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updated: 2/22/2012 6:29 PM

House panel takes aim at scholarships awarded by lawmakers

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By Ryan Voyles

SPRINGFIELD -- A proposal from state Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, to end the controversial General Assembly scholarship program was approved by a House committee Wednesday.

But some lawmakers argue the program doesn't cost the state money and can help students who need help paying for college.

The plan, sponsored by Crespo and other suburban lawmakers, would end the program, which requires schools to waive the tuition costs for scholarship recipients chosen by lawmakers.

"We're not refunding schools for these costs and they have to pass the costs to other students," Crespo said Wednesday.

The scholarship program has drawn fire in recent years following reports that the awards sometimes go to politically connected people.

The committee approved the measure 14-3, and it now awaits a vote in the full House.

State Rep. Randy Ramey, a Carol Stream Republican, voted to abolish the program, but said the costs are "like a drop in the bucket" for universities.

"It frustrates me that when we're trying to do the right thing, because of the actions of a few, we have to stop a good program," Ramey said.

According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the program cost state universities $13.9 million in the 2009-2010 school year.

About 40 percent of the state's 177 lawmakers no longer give scholarships. Plans to reform the program have been vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn in the past two years, as the governor wants the program abolished.

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