Bill set to swell tuition waivers

By Charles Menchaca

A bill awaiting Illinois House approval will determine whether or not the University will grant tuition waivers to the children of those serving in the war on terrorism, according to General Assembly records.

State Rep. Barbara Currie, D-Chicago, said House Bill 925 amends the University of Illinois Act to include the children of people serving on or after Sept. 11, 2001.

Dan Mann, office of student financial aid director, said the Children of Veterans Scholarship is the program that will be affected if the bill is passed. The program provides a four-year tuition waiver for any of the three University campuses.

The waiver is awarded to children of veterans in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the current war in Afghanistan, he said. If the bill is passed, the scholarship will apply to the children of those currently serving in the war against terrorism.

In each Illinois county, one scholarship is awarded for each conflict or war.

Applicants have to meet selection criteria, Mann said. To be eligible for the tuition waiver, applicants must be residents of Illinois, according to the scholarship application.

“The (children of) deceased veterans get the highest priority,” Mann said, followed by children of disabled veterans and those with the highest ACT composite score.

Currie, one of the House supporters of the bill, said she thinks the bill is a good idea.

“We’re now in a war, and these children ought to be treated the same way” as the other children of veterans, Currie said.

Currie said the waivers should be considered when the General Assembly looks at the University’s budget.

“We need to be sensitive to the University’s need process,” Currie said.

Terry McLennand, assistant director of state relations for the University, said there are no funds attached to the waivers for the University.

“(The state) gives us the responsibility to carry it out,” McLennand said.

McLennand said 344 waivers were distributed under the scholarship at a cost of $2.8 million for the last academic year. Of those, 272 were for students attending the campus, 241 were for undergraduates and 31 were given to graduates.

McLennand said the University took a neutral position on the bill because the waiver program is required under state law. The University of Illinois Act includes the section that provides the scholarships for children of veterans.

Kim Duvell, freshman in LAS, thinks there should be some kind of waiver available for the children of veterans.

“(Serving) could put a financial burden on their family,” Duvell said of the veterans.

Chris Clasby, sophomore in LAS, said his friend received a waiver because his father is a war veteran. Clasby also said another party besides the state should pay for the waivers.

“I’m not sure why the federal government can’t pick up the slack,” Clasby said.

McLennand said most people serving now in the armed forces do not yet have eligible children. The cost of the waivers, he said, would be spread out over time.

“It won’t have an immediate impact on the budget,” he said.

Currie said the Senate passed the bill last month and the House will hear it when they are in session again on Jan. 10 and 11.

If the bill is not approved, it will have to be formally reintroduced and approved by both the Senate and the House again.

McLennand said if the bill were approved next month, its effective date would be July 1, 2005. Children who have had a parent pass away during the war on terrorism are still eligible, he said.

“The University certainly would comply with the intent of the act,” McLennand said.