The University of California has approved raising tuition by 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 voted on Thursday to adopt the tuition increases proposed by UC President Janet Napolitano and 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.
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.
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.
Earlier, dozens of students slept inside a classroom building at the Berkeley campus as protests ramped up Thursday ahead of the final vote.
Tuition has risen more rapidly at other public universities in recent years, and even with the increases, the cost of an education in the California system, the largest public university system in the country, will still be cheaper than many others in the nation.
The sit-in Thursday at Wheeler Hall was calm, but one student was arrested as UC Berkeley police and school officials monitored the protest and planned to negotiate if needed. Protesters locked the front doors but left side doors open for classes, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
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."
The protests likely won't make a difference, with the full board of regents appearing poised to pass the plan Thursday that led to a showdown a day before between Gov. Jerry Brown, who opposes the increases, and University of California President Janet Napolitano, who says they are crucial to preventing enrollment cuts and maintaining the university's quality.
A majority of regents indicated they support the hikes, albeit with regret.
"I am worried that we will do to the University of California what we did to the K-12 system, and unless we make a judgment now that that won't happen, it will happen," Regent George Kieffer said. "This is an honest statement about what we need and where we are at a minimum."
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.
The governor had said that before the vote he wanted 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."
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.