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Article posted: 5/17/2012 2:51 PM

General Assembly Scholarship program headed for final vote

By

SPRINGFIELD -- One more House vote stands between Gov. Pat Quinn and the elimination of the controversial General Assembly scholarship program.

A House committee on Thursday unanimously approved ending the scholarship program, and that proposal could head to the full House for a final vote in the coming weeks.

The plan's sponsor Rep. Fred Crespo, a Democrat from Hoffman Estates, said past abuses and the cost of the program to universities have made it clear the scholarship program needs to end.

The bill passed the House in March, but an amendment added by the Senate would create a task force to evaluate the costs of other tuition and fee waivers offered by state universities. So the House has to vote again.

Crespo is "not crazy" about the amendment, but said it does not take away from the main goal of eliminating the General Assembly scholarships.

"This gets us where we want to be," he said.

The scholarship program has drawn fire in recent years following reports that the awards sometimes go to politically connected people. The plan would end the program, which requires Illinois' public universities to waive tuition for scholarship recipients chosen by lawmakers. The program cost the universities $13.9 million in the 2009-2010 school year.

If signed by the governor, a proponent of ending the program, the proposal would prevent lawmakers from giving new scholarships after Sept. 1. Students who receive the scholarships before that date would still be allowed to use them.

About 40 percent of the state's 177 lawmakers no longer give scholarships. Plans to reform the program have been vetoed by Quinn, who prefers an outright elimination.

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