Tuition hikes for California public colleges are back on the table after six years of stability.
CSU Trustees took up the issue Tuesday, and UC Regents meet Wednesday, and already student protests are brewing.
The proposed increases, of about five percent, would raise tuition between 270 and 400 dollars per year.
"I'm not a fan. State schools are supposed to be the affordable option and now all of us are going to be in debt like the private school kids," San Francisco State sophomore Sammi Tuttle told KTVU Monday evening.
Many students on the bustling campus work at jobs all day, and work toward their degree taking night classes.
"The truth is we are paying too much, paying way too much," student leader Celia LaBuono Gonzales told KTVU, "and for funding, we have to ask for the crumbs of the cake at the end of the day."
Gonzales, as Associated Students VP of External Affairs, will represent SFSU in future Trustee meetings, arguing that a tuition hike is a hardship.
"We have students living on the street, we have students living in their cars. The discussion going, 'oh well, a lot of students get financial aid', well a lot of that is in the form of debt."
As the CSU Board began tackling the budget in Long Beach Tuesday, student protestors made their voices heard outside.
"Students not customers", they chanted as they arranged mock tombstones in a faux cemetery, and dressed as zombies, declared themselves members of "the walking debt."
"We are dying of debt, student loan debt, because of the price of tuition, " said CSU Fullerton student Courtney Yamagiwa.
"They want to increase it, and that's only going to make it worse. "
But the public universities are squeezed between what the state wants to allocate, and what the systems need to operate.
"We're anticipating that the Governor and legislature will provide 157.2 million dollars, and our needs are 343 million dollars," said Toni Molle, a CSU spokesperson.
"There's actually a gap of $168 million."
CSU undergrads pay almost 55 hundred dollars a year, and UC students, just over 12 thousand.
Tuition shot up during the recession when state support was slashed, and never recovered to past levels, shifting more costs to students.
"It's already over crowded in my opinion, " SFSU senior Jack Henning told KTVU, reacting to another proposal to raise revenue, admitting more students.
"For underclassmen, that's definitely going to be a struggle," explained Henning, "because a lot of people say they can't get into the classes that they want and that pushes their graduation back."
Henning carries a full class load and works 25 hours per week, and will graduate with a business marketing degree and about $25,000 in student loan debt.
More than half the students in the public universities receive some form of financial aid, which will help absorb potential hikes.
"I think a hundred dollars matters," exclaimed Tuttle, a business major.
For students who watch every cent, a tuition hike eats into food money, book money, or rent.
"We're so in debt that any little amount that we can save will help," implored Tuttle.
Budget votes aren't scheduled until after the first of the year.