Illinois Senate leaders say they are finally ready to do away with a tuition giveaway program which has attracted attention for its abuses. Lawmakers have, for more than 100 years, been able to grant free tuition to state universities to students in their districts. Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago, pictured), long a supporter of the program, is the sponsor of the bill, though not everyone agrees with it.
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“I think that it’s a valuable resource that we are dismantling because of a few legislators deciding to not to take the right approach,” said State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood). “We’re allowing students now to suffer who really need an opportunity to go to college.” She cast a “present” vote during a subcommittee hearing she chaired Wednesday morning. Cullerton says while he agrees the program does a lot of good, the distractions are too much, considering the pressing issues before the legislature this month. “It’s time to get rid of them, but we’re going to study all the waivers and come back with recommendations,” he said.
Examples of abuse include giving free tuition to children of political donors, several tuition recipients listing the same address, and recipients not living in the lawmaker’s district. Cullerton’s bill also calls for a task force to study all tuition waivers, such as those given to children of university employees. H.B. 3810 passed the Senate Executive Committee’s Education Subcommittee.