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University of Utah student Luq Mughal paid his tuition bill Tuesday with 2,000 single dollar bills as a protest against rising tuition rates.

Mughal said he spends his weekends working to pay for college — after a week of 12-hour days studying electrical engineering. Even though the 21-year-old gets a discount because his father is a member of the faculty, the cost of tuition plus fees, books and living expenses is crushing.

"By no means am I the saddest story on campus. There's a lot of people here just as bad and probably worse," he said. "The people making the prices are not actually aware of how hard it is on the students."

He's hoping to send a message with the cash, which he collected from several banks, and that more students join him next year.

Undergraduate in-state tuition at the U. has more than doubled over the past decade, from $2,742 in the 2002-03 school year to $6,511 this year. When trustees set a 5 percent hike for this school year, they said the increase was necessary, primarily to give employees a cost-of-living raise as public funding from the state declines. U. spokeswoman Maria O'Mara pointed out that the school has been frequently ranked as a good value for the money, but said leaders still work to keep tuition low.

Cash tucked into a metal case under his arm, Mughal joined dozens of students waiting in line to pay their bills by the Tuesday deadline. Standing behind him was George Zhang, a 24-year-old master's degree student in computer science who chose the U. over New York University because tuition rates were lower.

"I think it's pretty fair," he said.

Twitter: @lwhitehurst