Quinn wants count of veterans scholarships

Published: 11/28/2007 12:52 AM

CHAMPAIGN -- Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn has asked the University of Illinois to prove that it is providing business school scholarships that it promised last year to veterans and members of the military.

Quinn and others complained earlier this year that the university wasn't living up to its promise to supply 110 scholarships to veterans and active-duty members of the military for the school's executive MBA program.

The scholarships were announced last year with support from Quinn and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a Chicago Democrat, and enrollment began in the fall of 2006. But only 35 scholarships were awarded for that school year.

In a letter mailed last week to university President Joseph White, Quinn asked for lists of all scholarship recipients and all applicants who were turned down.

"Since that promising beginning, I have been deeply disappointed by the University of Illinois' failure to fulfill its promise to our veterans," Quinn wrote. "Instead of honoring our pledge to our veterans, the University of Illinois has cut back on its promise."

University of Illinois spokeswoman Robin Kaler, noting that the person in charge of the scholarships is out of town, said the school hasn't responded yet to Quinn's letter. She wasn't sure how many scholarships have been awarded so far.

"They're working on a response," she said.

Quinn spokeswoman Elizabeth Austin said he wrote the letter after hearing from veterans in the program and others that the university isn't making good on its initial pledge of 110 scholarships.

"We have heard concerns," she said.

Robert Van Der Hooning, a former assistant dean at the university, said he set up the program after school officials told him to use military scholarships to build up attendance and revenue in the Chicago-based executive MBA program.

Van Der Hooning said he was ordered to cut back the program out of concerns over cost and the worry among some on campus that admitting dozens of "jar heads" would dilute the quality of the MBA program.

The university has disputed Van Der Hooning's version of events, and denied any university officials made references to jar heads -- slang for Marines.

The scholarships, university officials have said, were never meant to be awarded at once, nor all in the Chicago-based executive MBA program. Some of the recipients have been on the Champaign-Urbana campus.

The scholarships were announced to fanfare and praise from, among others, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and after the university had tentatively accepted about 70 applicants.

Van Der Hooning lost his job early this year, which he believes was retaliation for his complaints. He has filed a legal complaint with the state Court of Claims, and said he remains unemployed and unwelcome on many college campuses because of his objections.

"I've gotten close a number of times, but this … subject keeps coming up again and again," he said Tuesday. "When you explain it to people, they understand it ... On the other hand, I wasn't a compliant soldier who just saluted at attention."