State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) launched an effort Thursday to make Illinois community colleges and public universities free for in-state students.
Guzzardi's "coalition-driven initiative" is being called "Tuition Free Illinois" (TFI), which has support from groups like Chicago Votes, Chicago Student Action, College Democrats of Illinois and Young Chicago Authors.
"Higher education in Illinois is in danger of extinction," Guzzardi said in a statement. "Because of the state budget crisis, we're seeing declining student enrollment and an exodus of respected professors. Meanwhile, high tuition is crushing families with debt or keeping them out of higher education altogether."
"Tuition Free Illinois," he added, "will lift the burden of debt from the shoulders of the next generation of Illinoisans and their families, freeing them to spend money in the state's economy. The prospect of free tuition will draw families and businesses to come to Illinois and students to attend our excellent universities."
The TFI coalition proposes funding free tuition through "a menu of progressive revenue options, including a Wisconsin-style progressive tax structure that could generate more than $10 billion in new revenue" as well as the closure of some corporate tax loopholes and implementation of a millionaire's tax.
Guzzardi intends to "champion legislation to require the state to administer grant funding each year to each state university, based on enrollment, to replace the tuition they would otherwise have received," reads TFI's press release. "The cost of these grants would be equivalent to the current amount of in-state tuition received, approximately $2 billion ($1.3 billion for four-year universities; $750 million for community colleges)."
The coalition will spread the word about the initiative on college campuses and through a statewide online petition. The coalition plans to "push for legislative action" on the plan when the Illinois General Assembly begins its new session in January.