A recent ad funded by a Republican group targeted Democratic gubernatorial nominee Fred DuVal for voting to approve tuition hikes when he served on the Arizona Board of Regents.
The 30-second TV ad from the Republican Governors Association hit DuVal for voting for the tuition hikes that caused the cost of tuition and fees at the state universities to rise by 99 percent while he served on the board.
A fact check from the Arizona Republic rated the claim in the ad as true, giving it four stars. DuVal voted to raise tuition each year and it doubled over the course of his six years as a member of the board of regents, the Republic said.
The board of regents sets the rates for tuition and fees at the UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University. DuVal served on the board from 2006 to 2012, and during that time, in-state undergraduate tuition at the UA increased from $4,600 to $9,100.
The DuVal campaign, however, contends that the increases were necessary due to cuts in funding to the state universities from the Legislature.
“Governor [Jan] Brewer and the Arizona Legislature cut higher education by more than $400 million during the recession, more than any other state in the country,” said Geoff Vetter, a spokesperson for the DuVal campaign. “Fred [DuVal] kept the doors of our universities open.”
Mark Killian, the current chair of the board of regents, said the ad is misleading and lacks context on why tuition had to be raised.
“What the ad leaves out is the Republican-controlled legislature cut the universities by nearly half a billion dollars while at the same time saying, ‘we want you to educate more students, we want you to give quality education,’ and left us holding an empty bag,” he said.
The regents and the universities worked to save on costs and keep campuses open, but raising tuition was necessary, Killian said. He added that the state’s universities’ per student contribution is now as low as it was in 1955, and he believes the state legislature is violating the Arizona Constitution where it says education must be as free as possible.
Vetter said DuVal worked to increase access and affordability to higher education while he served on the board. DuVal has also promised to veto any bill that continues to make cuts to education, Vetter said.
Killian also said he didn’t like the way the board of regents was portrayed in the ad.
“It makes it sound like the regents are greedy and we’ve raised tuition to persecute middle-income families, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” Killian said.
The ad opens with a mother lying awake in bed and the narrator speaks about how the sharp rise in college tuition in Arizona has forced middle-class families to pay more. The ad says DuVal voted to raise tuition each year and repeats that the increases were “just not fair.”
In a statement, Gail Gitcho, RGA communications director, said that DuVal did little to prevent the tuition increase that occurred while he served on the board of regents. This is the group’s first ad in the Arizona gubernatorial race.
“College students in Arizona can thank Democrat Fred DuVal for their ever-increasing tuition rates,” Gitcho said.
Killian, who describes himself as a conservative Republican, said he did not appreciate the RGA creating a campaign issue with the ad.
“I really don’t like outside groups coming into Arizona, defining the candidates and defining the issues for Arizona,” he said.
A recent poll of likely voters from Rasmussen Reports showed DuVal tied with his Republican challenger, Doug Ducey, at 40 percent with about two months to go until the general election.
—Follow Ethan McSweeney @ethanmcsweeney