Los Angeles, California (CNN) — Despite intense student protests, the California Board of Regents on Thursday approved a 32 percent undergraduate tuition increase over the next two years.
Hundreds of students marched and chanted outside UCLA, where university officials were meeting. School officials argued that a fee increase and deep cuts in school spending were necessary because of the state government’s ongoing budget crisis.
After the vote, students rushed the parking decks and staged a sit-in to block regents officials from leaving. Campus police and California Highway Patrol officers were nearby and on the ready clad in riot gear.
Students and others say the cuts will hurt the working and middle classes who benefit from state-funded education.
“We’re fired up. Can’t take it no more,” students chanted as they marched and waved signs. “Education only for the rich,” one sign read.
Dozens of students lined up early for seats inside the regents meeting, hoping for a chance at the microphone during the public comment time before the vote. Campus police with riot gear lined up between the loud but peaceful protesters and the entrance.
The University of California’s Board of Regents approved the plan a day after the regents’ finance committee approved the 32 percent increase.
Some faculty members and campus workers — worried about furloughs and layoffs to come — joined the protesting students.
“Stop cuts in education and research,” a sign carried by a teacher said.
Fourteen people were arrested Wednesday morning after they disrupted the regents’ meeting with chanting, police said. Other protests — including “tent cities” — were under way on other University of California campuses across the state.
About 26 percent of the $20 billion spent each year by the system comes from the state’s general fund and tuition and fees paid by students, according to a summary on the regent’s Web site.
The first tuition increase, which takes effect in January, will cost undergraduate students an additional $585 a semester. The second increase kicks in next fall, raising tuition another $1,344.
The fee increases would be balanced by a raise in “the level of financial assistance for needy low- and middle-income students,” according to a statement from the Board of Regents.