Students and faculty members stage a sit-in in front of the school president’'s office at California State University, Northridge. Students begin a hunger strike today to protest fee hikes at California State Universities. - 

David Brancaccio: Today some college students in California begin a hunger strike. They're protesting higher tuition at California State Universities. Students reportedly plan to consume only fluids until the board of trustees meets their demands, including a five-year freeze on the cost of tuition.

As Marketplace's Jeff Tyler reports, it's not just California where tensions are rising over costs at state schools.

Jeff Tyler: California State Universities plan to hike tuition rates by 9 percent this fall. Four-year colleges in others states -- from Nebraska to Virginia to Mississippi -- will also charge more.

Jose Cruz tracks the issue for Education Trust, an advocacy group. He says students at top-tier universities tend to come from wealthier families. While students at less selective schools -- like Cal State Universities -- are more likely to come from low-income families that earn less than $30,000 a year.

Jose Cruz: The family has to set aside the equivalent of 72 percent of their annual household income in order to be able to pay for one single year.

Students are paying more because states are paying less. And it’s not just because of the recession. John Quinterno studied changes in college funding for the public policy firm Demos.

John Quinterno: Collectively, states are spending about 26 less percent per full-time equivalent student now than they did 20 years ago.

He says that even with the economic downturn, the country is richer than it was 20 years ago. Back when we were poorer, Quinterno says, we spent more on higher education.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

Follow Jeff Tyler at @JeffMarketplace