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California Residents Say Tuition Unaffordable, Poll Finds

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In this 2012 photo, Victoria Huerta yells during a protest against higher student fees at San Francisco State University in San Francisco. A poll found a majority of Californians consider state university tuition unaffordable. | AP

A majority of California residents say public university tuition is unaffordable, but would prefer to keep the schools top-notch instead of making them cheaper, according to a poll released Thursday.

The University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll found that 56 percent believe public university tuition is unaffordable in California. But 46 percent said maintaining excellence was more important than lowering tuition. Thirty-six percent said affordability was more import than quality.

Respondents were split about freezing tuition, with 45 percent in support and 42 percent opposed. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has proposed freezing tuition in exchange for a modest increase in funding for state colleges.

California was home to dramatic tuition protests in recent years, including a 2009 demonstration at the University of California, Berkeley against a 32 percent hike, which led to 41 arrests, and the pepper-spraying of seated protesters at UC Davis in 2011.

Annual tuition for California State University schools was $5,472 for the 2012-13 year for in-state residents. UC schools charged $13,200.

California has multiple colleges, both public and private, ranked as some of the best in the world including UC Berkeley, the state's flagship campus.

Plenty of non-Californians want to attend the state's public universities.

Poll respondents weighed in on allowing more out-of-state students at state universities, which brings in extra, cash since those students pay higher tuition rates than Californians. The poll found 57 percent opposed admitting more non-residents, while 33 percent supported it.

A slim majority in the poll opposed another of Brown's proposed reforms: tying state funding to how many students graduate in four years. Fifty-one percent opposed this performance funding.

Over the past decade, as a result of steep budget cuts, some campuses experienced overcrowding resulting in difficulties for students to take the classes they need.

Brown has pushed for more online courses, and has been met with opposition from faculty over concerns it undermines intellectual property and degrades quality. But the public appears to support Brown's effort, with 59 percent saying in the poll they supported increasing the availability of online courses.

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