The UI has formally registered its opposition to proposed state legislation that, if adopted, would eliminate discount tuition waivers for employees.
Employees at Illinois public universities who have held positions 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 - 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 UI at 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 members," said UI President Michael J. Hogan. "The waivers are a reasonable benefit for our hard-working faculty and staff members, who contribute greatly to the state's well-being through their teaching and research. The waivers are part of what universities consider the normal compensation package when we recruit faculty members in a very competitive market. Without them we are at an extreme disadvantage."
At a Feb. 29 hearing on the legislation (House Bill 5531), sponsored by Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, the university filed a formal notice of opposition, according to DeShana Forney, the associate director of university governmental relations. Illinois public universities and organized labor testified in opposition to 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. "We will do everything we can to explain our position."
Common at colleges and universities nationally, including UI peer institutions, the waivers are an incentive to retain high-quality faculty and staff members.
Arroyo says the state cannot afford the waivers. If passed, the new legislation would be effective immediately.
Two other bills, HB 2959 and HB 3873, also have been introduced that repeal the tuition waivers. They have been assigned to the House Higher Education Committee; the UI will oppose both bills.