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University of California students – and Gov. Jerry Brown – protest tuition increase

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Eric Risberg/AP

(Read caption) University of California police push student protesters back behind barricades outside a meeting of the university Board of Regents Wednesday in San Francisco. On Thursday, the regents approved a tuition increase.

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In the face of protests from students and Gov. Jerry Brown, the Board of Regents of the University of California voted Thursday to approve a 28 percent tuition hike, marking the university system's first tuition increase in three years. 

The increase was proposed by UC President Janet Napolitano. The regents voted 14 to 7 to raise tuition by as much as 5 percent per year for each of the next five years unless the state of California is able to budget more money for the 10-campus system. For many undergraduates who live in California, this means they will see their tuition increase by $612 to $12,804 by next fall and to $15,564 by 2019. 

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"This is a plan that is integral not only to the stability, but also to the vitality, of the University of California," Ms. Napolitano said at the meeting, according to The Daily Californian, a student-run newspaper.

On Wednesday, protesters outside the building in San Francisco where the regents were meeting tried to force their way through police security lines, resulting in one arrest, Bloomberg reported.

Regents had to shout their votes over chants of "Hey, hey, ho, tuition hikes have got to go." Some students called for Napolitano's resignation. Demonstrators expressed their disappointment with the ease with which the regents seemed to approve the tuition increase. 

"Seeing you all come in laughing and smiling and talking about stuff made me sick to my stomach," UC Davis student Amelia Itnyre 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."

Napolitano, for her part, said the plan is necessary to maintain student enrollment, financial aid, and a strong academic environment in the face of "massive state disinvestment." 

"While our commitment to cost-cutting continues, the plain fact is that tuition must now be back on the table,” Napolitano said, according to The Daily Californian.

But Governor Brown (D), who was elected to a fourth term this month and who serves as president of the regents, voted against the hike, saying 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 options could include offering more online classes and making it easier for community college students who transfer to a UC campus to complete their degrees.

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Brown said prior to the vote that the university system's $7 billion budget is now about 27 percent larger than before he took office in 2011. 

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 that more than half of all UC students would continue paying no tuition thanks to financial aid. 

 This report includes material from the Associated Press.