March 29, 2012
On March 21, 2012, the Illinois House passed House Bill 3810 with a 79 to 25 vote, a bill that would end the Illinois General Assembly Legislative Scholarship Program as of June 1, 2012. Tuition waivers granted by members on or before June 1, 2012 would still be valid for the full duration of the scholarship. Governor Quinn has repeatedly called for an end to the program.
The legislative scholarship program entitles each member of the General Assembly to award the equivalent of two four-year college tuition waivers each year. Recipients of the waiver must live in the legislator’s district, use the waiver for tuition at a State-supported university and must have attended an accredited school or passed the university’s standards for admission. Universities absorb the cost of the waiver; it is not reimbursed by the State. Waivers from the program cost state universities $13.5 million in FY2011, according to The Illinois Board of Higher Education’s Annual Report to the General Assembly (see table 1).
Those seeking to eliminate the program have cited legislator favoritism, abuse of the program and budget difficulties at state universities as reasons to reconsider its status. Supporters of the program say that a few corrupt cases have overshadowed the benefits achieved by correctly awarded scholarships and that the program should be reformed rather than eliminated.
Similar bills have been introduced in the past. In 2010 Governor Quinn vetoed Senate Bill 0365, a bill that would have limited but not eliminated legislative scholarships. House Bill 4685, which passed the House 80-36 in March 2010 also attempted to eliminate the scholarship program but was not taken up by the Senate before the end of the 96th General Assembly. Senate Bill 2932 and Senate Bill 2914 are currently in committee and also call for an end to the program as of June 1, 2012. After passing the house, HB3810 is now working its way through Senate committees. More than two dozen bipartisan co-sponsors and alternate co-sponsors have been added to the bill.