State should revise, not abolish scholarships

The Illinois House of Representatives voted last month to eliminate the Illinois General Assembly Scholarship Program. The program allows state legislators to give tuition waivers to a certain number of students in their respective districts every year. Sadly, it’s no surprise that some legislators were caught handing out the waivers to children of campaign donors and otherwise politically-connected student recipients.

The Daily Illini certainly does not condone the misuse of something that is intended to award accomplished students. However, eliminating the entire program does not solve the issue at hand. By dissolving the scholarship program, the aspiring Illinois college students, rather than the morally culpable politicians, are the ones punished. There is no reason why a few dishonest legislators in a few districts should deprive promising students statewide of an opportunity to be rewarded for their success.

It is clear that this scholarship has been misused in the past — what is unclear is why the scholarship program remained untouched after legislators were caught giving waivers away as political reimbursement or to students outside of their districts.

Sure, some lawmakers called for amendments to the scholarship program as opposed to total dissolution, but the fact of the matter is that the program is now one senate majority and a governor’s vote away from being completely obliterated — and with it the opportunity of a college education for some Illinois students.

Education is not something to be taken lightly. The fact that the state of Illinois still offers this program is noteworthy, but it needs to be amended immediately. We would like to see the state senate add in a few simple regulations to make sure that these waivers are going to students who are qualified and deserving of the scholarship.

Let’s add a minimum GPA and ACT score requirement. For the more subjective qualifications, each legislator could ask past scholarship recipients or community members to be part of a panel to review each applicant’s essays and other scholastic achievements. These are just suggestions, but they demonstrate that the scholarship program has many methods of reform that should be explored before it faces complete elimination.

Of course, the topic of misappropriation of this scholarship is by no means a new one; in fact, it was addressed last fall in an editorial in which the board also agreed that the scholarship needed revision, not abolition. The Daily Illini still stands by that decision in light of the new bill.