- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An Illinois lawmaker is proposing that the state do away with tuition breaks for children of employees at public universities.

A plan from Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, would phase out the 50 percent tuition waivers over the next four years. New students would not get them next fall.

Franks, who chairs the State Government Administration Committee, said he wants to amend his current House bill, which would get rid of waivers this year. Doing that wouldn’t be fair to current students, he said.

The News-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1EQFJC8 ) reports Franks said 2,156 tuition waivers were issued last year, costing state universities nearly $10 million. He said hard choices will have to be made this year with Illinois facing a budget deficit, and that university employees will have to share in sacrifices.

Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Northlake, said during a committee meeting Wednesday that she’s worried cutting the waivers could drive away “valuable employees.”

“It might not be your physics professor,” Willis said. “It might be the janitor who chose to work at an institution for years, knowing that this is the only way he’s going to be able to afford to have his children go to school.”

Cutting tuition waivers could cause a “brain drain” in Illinois, said Rep. Kate Cloonen, D-Kankakee. Franks said he hasn’t seen evidence suggesting that would happen, and that he doesn’t think “there’s going to be a stampede out the door.”

“We’ve not heard any problems with staffing at universities. It’s a pretty good gig,” Franks said.

Employees become eligible for the tuition waivers after working seven academic years at one or more of Illinois’ senior public universities, including the University of Illinois and Northern Illinois University.

Continuing the waivers would help keep Illinois students in the state, said Linda Brookhart, executive director of the State Universities Annuitants Association.

“To have a faculty and staff that sends their children out of state, what does that say about our own institutions?” Brookhart said.

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Information from: The News-Gazette, https://www.news-gazette.com

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