STEVE INSKEEP, host:
No matter what happens to their health care costs in the new year, families in California can expect the cost of college to go up. California still faces a budget crisis, and yesterday the regents who oversee the University of California voted to raise student fees. They will go up by more than $2,500 per year at the state's leading public universities. It's an increase many students say they cannot afford, as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.
CARRIE KAHN: For two days, students from across California have converged on the UCLA campus, trying to convince university regents to hold off on hiking student fees. Inside the meeting hall just before the regents' vote, several students, including Melissa Chan, begged the regents not to pass the increases.
Ms. MELISSA CHAN (Student): Listen to me. I'm angry. I am appalled at the UC priorities. I challenge you, the regents, to live up to your responsibility and to make our education more accessible and affordable. Thank you.
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KAHN: Despite the pleas, the 32 percent hike was approved. UC President Mark Yudof said the state is broke, the university is bleeding money, and he said he had no other option.
Mr. MARK YUDOF (President, University of California): Well, I'm not happy. You do what is necessary to keep the great University of California where it is in serving its students, and this is necessary.
KAHN: The thousands of students outside the meeting hall weren't buying it.
Unidentified Group: Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you.
KAHN: Pamela Calera(ph), a third-year undergrad, says she won't be able to afford school next year. She says the regents' vote was short-sighted.
Ms. PAMELA CALERA (Student): They need to think about what they're doing to California and its future. We're the future. What's going to happen to us?
Unidentified Group: We're fired up. Can't take it no more. We're fired up. Can't take it no more.
KAHN: Students marched for hours yesterday around the campus, taking over a classroom building, tying up traffic in busy city crosswalks. And late yesterday, they even blocked a van full of university regents trying to leave the building for nearly an hour. UC President Yudof said the students' anger is misdirected. He said their protests belong in Sacramento.
Mr. YUDOF: All the demonstrations and all the talking, they're words. Without a plan to balance the budget, we will not be solvent in a couple of years. This balances the budget and it stops the bleeding and it maintains the quality for our students.
KAHN: Yudof insisted that low-income students would be shielded from the hikes - however, he wouldn't say how long that moratorium would be in place or whether more increases will be necessary in the next academic year.
Carrie Kahn, NPR News.
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