Monday, January 9, 2012

Wilhelmi Announces He Will No Longer Participate in Legislative Scholarship Program

Joliet - State Senator AJ Wilhelmi (D-Joliet) has decided that he will
no longer participate in the Legislative Tuition Waiver Program.

"For the past several months, I have been debating whether to continue
awarding legislative scholarships to college-bound students who live in
the 43rd District," Wilhelmi said.  "In the end, I decided that the
problems with the program outweigh its benefits."

The Legislative Tuition Waiver Program allows each member of the General
Assembly to send residents of their districts to Illinois' public
universities.  Legislators can award eight one-year waivers, four
two-year waivers, or two four-year waivers each year.  Although often
referred to as a scholarship program, in reality, the state universities
receive no extra funding to cover the cost of students who receive
tuition waivers.

"I'm frustrated that our attempts to reform this program have failed,
and I'm concerned about removing critically important funds from our
public universities," Wilhelmi explained.  "Though I regret taking this
opportunity away from the children who live in this district, I think it
makes the most financial sense for the State to use its resources on
financial aid programs that can't be abused.  I also think the whole
issue has become so politicized that people have lost sight of the
program's original purpose-to help young people afford a college

"Our economic situation has changed," Wilhelmi continued.  "Many state
universities are struggling with funding issues, despite the fact that
families are coping with ever-higher tuition rates.  It's hard to
reconcile providing free rides to some when it's the universities and
ultimately other students who have to pick up the tab."

In recent years, investigative reporters have uncovered evidence that
the program has been repeatedly abused.  The General Assembly has sent
several bills to the governor attempting to prevent these abuses, but
the governor has repeatedly vetoed the bills, saying he prefers to
abolish the program entirely.

"I do believe that the tuition waiver program has merit for young adults
who simply cannot afford college," the senator said.  "It also serves as
a vehicle to ensure that state-sponsored college tuition assistance
reaches every corner of Illinois.  But in the end, I feel a more
comprehensive approach to college tuition assistance, such as the
Monetary Award Program, is the best way to accomplish that worthy goal
while also ensuring recipients demonstrate financial need."