Illinois should keep tuition waivers alive

By Editorial Board

Faculty and staff at universities across the nation have enjoyed a prized benefit for years: tuition waivers. Children of parents who have worked at an Illinois public university or within the university system for more than seven years pay half-price tuition at any state school.

But a recently introduced bill, waiting to be considered by the Illinois House, would get rid of this benefit altogether.

Bill advocates argue that the state can no longer afford to foot the bill for the benefit. Although it cost the state $8 million in 2011, it is a valuable tool for investing in our society’s future and should remain policy.

First and foremost, tuition waivers are a standard practice at most U.S. universities. The benefit is a recruitment tool used to attract and retain high-quality faculty. Many faculty members take jobs because of this benefit, not the pay. “The reason I took this job is the benefits package,” Sharon Granderson, a graphic designer at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, told the Galesburg Register-Mail.

Faculty members at Columbia receive a tuition waiver benefit that allows their children to attend Columbia for free. If Columbia were to get rid of this perk, faculty might move to an institution that does offer it,which at this point in time includes thousands of colleges. The recession may have “officially” ended, but at the end of the day, it is a dog-eat-dog world.

While $8 million is a large sum of money, it is a reasonable compensation for faculty and staff “who contribute greatly to the state’s well-being through their teaching and research,” said University of Illinois President Michael J. Hogan. Hogan is one member who loses the benefit, but he is correct.

The $8 million spent on tuition waivers in 2011—each of which averaged $3,652—is an investment. Students who have this advantage will get an education and become an active and contributing member of society, a civic necessity our country lacks and desperately needs at such a volatile turning point.

Lastly, that $8 million is going to education, one of the most important societal institutions in the U.S.

Chicago’s City Council just approved compensating one man $3.6 million for wrongful conviction and police misconduct. Certainly that money could have gone to something more useful, such as, well, education or public transportation.

It is understandable that many feel jealous about the faculty waiver benefit at a time when national student debt is comparable to an ever-expanding balloon ready to pop at any moment.

And while there is no income limit for this benefit, according to Illinois House Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-3rd District), each staff member of a college community is, in one form or another, contributing to the educational process.

To slash this benefit statewide would be a detriment to higher education in Illinois and would have a negative ripple effect on the future of Illinois’ economy.