Friday, March 12, 2010

Legislative scholarship reforms head to governor

By Rachel Wells

A plan to reform the General Assembly scholarship program — which some call a political perk — is on its way to the governor’s desk.

The Illinois House today approved Senate Bill 365, which would restrict to whom General Assembly members can give state university tuition waivers. The program recently came under fire for alleged instances of members using the waivers to leverage campaign contributions.

The reforms bans students from accepting a waiver if that student or his or her family members had donated to the awarding lawmaker’s campaign fund in the preceding five years. Recipients would also have to repay the university if discovered that they failed to honestly report pertinent contributions.

Some lawmakers say the waivers are an unfunded mandate on universities, which are never reimbursed for the approximately $12.5 million in annual lost tuition. A proposal to eliminate the waivers remains in committee.

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