Bill Ending Tuition Break for Kids of Univ. Employees Passes Committee

March 01, 2012

Illinois lawmakers are considering whether to end a benefit that lets university employees send their kids to state colleges for half-price. The Illinois House Executive Committee sent a measure (HB5531) to the House floor on Wednesday, on a 9-2 vote.

State Representative Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago) is the bill's sponsor. He says the waivers contribute to the high cost of higher education.

"Tuition rates in our universities keep going up because we are paying for children ... to educate children of other state employees", says Arroyo.

Arroyo says the tuition waivers cost $387 million dollars in 2011.

But a spokesman for the Illinois Board of Higher Education says the cost was actually much smaller: about $8 million.

Dave Steelman lobbies for Western Illinois University. He says at that school, the majority of employees using tuition waivers are relatively low-paid workers, like clerks.

They have to work in the university system for seven years before they're eligible.

And Steelman says when employee tuition waivers are compared to similar programs, they don't cost very much.

"At Western last year, our employee dependent waivers totaled about $240,000", says Steelman. "Veterans' waivers for the same year totaled $2.2 million."

State Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) serves on the House Executive Committee, and supported the bill on Wednesday.

"It's almost like saying if I work at the building department, I get my building permit for half price", says Tryon. "I don't know of any other part of government where employees get to pay less for something than the taxpayers or the general public."

Those who want to end the perk say they would consider a compromise, like a salary cap that limits the benefit to lower-wage employees.

Story source: AP