SPRINGFIELD, IL - Senate President John Cullerton today advanced a bill (HB 3810) to abolish the General Assembly scholarship program. Additionally, the Senate President's bill creates a taskforce to evaluate all tuition and fee waivers offered by state universities. While Cullerton has long held that reforming the legislative scholarship program was possible, it has become clear that the majority of the General Assembly supports ending rather than reforming the program.
“This program has become a major distraction from what should be the focus the session – the state budget, Medicaid and pension reform, said President Cullerton. “It’s time to put it behind us so that we can turn our attention to larger issues that must be addressed this year.”
This step follows Cullerton's past efforts to reform the General Assembly scholarship program by targeting specific abuses revealed by investigations and media reports. Reforms included prohibiting awards to family members of political contributors, blocking waivers to students outside of a member's legislative district, and tightening the requirements for applicants.
As part of the effort to reform the system, Cullerton has also been a proponent of reviewing state requirements for all tuition waivers. Given the fact that the General Assembly scholarship program makes up only 3.25 percent of the total value of all state tuition waivers, Cullerton believes there may be a need for more scrutiny related to cost and requirements associated with the universe of waivers. The bill calls for a task force to review all waivers and report findings on or before April 15, 2013. The bill abolishes the 103 year old General Assembly scholarship program by striking the program from state statute this year.