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U of I opposes proposal to end tuition waivers

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The University of Illinois has formally registered its opposition to proposed state legislation that would eliminate discount tuition waivers for employees.

Employees who have worked at Illinois public universities for at least seven years are eligible to receive half-price tuition for their children.

Each year, more than 2,000 students statewide take advantage of the tuition discount for a combined cost to the state’s public universities of $8 million a year.

For fiscal year 2011, more than 840 students received the discount at the University of Illinois for a total cost of $4 million.

“Most universities around the country provide tuition waivers, so eliminating them would impair our ability to recruit and retain top faculty and staff,” said University President Michael Hogan.

“The waivers are a reasonable benefit for our hard-working faculty and staff, who contribute greatly to the state’s wellbeing through their teaching and research.

“The waivers are part of what universities consider the normal compensation package when we recruit faculty in a very competitive market. Without them we are at an extreme disadvantage.”

The legislation, House Bill 5531, is sponsored by Rep. Luis Arroyo,D-Chicago, who says the state cannot afford the waivers.

If passed, the new legislation would take effect immediately.

The university filed a formal notice of opposition at a Feb. 29 hearing on the legislation, said DeShana Forney, associate director of university governmental relations.

Illinois public universities and organized labor testified against the legislation, which advanced out of the House Executive Committee and will be considered next by the full House of Representatives. If passed by the House, it would require approval in the Senate before final consideration by the governor.

“We will continue to talk to legislators on both sides of the aisle and let them know how this legislation would put public universities in Illinois at a competitive disadvantage,” Forney said.

The university also opposes two other bills that call for the repeal of tuition waivers, HB 2959 and HB 3873. The bills have been assigned to the House Higher Education Committee.

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