The University of California voted Thursday to approve a tuition increase of as much as 5 percent in each of the next five years unless the state devotes more money to the 10-campus system.
The Board of Regents adopted the increase proposed by UC President Janet Napolitano with a 14-7 vote. They had to shout their votes over students chanting "Hey, hey, ho, tuition hikes have got to go.''
Demonstrators said they were angry not only about the tuition hikes but also because the outcome seemed certain even before the proposal could be debated.
Following the 14-7 vote, state Assembly Speaker John Perez said the vote was unnecessary and undermines the investment in higher education.
Perez said there is no immediate crisis that requires a tuition hike.
"It's really not a good way to move forward," Perez said.
"It's a sad day for education," Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said following the vote.
"Seeing you all come in laughing and smiling and talking about stuff made me sick to my stomach,'' UC Davis student Amelia Itnyre, 23, told the board through tears before the vote. "Students, we aren't just angry, we are sad. You should be crying, you should be praying, you should be figuring out what you are going to do to fix this.''
The increase was opposed by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders who decide how much funding the university gets each year.
Napolitano says the amount the governor has budgeted is inadequate to maintain the quality of the nation's largest public university. Brown says UC needs to come up with a more frugal way of doing business.
Tuition rates have been frozen for three years.
Napolitano and other UC officials say the pending hikes could be reduced or eliminated if the governor and Legislature boost the university's budget beyond what is now planned.
In anticipation of the vote, dozens of students slept inside a classroom building at the University of California, Berkeley. The vote came a day after students tried to stop a meeting where a board committee gave preliminary approval to the proposal.
Tuition has risen more rapidly at other public universities in the nation in recent years, and even with the increases, the cost of an education in the California system will still be cheaper than many others in the nation.
On Wednesday, students formed human chains to block committee members from entering the conference center at the University of California, Mission Bay. Pushing and shoving occurred as protesters surrounded the board members and police tried to clear a path.
Student Regent Sadia Saifuddin, who voted against the increases, told the board that while the demonstrators' tactics might be "unsavory to you all,'' the anger and fear students are feeling should not be disregarded.
"This is not just $612 more a year. This is rent. This is another job they need to get. This is food they cannot buy,'' Saifuddin said. "Let's get real about the situation. Students have always had to pay the price for financial mismanagement by the board and the state.''
Napolitano, former U.S. Homeland Security secretary and governor of Arizona, clashed with Brown on Wednesday when she insisted the system is underfunded and bristled at her fellow Democrat's suggestion that the university needs to come up with a more frugal way of doing business.
Before the vote, the governor said he wants to create a task force to look into ways to make the UC budget go further by educating more students in less time, such as offering more online classes and making it easier for community college students who transfer to a UC campus to complete their degrees.
"I don't think you considered all the alternatives,'' he said.
Napolitano shot back that the money Brown has budgeted for the campuses next year still leaves it $460 million below 2008 funding levels.
"This is the budget we think we need so we can get off this year-to-year, feast-or-famine budget process for the university,'' Napolitano said. "We don't have time to wait for another commission. We can have it and maybe we will get some really nifty ideas out of it, but the budget process moves along.''
Under the plan, the average annual cost of a UC education for a California resident would rise $612 to $12,804 next fall and to $15,564 by fall 2019. Tuition rates have been frozen for three years.
UC Executive Vice President Nathan Brostrom, who oversees the system's budget, told the committee that only students with annual family incomes above $175,000 would pay the entire increase, and more than half of all UC students would continue paying no tuition thanks to financial aid.
The regents committee voted 7-2, with the minority including Brown and Saifuddin, who, like other members, had to shout over the chants of angry collegians to make their votes heard.
The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.