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CNN Fact Check: How do California's hikes in college costs stack up?

By Matt Smith, CNN
Students and professors in Berkley, California, protest funding cuts and tuition increasesThursday.
Students and professors in Berkley, California, protest funding cuts and tuition increasesThursday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • California saw double-digit increases in public university tuition in last two years
  • But 10 states in all had double digit tuition increases
  • California's fiscal crisis forced state lawmakers to plug a $42 billion budget gap in 2009
  • California public universities are a still bargain compared to other state schools
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(CNN) -- Students and college professors in California and around the country protested Thursday over the drastic cuts imposed on cash-strapped state colleges and universities.

The protests follow a round of demonstrations in November against a 32 percent increase in undergraduate fees for the next school year, while a persistent budget cap has resulted in canceled classes, increased fees and furloughs for faculty.

Given the anger, the CNN Fact Check Desk decided to look at what is bringing students out of classrooms and into the streets.

Fact Check: How do California's public college costs stack up compared with other states?

The average for in-state fees at California's four-year public colleges this year was $5,996, according to the College Board, which monitors trends in higher education spending. That's already up 10.3 percent over the 2008-2009 school year.

The fee increase approved by the University of California's Board of Regents will raise undergraduate costs to more than $10,300 by the time it takes full effect this fall, school officials said in November. The much larger California State University system also voted to raise fees by more than 16 percent in 2009, bringing undergraduate costs up to about $4,800 per year.

California is one of 10 states that saw double-digit increases in average public university tuition between the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years, with more coming this year. Tuition at the University of Arizona could rise 31 percent, at Florida colleges by 15 percent and in Washington state by 14 percent, said Kevin Carey, policy director for the Washington think tank Education Sector.

But state schools in California, which has had a policy of universal access to higher education since the 1960s, are still in the low end of the range among U.S. states, according to the College Board. Vermont has the highest average total for tuition and fees at public four-year colleges this school year, at just over $12,000. The lowest cost was in Wyoming, at just under $3,700. And University of California officials said students who are eligible for financial aid and those whose families make under $70,000 will have their tuition covered in the coming year.

California's running fiscal crisis forced state lawmakers to plug a $42 billion budget gap in 2009, forcing university officials to raise fees and cut services. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget for 2011 would put $305 million back into this year's higher education budget for each of the major systems, but the state will still face a $20 billion shortfall without greater cuts, Schwarzenegger told the state Assembly in January.

Bottom Line:

California public universities are a relative bargain compared to other state schools, but that cost advantage is eroding every year amid the state's extensive budget problems.

CNN's Amy Roberts contributed to this report.

 
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