News and Views on political issues affecting Will County
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 education." "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."