointees.

In an interview, King shrugged off criticism of his appointment as a university professor.

"This was a decision that the board made. I didn't ask them to do it. I think it was a gesture on their part," King said. SUNY later provided a list of 28 other campus and system officials who received such appointments, including 11 since 1990.

"Just because there's precedent for the decision doesn't make it right," said Assemblyman James P. Hayes, R-Amherst.

Other critics say King does not have the academic credentials to merit the faculty post.

"I think it makes a mockery of higher education," said John C.G. Boot, a UB management professor and former union president.

The Associated Press reported King's selection as one of two finalists for the Nevada chancellorship after his visit to Buffalo State.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com