Green Party of Connecticut

Thornton for Governor
For more information, contact Ken Krayeske, 860-995-5842

Oct. 11, 2006

Eliminate Tuition, Thornton says in new TV Commercial; Campaign continues to promote free college funding in video ads

HARTFORD, CT -- In his second television commercial, Green Party gubernatorial candidate Cliff Thornton issues a renewed call for the elimination of tuition and fees at Connecticut's public colleges and universities.

The new 60-second spot, filmed at Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut Law School, is posted online here

"Connecticut must invest in its young people now," Thornton says. "We must make state universities and colleges tuition and fee free. Education is the most powerful weapon against ignorance and poverty. To democratize our educational institution is to create long term prosperity and security."

Thornton's new commercial explores how Governor M. Jodi Rell and the Democrats in the state legislature have failed to create affordable educational opportunities for students.

"We have to keep bringing this up, because the two parties ignore it," Thornton says. "The state has spent hundreds of millions making the campuses look good, but why have new structures if students can't afford to enter them? What's worse is that these young people borrow thousands to gain access to those buildings, and then that debt forces them to leave Connecticut after graduation because we rank almost dead last in job growth nationally."

Investing heavily in education costs spurs economic growth, and will create jobs, as any number of studies equate educational funding and economic growth. The National Education Association in 2004 correlated economic growth and educational investment.

"We can grow jobs by redirecting tax dollars to build our collective intellectual capacity," Thornton says.

Thornton himself went to college to better his employment prospects.

"I wanted to advance my career, and the only way I could do that was with a college education," Thornton says.

He graduated from Hartford Public High School in 1964, and had he gone to UConn then, it would have been free. But after his mother died of a heroin overdose, Thornton enrolled in the Army, and served in Germany. He finally earned his bachelors' degree in marketing until 1986 at Post University in Waterbury. He financed his tuition payments at the private university with help from his employer, SNET, and the Veterans Administration.

"I understand everyone is not so lucky to have that kind of help, which is why we need to eliminate tuition as a hurdle for students to earn their education," Thornton says. "The retention rates at Connecticut's public colleges are poor."

Pointing to Eastern Connecticut State University, like he does in the commercial, Thornton notes that its two year retention rate is 59 percent.

"A large percentage of students who drop out do so because they cannot afford school," Thornton says. "This is not right."

Thornton is advocating that people who leave college - for whatever reason - should have the benefit of free tuition as well.

"If Governor Rell is ever interested in completing her degree, I don't think, despite her years on the public payroll, that she should have to pay, either," Thornton says. "Making education accessible to all should be one of our top priorities. We need a GI Bill for all citizens. Until everyone who wants to go can attend college, we are failing on delivering the promise of the American dream."

The text of the ad is as follows:

"The two major parties consistently underfund education. Young people suffer and our economy shows the effects when government slashes grants to public universities. Consider Eastern Connecticut State University, where tuition has outpaced inflation, putting school out of reach for many worthy students. So how have the Republican governor and the Democratic state legislature responded? They cut funding! The gap between state funding and cost per student is almost $3,000. The problem is not unique to Eastern. Isn't it time to start investing in our young people. Let's eliminate tuition and fees at Connecticut's public colleges and universities. Vote free college. Vote Green."