UC San Diego students voted overwhelmingly to raise fees that could be used to boost the Tritons' 23 athletic teams to Division I, the university announced Tuesday.
Any future move up from Division II would be contingent on an invitation to join the Big West conference, which counts four other University of California campuses among its membership. UCSD does not plan to start a football program.
School officials said nearly 70 percent of the more than 8,800 students who cast ballots approved the fee hike from about $129 each quarter to nearly $290 per quarter. The increase will net the athletics department an extra $10 million annually.
"This has been a student-centered initiative from the very beginning, and to see that the majority of our students favor a move to NCAA Division I demonstrates that they recognize the change as a progressive step for both our athletic program and UC San Diego as a whole," said UCSD Director of Athletics Earl Edwards.
"Division I will help extend the entire university's culture of excellence, align us with peer academic institutions, improve the student experience, strengthen our brand, increase alumni engagement and further our community connection," Edwards said. "This move will impact the entire campus in a multitude of ways."
Not all students agreed with the decision.
"To put that extra burden on families and students, I don't think is the best idea," said UCSD junior Matthew Zamudio. "There's actually stats that back up that the D-I move doesn't add any revenue. It actually loses a lot of money ever year."
A move to Division I would be a multi-year process that includes a review by the Academic Senate and application to the NCAA.
"The only con I saw was the small increase in fees, which really in my opinion isn't too much when you look at the overall cost of attendance," said UCSD senior volleyball player Danielle Dahle.
If UCSD eventually makes the move, it would become the third university in the area to compete in Division I, joining San Diego State and the University of San Diego.
The Aztecs are members of the Mountain West and the Toreros are in the West Coast Conference. Both offer football, with the USD program in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League.