Chanting "UC, UC, can't you see? We don't want your tuition fee," more than 100 UCLA students marched through campus Tuesday as part of a University of California-wide student rally opposing a proposed tuition hike.
The proposal, to be voted on by the UC regents Wednesday, would increase tuition by as much as 5% in each of the next five years, and has drawn sharp opposition from Gov. Jerry Brown.
UC President Janet Napolitano has said the increase was necessary to help pay for higher pension and salary costs, as well as to increase the enrollment of California students in light of inadequate state funding. If approved, the plan would increase next year's tuition by $612 to $12,804, and could increase to $15,564 by the 2019-2020 school year.
The rallies at the UC campuses show the unity of the student body, said Jefferson Kuoch-Seng, president of the UC Student Assn.
"I think it can put a lot of pressure on the regents," said the UC Merced management major.
At UC Berkeley, about 250 students rallied against the tuition proposal, said Lt. Marc DeCoulode of the UC Police Department. UC Santa Cruz had about 200 students rallying in a central part of campus, said Guy Lasnier, a university spokesman.
Dianne Klein, spokeswoman for the UC Office of the President, said officials understands the students' frustration.
"We feel a very similar way, and so that's why we're hoping to work with students and with our state Legislature to get more funding for the university so that no tuition increase is necessary," she said.
She added that the proposal is intended to help students and their families plan for tuition increases ahead of time.
"The current model is a roller coaster," she said. "What this plan is really about is stability and transparency."
Several UCLA students said higher tuition would limit access to the public universities, especially for students of color.
"What kind of population do you want on campus?," said Kateisha Menefield, 21, an African American studies major. "We really have few people of color on this campus."
The Westwood campus rally began Tuesday morning and was led by students with a long pink sign, saying, "Fund our future, not your paycheck." The marchers wound through campus, stopping outside two libraries to chant before students silently walked single-file through tables filled with studying to pass out leaflets about the fee increase.
One woman in a study room with several other students at the Charles E. Young Research Library on the north side of campus called out to the marchers.
"Good job that you are doing this," she said.
Angel Gutierrez, 18, an undeclared major, said the tuition increase would make things even more difficult for him.
"Right now, I'm paying for college by working, and I'm barely making it," he said, adding that he has so far avoided taking out loans. "It's a scary thing that I could be paying for my education for the rest of my life."
More than a dozen messages including: "Don't privatize our UC" and "The Regents lied about a tuition freeze! Fight back!" were scrawled on steps and sidewalks across campus, marking the place where the crowd had been.
Students continued to march until they reached Chancellor Gene D. Block's office, where they taped their signs to the chancellor's locked glass door, which was guarded by campus police officers. They sat in front of his office for about half an hour, clapping and chanting, before writing letters to Block about how the fee hike would affect them.
The action will continue -- about 50 UCLA students are planning to drive to UC San Francisco at midnight to attend Wednesday's regents meeting, Menefield said. They'll be joined by students from all of the UC campuses.
"Many of us students are working, are first-generation college students," said Conrad Contreras, the external vice president of UCLA's student government. "Most of us aren't fighting for ourselves – we're fighting for the folks that come after us."
Menefield, who is a first-generation college student, said she has a younger sister who is thinking about attending a UC school.
"What am I supposed to tell her if it passes?" she said. "Take out more loans?"