Free rides should end

By Brianna Wellen

Columbia as private college, doesn’t always reap the same rewards as state-funded institutions. In my college selection process, I considered state schools that were, in some cases, cheaper to attend and offered more scholarships overall, lowering the cost of education even further. For some, ongoing state support to public universities eliminates the private  school option.

One such program, the Illinois General Assembly Legislative Scholarships, is now on the chopping block because of a veto from Gov. Pat Quinn, and I can’t say I blame him. The scholarship guidelines don’t take need or merit into account. Students would simply apply and legislators would give out the money—$13 million total—to whomever they saw fit. Earlier in the year, a bill for the program was tweaked by Quinn to rid the program of nepotism, and now Quinn is fighting to eliminate it all together. In exchange, he’s receiving major pushback from Illinois legislators.

The system had already been found to be flawed when the practice of legislators handing out scholarships to relatives was brought to light. And while the issue of nepotism has been eliminated, it isn’t a fair selection process. All applying students have to do is prove they live in a legislative district and are attending a state-supported university. Nepotism or not, the distribution comes down to random selection or favoritism. Eliminating this program altogether allows the opportunity to create a new state-funded program to help students who need the money or have more academic qualifications than a zip code.

The state could also relocate some of that $13 million into grants that support all student residents of Illinois, whether they attend a public institution or not. Private colleges such as Columbia lack financial support as an institution; the least students could count on is a little help from the state. This would also widen the options for Illinois students when choosing schools. If they are eligible for some state aid regardless of the school they choose, students will end up in a better environment for their specific education needs rather than settling because of money.

Illinois legislators should recognize the flaws with the current scholarship program and be willing to work with Quinn to create a better system that aids more students. Until then, legislators will continue abusing their funds, ignoring qualified students who really need help.