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California budget deal could prevent tuition hikes

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Top Democratic lawmakers have reached a deal with Gov. Jerry Brown that could avoid tuition increases for California college students this year, according to sources briefed on negotiations.

If the University of California and California State University systems agree to not raise tuition for the 2012-13 academic year, the state will offer them an additional $125 million each in the the following year, the sources said.

The deal, which is contingent on voters approving tax increases at the ballot box in November, is part of the budget plan that is expected to be finalized this week in the Capitol. It could also provide some much-welcomed relief for students, who have faced continuous tuition increases in recent years as the state cut college funding.

Thousands of students marched on the Capitol earlier this year to demonstrate against the rising cost of higher education.

"Student protest is paying off," said Charlie Eaton, the financial secretary of the UC Student Workers Union. "This is a step towards paying for higher education with taxes on the 1% instead of tuition increases on the rest of us."
Cal State has already approved a 9% tuition hike this year, and would need to reverse the decision to get the extra funding. UC has warned of a possible 6% increase without more money from the state.
College funding has been a flashpoint in the Capitol, and lawmakers have sought to soften the blow to students.
“The pressures of the recession and massive fee increases have eroded, or even ended, the dream of higher education for too many California families,” Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) said in February when proposing a new scholarship program.
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-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

twitter.com/chrismegerian

Photo: The rising cost of education has sparked demonstrations in Sacramento. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

 
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