Scholarship program's demise could bring financial relief to Illinois universities

May 23, 2012

Public universities are required to hand out tuition waivers awarded by state lawmakers. But a pending law change would end the practice.

Supporters of the idea to eliminate the perk say it's never easy taking away access to college for  students who can't afford it. But they say the state needs to end the abuse of lawmakers going beyond the program's intent by handing out tuition waivers to politically connected students. They say their move can also help universities manage their finances at a time when many of them are struggling to cover expenses. 

According to state data, the program has resulted in more than $9-million in waived tuition fees at the state's universities during the current academic year. At Northern Illinois University, officials say 50 students in the spring semester were recipients of General Assembly scholarships. There were 46 in the fall. 

The bill to end the program cleared its final legislative hurdle this week. Governor Pat Quinn says he intends to sign the measure.