MILWAUKEE -

Tuitions throughout the University of Wisconsin System will rise 5.5 percent for the 2012-13 academic year.

The Board of Regents approved the proposal on Thursday at the UW-Milwaukee campus. The measure passed by a vote of 17-1.

The increase applies at the system's 13 four-year colleges and 13 two-year campuses.

UW System President Kevin Reilly proposed the maximum increase, saying the rate hikes would help compensate for cuts in state aid.

Representatives of the UW System said these cuts would also lead to larger classes and students needing an extra year to graduate.

"We need to make sure that we have the funds necessary to provide the courses (students) need to graduate on time, to keep the library open at the hours they need to study," said David Giroux, spokesman for the UW System.

Regent Charles Pruitt said a tuition hike was a reasonable alternative to cuts that would lead to larger classes and students needing an extra year to graduate.

But, Regent John Drew said he couldn't vote for a tuition increase considering how flat resident incomes have remained in the state.

The average annual increase at the four-year schools is about $400. For UW-Madison students, the increase is even more. This means for students eligible for in-state tuition at UW-Madison, along with segregated fees, tuition will reach close to $10,400 a year.

The next most expensive school is UW-Eau Claire. Its increase with segregated fees puts a year's tuition at nearly $8,500.

"I'm already going to be over $20,000 in debt from school," said Trace Borchardt, a rising senior at UW-Madison. "So, that's just another $700 that I'm going to have to pay interest on for the next however many years I'm in debt."

School officials said that they try to take a measured approach.

"It's a balancing act," said Giroux. "One the one hand, we need to make sure that college is affordable and accessible to everyone. That's our mission as a public university. On the other hand, we need to make sure that the colleges and university have enough revenue, have enough funds, to provide a high-quality education."

Borchardt said he doesn't like the idea but he and his friends said the extra money is well worth the experience that Madison offers.

"I still think $700 more or not, when it comes down to it, it's still a great education," said rising UW-Madison senior Tina Wergin. "It's worth it."