Duffy opts out of college scholarship perk

Published: 9/30/2009 12:04 AM

In the wake of increasing public scrutiny over lawmakers clouting students into college, state Sen. Dan Duffy of Lake Barrington has decided to stop issuing legislative tuition waivers to constituents.

Duffy is abandoning the popular practice that allows lawmakers to hand out the equivalent of eight years worth of free tuition to any students in their district annually. The practice has been tainted for decades by allegations of scholarships going to campaign contributors and political workers.

"If you want to close the door to corruption then you have to close off all the avenues that allow corruption to take place," Duffy said. "This is obviously one of the avenues." Duffy said he has given out eight, one-year tuition waivers since taking office. He said he had a separate committee vet essays written about free enterprise to make his selections.

The waivers are good only at Illinois public universities, and recipients must live in the lawmaker's district. The universities are not reimbursed for the cost of the tuition by the state.

Few other lawmakers have chosen to give up the perk, but several have set up internal committees in an attempt to distance themselves from the selection process and accusations of favoritism.