Much of the disagreement among SUNY Central staff and leaders at the college in Canton surrounded the tuition paid by Bosnian students.
Per the original agreement between SUNY Canton and the American University in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the students paid $175 per credit hour, or $525 for a three-credit course.
And although it was a small fortune for many Bosnian families — over the course of a year, AUBiH tuition is more than Bosnia’s per capita gross domestic product — it was as low as SUNY was willing to go in negotiations with AUBiH president Denis Prcic in 2006.
And it was too low for comfort among some SUNY Central officials, who privately worried that it violated state tuition policies.
SUNY’s policies stated that schools such as SUNY Canton could charge $525 for a three-credit course, but only for associate degree programs that didn’t lead to a bachelor’s degree. SUNY Canton’s partnership with AUBiH was for bachelor’s degrees.
But David Lavallee, the universitywide provost, said that the tuition Bosnian students had paid to SUNY was permissible because it was a pilot program. At first, SUNY wasn’t sure whether the students were going to matriculate, or become full-fledged SUNY Canton students, Mr. Lavallee said.
The initial agreement between AUBiH and SUNY Canton, however, did envision that students would matriculate, according to founding documents.
And according to sources, SUNY was concerned that SUNY Canton was violating the state university system’s tuition policy by offering the discounted rate, and shared broader concerns about the legitimacy of the institution. Some officials surmised that the deal was a way of easily inflating enrollment numbers at SUNY Canton. News releases from SUNY Canton that touted its growing enrollment numbers noted that growth overseas, including in Bosnia, was helping. At one point, 400 students were enrolled at AUBiH, and thus, SUNY Canton.
At SUNY Central’s behest, the tuition for Bosnian students was hiked to $1,179 for a three-credit course after the deal fell apart in 2011. After a student outcry and threats of a lawsuit, the tuition was lowered to $230 per credit hour.
As part of the agreement between SUNY Canton and SUNY Central, SUNY Canton agreed not to use any state funds to lower the tuition rate, according to former SUNY Canton President Joseph L. Kennedy.