A proposed tuition hike was tentatively approved Wednesday by a committee of the University of California governing board.
The committee voted 7-2 to approve the plan recommended by UC President Janet Napolitano that would raise tuition in each of the next five years.
The proposed tuition hikes still must be reviewed by the full Board of Regents on Thursday.
Napolitano said the increases are needed to protect the quality of education in the face of insufficient state funding.
Tuition rates at the 10 UC schools have been frozen for three years.
Under the plan, the average annual cost of a UC education for California residents would go up $612 to $12,804 next fall and to $15,564 in fall 2019.
The descending votes came from Gov. Jerry Brown and the student regent.
Before the vote, Brown said he wants a task force to look at ways of restructuring the system so more students can be educated in less time.
The task force could look at transfer and completion routes for community college students, a ramp-up in online classes, and making each campus more distinct in academic specialties, he said.
Napolitano said she is open to new ideas and would like to work with Brown but there isn't time for a new task force.
Earlier in the day, student protesters tried to block members of the governing board from the meeting.
University police pushed the students back behind barricades after they surrounded the regents as they tried to enter the conference center at the University of California, Mission Bay.
The students shouted, “Go home, go home,” and “UC, UC, our tuition must be free.”
Other protesters formed a human chain in the parking lot to prevent regents from getting in.
Kevin Sabo, who attends UC Berkeley and chairs the UC Student Association board, said student leaders were preparing to lobby the governor and Legislature for additional funding to stave off or reduce a possible increase next year.
“We don't want to raise tuition, but we need as trustees, for the welfare of the university now and in the future, to tell the policy makers and the public what is required to keep this university great,” Regent George Kieffer, a lawyer, said before the meeting.
Napolitano and Brown, who opposes the tuition hike, also sit on the board's long-range planning committee. So does student Regent Sadia Saifuddin, who is expected to vote against the plan.
Other voting members include an alumni representative, two regents named to the board by Brown, and three more who, like Kieffer, were appointed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and have backed previous tuition increases.
Napolitano, a former Arizona governor who served as President Barack Obama's first Homeland Security secretary, “is very much trying to show the regents she can stand up to the golden boy of California — Jerry Brown,” Sabo said.
“It certainly is the clash of the titans, and students are being caught in between these two very larger than life individuals and trying not to get crushed between them,” Sabo said.