An estimated 10,000 students, teachers and supporters chanted "Hear us out or we'll vote you out!" as they marched up the Sacramento state capitol steps to where California state lawmakers could hear them.
Student groups organized the “Fund Our Future” rally to protest years of state budget cuts to higher education.
They say recent hikes in tuition and fees have forced students further into debt, as well as eroding the quality of education at community colleges, Cal State campuses and the University of California.
"It’s going to be hard because they’re raising tuition and I’m going to be getting less financial aid," says Andrea Ayala, a journalism major at Cal State Fullerton.
The 21-year-old from Rancho Cucamonga traveled north to report on the capitol protest for her college paper, the Daily Titan.
"Right now, I have basically two jobs," says Ayala. "But I’m thinking of adding one more that I can do over the weekends."
Sisi Johnson says tuition hikes make it harder for returning students like her to stay on course. She’s working towards gaining a teaching credential at Pasadena City College (PCC), but she, and a lot of her colleagues, are stretched to their financial limits.
"Some of these people are very, very poor," says Johnson. "And this is basically the only resource that they have immediate access to to better their situation."
"There’s more and more people trying to get into classes," adds Cody Lawry from PCC. "It’s getting harder to get into classes."
And Lawry says those packed classes could slow his career path. The 26-year-old hopes to break into opera.
The protesters urged lawmakers to restore money for higher education by taxing the wealthiest Californians. They hope the additional funding would maintain high instructional standards and keep public college education affordable for future generations.
Correction: This story originally called the student paper at Cal State Fullerton the Daily Triton. It's the Daily Titan. Apologies.