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COURSE CORRECTION: SUNY Canton relationship with Bosnian university falls apart

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CANTON - It was 6 in the morning and the streets of Sarajevo were nearly empty. A jet-lagged Joseph L. Kennedy wanted only to find his hotel room to rest, but the Bosnian student escorting him was insistent; he wanted the president of SUNY Canton to follow him to the middle of an eight-lane highway.

There on a quiet June 2010 morning in the heart of the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the pair stood for a moment until a perplexed Mr. Kennedy finally asked, “What are we doing?”

The escort turned and pointed toward a hill overlooking the city.

“That’s where the Serbs hid their snipers,” Mr. Kennedy remembers the Bosnian student staying. “They waited for children to cross the intersection, and tried to kill the children, because they didn’t want another generation.”

Standing in a place where 15 years earlier bullets rained down on innocent civilians reinforced Mr. Kennedy’s bold plan, which began four years earlier, using the resources of tiny SUNY Canton to help develop a center for peaceful academic pursuit in a country that had suffered through the bloodiest ethnic cleansing on European soil since World War II.

“From that, the country has progressed,” Mr. Kennedy said. “This college has gotten these different groups, the ethnic Serbs, the Croats and the Muslims, together at this college, to room together, to be friends, to drink Tuzla beer together. That is a huge step from hiding in the hills, trying to kill the children.”

But today, Mr. Kennedy’s dream is dead, and a postmortem is revealing why.

For more than four years beginning in 2006, SUNY Canton ignored explicit warning signs about the crumbling finances of the American University in Bosnia and Herzegovina (AUBiH), its questionable academic integrity and its president’s alleged erratic behavior, according to former professors, Bosnian students and SUNY Central officials in Albany.

Even as the relationship between college leaders in Bosnia and Canton was quickly unraveling last year, more Bosnian students were allowed to sign up for courses. What they found was a school that was suffering from rapid turnover in professors, sudden hikes in tuition and advertised courses that in fact did not exist. Students interviewed by the Daily Courier-Observer through email said the chaos forced them to either drop out, borrow more money to stay in school or give up hope of getting back money they paid upfront for classes they never took.

Even while accusing AUBiH of owing it money, SUNY Canton continued to send out news releases touting its relationship with the international program and urging SUNY Canton students to consider a study year in Bosnia.

The memory of what could have been still haunts Mr. Kennedy.

“I wish I could have done something,” Mr. Kennedy said. “I’m really sorry that it didn’t work out.”

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SUNY Central administration, which oversees the state’s 64 public universities, today has little interest in discussing what went wrong between SUNY Canton and a startup university thousands of miles away in the Balkans. It also has no interest in discussing the relationship it had at the time with Mr. Kennedy, who is no longer president of SUNY Canton but works directly for SUNY Central in Albany.

It provided a small batch of documents about the beginnings of the program, but not a true accounting of the internal battles and concerns between it and SUNY Canton, and also AUBiH.

The AUBiH side of the story was stitched together through interviews with friends and associates of Denis Prcic, a 37-year-old American citizen who was born and raised in Bosnia and is now the president of AUBiH. Mr. Prcic declined multiple requests to be interviewed; friends and foes alike describe him as driven, ambitious and abrasive.

Mr. Prcic’s ex-wife, Selma, also declined to speak with the DCO about him. According to Rochester City Court records, Mr. Prcic in 1994 was charged with third-degree assault against her and pleaded guilty to harassment.

From interviews with people who know him, Mr. Prcic was in his late teens or early 20s when he came to America in the mid-1990s. What he left behind was a region in the midst of unspeakable horror. Bosnia is made up of three major groups: Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Christian Serbs and Catholic Croats. From 1992 to 1995, the three groups fought over territory in the former Yugoslav republic. The result was an estimated 100,000 dead and a nation divided.

In the safety of the United States, Mr. Prcic took odd jobs, such as working at a liquor warehouse, while also attending college classes.

In 2001, he earned an associate degree in business administration from Monroe Community College, Rochester, according to an MCC spokeswoman. In 2004, Mr. Prcic received a bachelor’s degree in applied science and technology from Rochester Institute of Technology, according to an RIT spokesman.

An image captured from a Facebook page that appears to belong to Mr. Prcic says he has a master’s degree from the University of Rochester, too, but Mr. Prcic never graduated from there, a university spokeswoman said.

By 2002, Mr. Prcic was leading the American outpost for a company that outsourced computer programming work to eastern European countries, according to a story in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

“He tried to live the American dream,” said John “Dutch” Summers, the owner of JASCO Tools and a noted philanthropist. “He was only moderately successful, but he impressed me. He worked eight days a week at things he pursued.”

Mr. Summers said he met Mr. Prcic in the late 1990s through a local judge whom they both knew.

In the mid-2000s, when Mr. Prcic started his newest business venture — a for-profit university in Bosnia — Mr. Summers told him to surround himself with people involved in education. Mr. Prcic proved especially adept at persuading academic and government officials to support his efforts.

He developed a compelling story: Despite the end of the war in Bosnia, its society was still stratified among its three major ethnic groups with most universities separating Muslims, Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats students.

AUBiH would be different, Mr. Prcic said.

Mr. Summers gave Mr. Prcic several hundred thousand dollars in seed money and later made several loans. Mr. Prcic has repaid some of the loans and asked for extensions on others, Mr. Summers said.

Mr. Prcic enlisted the help of several U.S. diplomats to add to his university’s credibility. Three former U.S. ambassadors — one to Bosnia and two to other Eastern European countries — have served on the university’s board of directors. Two of them have been registered lobbyists for Republika Srpska, an independent republic in Bosnia.

Richard Popovic, who met Mr. Prcic through Mr. Summers, was involved in some of the first meetings, including a dinner meeting in 2005 with Mr. Prcic and a former U.S. ambassador to Bosnia, Clifford Bond. Mr. Popovic was then in the private sector, but had been a dean at the University of Rochester. After that dinner meeting, Mr. Popovic became the public, American face of the AUBiH, with a name that signaled his common heritage. On one trip overseas, he was a guest on the television show “Good Morning Bosnia.” In addition to his academic duties, the company he owned helped process payments for soon-to-be-hired American professors.

In 2009, Mr. Popovic ended his relationship with the university, but wouldn’t go into detail about why he left, saying only that it was for personal reasons.

“I don’t know how the guy does it. It’s amazing,” Mr. Popovic said of Mr. Prcic. “This is a thing that, no matter how many problems you have with Denis, in the end, he was getting stuff done.”

Part of getting stuff done was developing a relationship with SUNY Central to validate the Bosnian university.

But the initial review by SUNY officials was not positive.

“Other than me and some of my own staff, there is little enthusiasm here for this sort of project,” wrote John Ryder, who was then a top official in international academic affairs at SUNY, in a May 2006 email. “As I explained, Ambassador (Robert) Gosende, though he wishes AUBiH well, does not have much hope for ‘American universities’ of this kind.”

(Ambassador Gosende was a longtime foreign service officer who became a SUNY official in 1998.)

Despite its trepidation about the plan, SUNY Central left the decision about getting involved with AUBiH up to its individual campuses.

SUNY Canton was one of several to step forward, according to email records, and SUNY Central approved an agreement between SUNY Canton and AUBiH in 2006.

Partnering with AUBiH was hardly the only thing Mr. Kennedy was juggling in Canton as he created a campuswide explosion that saw the state’s second-smallest SUNY school almost double its student census to nearly 4,000 within a decade. During that time, Mr. Kennedy developed partnerships with Guangdong Women’s Polytechnic Institute (China); International Institute for Health Sciences (Sri Lanka); Kazan State Finance and Economics Institute, Yalta University of Management and Lomonsov Moscow State University (Russia); and Universite du Quebec a Montreal.

In 2006, SUNY Canton submitted an application to join the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and announced four-year athletic programs to begin in the fall of 2007. The school also was building a $1.8 million synthetic turf field and an $18 million athletic and convocation center.

And Mr. Kennedy wanted SUNY Canton to become the state’s leader in online education.

Under the AUBiH agreement, Mr. Prcic’s administration would hire mostly American instructors, who would teach at the main Tuzla campus. Higher-level courses would be provided via video and online courses produced in Canton. Bosnian students would be considered dual enrollees, and after four years have a Bosnian degree and a bachelor’s degree from SUNY.

Newly enrolled students paid $175 per credit hour, a lower rate than even SUNY’s in-state tuition. Yet, Mr. Kennedy said, SUNY Canton made money off the deal. To break even, SUNY Canton needed only 12 paying students in a Bosnian classroom watching videos of SUNY Canton professors. Most classes, however, had 30 to 50 students.

“You do the math,” Mr. Kennedy said.

With the SUNY Canton agreement in hand, Mr. Prcic then starting making some serious connections. The university’s Facebook page includes photographs of Mr. Prcic posing with former U.S. President Bill Clinton; and his daughter, Chelsea; former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark; civil rights advocate Jesse Jackson, and actor and activist Ben Stiller.

The page — sharply designed with the university’s logo and the Statue of Liberty superimposed over a red, white and blue shield — also includes testimonials from several members of Congress. The letters laud the relationship between SUNY Canton and AUBiH.

The high point of the relationship came during an AUBiH graduation in the summer of 2010, when Mr. Clinton, who founded the Clinton Global Initiative, spoke to graduates via videoconference and singled out by name Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Prcic.

“I congratulate the founders of the university and the partners at the State University of New York for this profoundly important initiative,” Mr. Clinton told the graduates in the video. “Congratulations again. And good luck.”

Mr. Kennedy said later: “To me, it was a big deal. ... President Clinton is a saint there.”

Indeed, it was in 1995 that President Clinton’s administration helped forge, enforce and maintain peace in Bosnia after nearly four years of war. Since then, Serbian military leaders have been jailed for war crimes amid evidence of ethnic cleansing and widespread murder of civilians, including 71 Bosnians in what became known as the Tuzla Massacre.

The significance that most AUBiH classes were taking place in Tuzla was not lost on academics and historians.

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But even an astute Bosnia observer such as Mr. Clinton could not know about AUBiH’s troubled undercurrents that would sink its relationship with SUNY Canton.

In 2008, SUNY Canton was continuing its breakneck growth, adding more bachelor’s degrees, from graphic and multimedia design to industrial technology management. Enrollment, which was 2,100 in 2000, was 2,776 eight years later, including 100 students who started classes that year at AUBiH.

But while supporters of SUNY Canton were happily watching it become one of the biggest online education schools in the SUNY system, some six times zones away in Bosnia rumblings regarding AUBiH’s academic integrity were beginning to grow.

Several former AUBiH professors — none of whom was hired or vetted by SUNY Canton — told the Times they had concerns about taking jobs at the international college, but reasoned that if a state school in New York was involved, the college was probably aboveboard. They came to regret making that assumption, and several who spoke to the Times blame Mr. Kennedy and other U.S. government and academic leaders for not reacting more quickly to their complaints about AUBiH and Mr. Prcic.

Their allegations, which stretch from an initial complaint in 2008 to an exodus of American professors in 2010 and 2011, include:

n Mr. Prcic verbally abused employees and threatened several with physical violence.

n University officials hacked into professors’ emails, and the university’s drivers took notes on their conversations, reporting them back to Mr. Prcic.

n To cut costs, the university fired American professors and replaced them with Bosnian professors. (On the university’s website, only five out of 28 professors have non-Bosnian names.) That included positions for professors of English.

n The university encouraged professors to fail students against whom Mr. Prcic had a personal grudge. Students with political connections were allowed to cheat. Meanwhile, to keep up its enrollment numbers, the students were allowed to cheat on their tests of English language.

n SUNY Canton was aware of academic integrity issues, but did nothing to address the problems, the professors said.

“When you have clear evidence that the university is just a fraud and the guy you keep getting on a stage with and patting on the back is an abusive creep, I would have expected that they’d change their tune,” said Mark Gillis, the former dean of the law program there. “But they’re not going to.”

Said Thomas Lombardi, a former AUBiH professor who now teaches at Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania: “If you compare AUBiH to Washington and Jefferson, it’s unacceptable. If you compare AUBiH to (other Bosnian universities), where there is a menu to purchase grades and students are propositioned by teachers for sex for grades, I think it’s much better.”

The professors who spoke with the newspaper were Mr. Lombardi, Mr. Gillis, Barbara Brown, Melvin Sterne, Kenneth Szculzyk, Ann Henry, Jeff Kelleher, Steve Reames, John Leonard and John Dayton.

The university, they said, is ethically and academically bankrupt, and perhaps on the verge of financial bankruptcy, too. The claims of financial peril were based not on any inside information, but from deducing that the college must be in trouble because it was making serious cutbacks.

Admir Muharemagic, a legal adviser for the Bosnian university, issued a blanket denial of the professors’ allegations. He said that the former professors were either fired or their contracts were not renewed for a litany of reasons, including threatening students and general drunken depravity.

“Every time someone fires someone, every time the professor quits at any university, they are never happy people,” Mr. Muharemagic said. “They will always try to paint someone in a negative picture.”

The allegations of depravity from AUBiH officials weren’t new to American professors. Two professors, for example, were accused of having sex on the front lawn of AUBiH, according to former professors.

“This alleged non-performance and scandalous behavior is ridiculous if it were not slander,” said Ms. Henry, one of the former professors. “Middle-aged academics with their own apartments do not copulate on lawns.”

Mr. Muharemagic said that the university had files on each of the professors that detailed why they were let go. Asked to share the files with the DCO, Mr. Muharemagic said that the university’s case would be proven in a lawsuit he threatened to file against the newspaper.

Several former professors and others associated with the university said Mr. Prcic threatened them. Mr. Kelleher, one of the former American professors in Bosnia, said he witnessed Mr. Prcic confront a fellow American professor at a restaurant “incoherently, eyes blazing, breathing hard. Scary guy.”

Faculty and students told the DCO they were worried that AUBiH might not have been properly registered with authorities and embellished the level of courses it offers. On its website, the 400-student university touts doctoral programs in computer engineering, international law, industrial technology management and international finance. But former professors said that even if the university was accredited to give those degrees, it didn’t have the professors to be able to do so. At one point, the university listed 30 majors and programs, two more than it has professors and lecturers.

A representative for AUBiH said the PhD program is not yet operational, a fact not mentioned on the university’s website.

The professors said they made their concerns known to SUNY Canton officials, but SUNY Canton dismissed them as unfounded.

According to the former professors, SUNY Canton officials witnessed Mr. Prcic unilaterally fail a student for plagiarism, even though the student was guilty only of not paying her bills on time.

Mr. Kennedy said that he wasn’t aware of the specific concerns of professors. And he said that SUNY Canton did its due diligence in making sure the university conformed to American standards.

Meanwhile, the SUNY system itself was undergoing major changes with the hiring of a new chancellor, Nancy L. Zimpher. In 2009, she began a tour of the state’s 64 colleges.

“I think we’re her 30th campus,” said Mr. Kennedy at the time. “So just trying to get her to remember us is going to be a heavy lift. If she just remembers that we’re a creative, innovative college, I’ll be a happy person.”

To help Ms. Zimpher remember Canton, Mr. Kennedy had her tour renovated residence halls and the $39.5 million Convocation, Athletic and Recreation Center under construction. He then introduced her to many of the more than 80 international students and faculty members on campus that summer from Russia, China and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

But back in Bosnia, AUBiH professors were busy visiting the American Embassy in Sarajevo with their complaints, including their allegations that Mr. Prcic threatened them with physical violence.

Thomas E. Mesa, the head of public affairs at the embassy, fielded those concerns, and in an interview with the Times, vouched for AUBiH.

“The university does provide a U.S. standard education,” Mr. Mesa said. “That’s good for the students. We do support the university.”

That support includes the embassy’s helping AUBiH organize a conference on cyber warfare matters in September. The conference included Bosnian and American defense officials, according to the university.

Asked about specific complaints from professors, Mr. Mesa said: “I don’t want to talk about those concerns.”

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In Albany, the Kennedy-Prcic agreement was now on everyone’s radar after Mitch Leventhal, who was hired by SUNY Chancellor Zimpher to oversee international programs, determined that AUBiH was not meeting SUNY’s academic criteria, according to Albany sources.

His findings led the state SUNY board to amend its policies in March 2011 to ensure future SUNY international programs aren’t approved unless they are fully overseen in Albany.

Albany’s growing criticism of AUBiH prompted a string of emails between Mr. Prcic and Mr. Kennedy. Mr. Prcic thought his university was being taken advantage of because SUNY Canton wasn’t helping the Bosnian university expand. SUNY Canton’s professors seemed not to care about the program, he alleged.

“We should have probably been investing more,” Mr. Kennedy said recently. “But they had never asked us to invest more.”

In May 2011, Mr. Prcic appeared increasingly desperate to enroll more students.

Mr. Prcic asked Mr. Kennedy and Ryan Dueul, Mr. Kennedy’s chief of staff, if SUNY Canton would allow him to put even more students in classes, but not sign them up for SUNY courses. They essentially would audit the courses and pay the Bosnian university a lower tuition rate.

SUNY said no.

“You guys thinking that your are Kings of the world because I did absolutely everything to enrollee you 400 students from Bosnia in the last four years and 30 students from all over the world that you have enrolled at SUNY Canton,” Mr. Prcic wrote in a May 2011 email. “Second you guys did such a great job at SUNY Canton for two years that no student from AUBiH want to come to SUNY Canton. That no AUBiH faculty want to talk to you faculty, that we at administration are (fed) up from all of your must do list for AUBiH, that you for last 5 years did not invest one penny in this operation, that you could not even give one scholarship to poor students.”

“History,” Mr. Prcic concluded in his May 2011 email.

Yet a month later, the two men appeared to have settled the dispute.

Mr. Kennedy said he thought the two sides could come together to renegotiate the contract even after the terse email exchanges and growing complaints in Albany. On a television show during another visit to Bosnia, Mr. Kennedy touted the relationship and announced a new program for the incoming class.

Back in the north country, SUNY Canton announced in a June 14, 2011, news release: “A new study abroad experience in the Balkans will immerse SUNY Canton students in a part of the world famous for its traditional religious diversity and long and rich history.”

The release included a quote from Mr. Kennedy: “Through conversations I’ve had with students from the American University in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I’ve learned how much they’ve valued their experience and how much they’ve learned about better serving the global community. We are now able to offer our students this same opportunity and the chance to work with the wonderful faculty and staff members at the university. As our two institutions continue to build upon the relationship we have with each other, the biggest benefactors will be our students.”

But just months later, SUNY Canton notified SUNY’s Central that the dispute over tuition was intractable, with threats of a lawsuit and increasing demands from Mr. Prcic. According to internal emails, SUNY Canton told SUNY’s Central administration in early September it was working to shut down the program.

Mr. Muharemagic, AUBiH’s spokesman, said his university was planning to teach the rest of the dual enrollees under the same conditions as the contract that was in place — at the same tuition rate, with the same video-link classes, for four more years — but not admit another class of students after fall 2011.

But that wasn’t going to work, either, as SUNY Central also was angered that Mr Kennedy had negotiated tuition rates that were lower than SUNY’s in-state rates, an Albany source told the Times

In November 2011, SUNY Canton claimed that AUBiH was withholding $1.5 million in payments, an allegation AUBiH denied. Because of that, SUNY said, the relationship was over.

Mr. Kennedy’s account was echoed by David K. Lavallee, the No. 2 official at SUNY.

Bosnian students were told in a letter they could enroll directly with SUNY and could ask that their AUBiH courses be transferred. But there was no guarantee. And the new tuition rate would be three times the rate they had been paying.

AUBiH students were no longer special. They were now in the same position as anyone else in the world with a cashier’s check for $1,179 and a desire to take online courses through SUNY.

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Meanwhile, a much more high-profile fight was taking place closer to home and it colored the relationship between the central administration in Albany and its school in Canton.

In late July 2011, allies of Mr. Kennedy went public with SUNY Central’s plan to consolidate the administrations at SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam, which are about 10 miles apart.

The plan affected schools statewide and is designed, SUNY officials say, to reduce costs so that tuition and course offerings can be kept stable.

In St. Lawrence County, John “Fritz” Schwaller, the president of SUNY Potsdam, would run both campuses. Mr. Kennedy, who had led his school for 18 years, would go to Albany to become an adviser to Chancellor Zimpher. Sources told the Times that SUNY Central developed the merger plan after Mr. Kennedy indicated he planned to retire.

But that is not how it came out as Mr. Kennedy declined frequent Times requests to comment about his alleged retirement. His allies became incensed with Ms. Zimpher and SUNY Central, believing that Mr. Kennedy was being unceremoniously pushed out after a successful tenure. They cited the fact that the college, growing continuously toward 4,000 students, now offers four-year degree programs and popular summer and winter sessions. It offers 190 courses and eight bachelor’s degree programs available entirely online.

As a war of words escalated between SUNY Central and the SUNY Canton College Council, SUNY Provost Mr. Lavallee wrote to Mr. Kennedy to chastise him for publicly criticizing the plan to share presidencies, and rescinded the offer to work as an adviser to Ms. Zimpher.

(Ms. Zimpher declined a Times request for an interview for this story, although her letter of support for the AUBiH-SUNY Canton partnership is still on the AUBiH website).

While most north country residents had no idea of the fight going on between Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Prcic in Bosnia, SUNY Potsdam officials most certainly did. According to several sources, SUNY Potsdam’s administration feared it might have to inherit the growing mess thousands of miles away.

A spokeswoman for SUNY Potsdam deferred comment to SUNY’s central administration.

Mr. Kennedy officially stepped down from his SUNY Canton post in August and is now an adviser to Ms. Zimpher. Mr. Schwaller recently announced his resignation from SUNY Potsdam, effective next summer. SUNY Canton has an interim president, but how the schools will be operating next year has not been announced.

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In the months following the split with AUBiH and SUNY Canton, more than a third of the 400 students dropped out amid uncertainty about tuition, according to estimates among former students.

And all the while, supporters of the university in Washington, D.C., pressured SUNY not to increase the tuition rates for Bosnian students.

Jared Jacobson, a lawyer based in Philadelphia, Pa., who was representing AUBiH at the time, wrote to SUNY officials in February to claim that SUNY was discriminating against Bosnian students by making them pay more.

The tersely worded letter concluded by saying that if the Bosnian university didn’t hear back soon, “we shall consider alternative resolutions to this matter.”

Mr. Jacobson said the contract between SUNY Canton and the Bosnian university left unclear lines of division and responsibilities.

“It’s not worth the paper it’s printed on,” Mr. Jacobson said.

SUNY decided to scale back its tuition demands, but denies that it buckled to political pressure or the threats of a lawsuit.

But even if the political pressure didn’t affect SUNY’s decision, it certainly existed. The end of the relationship became an international dispute, involving Bosnian government officials, the American embassy in Sarajevo and members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mr. Prcic’s support from American policymakers persists to this day. For example, AUBiH recently launched an internship program for Bosnian students to work in the U.S. Congress.

One of the representatives who wrote to Mr. Prcic to laud the relationship with SUNY Canton was concerned when it fell apart.

U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Democrat who represents the Rochester area, was one of the many American political figures to intervene.

“As someone who saw first-hand the struggles of young people torn apart by the Bosnian war, I fought to ensure that students from American University in Bosnia and Herzegovina were able to continue their studies at SUNY Canton,” she said in an emailed statement. “New York is home to an educational system that is second to none, and it was vital that students who had pursued a premiere education be given a chance to succeed.”

Mr. Kennedy, still smarting from complaints by Mr. Prcic that he was offering no scholarships to students, then announced that SUNY Canton found a pot of scholarship money. As part of its deal with SUNY’s central administration, SUNY Canton agreed not to use any direct state aid to fund the scholarships, Mr. Kennedy said. He’s not sure of the exact figure that has been paid from the fund, nor what fund it came from. Essentially, it’s an accounting change; on paper, the students are paying the out-of-state tuition, but are being credited with scholarship funds to lower the cost.

The students still will have to pay a small increase — $230 per credit hour, from the $175 that they had paid before, and it will increase 7 percent annually.

SUNY officials called it a reasonable compromise as they continue to extricate SUNY Canton from AUBiH.

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By 2014, SUNY Canton’s presence at AUBiH will be, as Mr. Prcic might write, “history.” Even now, neither school is doing much to acknowledge the other. The AUBiH website still contains a link to the 2006 news release announcing its historic partnership with SUNY Canton, but the text of the release has been deleted.

Yet an American educational presence will continue in Bosnia without SUNY Canton. In June, AUBiH signed an agreement with West Virginia University, and a news release indicated that the broad outlines of the agreement make it similar to the SUNY Canton program.

(Informed of the development, former AUBiH professor Mr. Sterne said he would contact West Virginia University officials to warn them about what they had signed up for. WVU didn’t respond to a request for comment from the Times.)

If anything, supporters of SUNY Canton will be spending the next several years trying to stymie SUNY’s statewide restructuring plan, which they fear will take away SUNY Canton’s independence and make it a satellite campus of SUNY Potsdam.

SUNY Central insists that SUNY Canton will retain its identity. But the identity that Joseph L. Kennedy wanted for SUNY Canton — a little, out-of-the way college with an international baccalaureate program praised by a former president, congressmen and ambassadors — is no more.


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