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Illinois Targets Perk for University Employees

Sherman Hall at Western Illinois University

Illinois legislators are considering whether to revoke a benefit long enjoyed by state university employees.

Anyone who has worked in the state university system for at least seven years gets 50% off tuition for their children. Universities say tuition waivers help attract and retain quality employees.

Dave Steelman, who lobbies for Western Illinois University, said the majority of WIU employees using tuition waivers are relatively low-paid workers, such as clerks.

Steelman said 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. Veterans' waivers for the same year totaled $2.2 million" Steelman said.

But Representative Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago) said 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," Arroyo said.

Arroyo said the tuition waivers cost $387 million last year.

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

The measure (HB 5531) was approved in committee on February 29 and now goes to the full House.

Thanks to Illinois Public Radio


Rich is TSPR's News Director.