Gov. Pat Quinn put pen to paper Wednesday to abolish political scholarships in Illinois.
The state’s controversial, century-old program became the subject of much debate after legislators began misusing it, awarding scholarships to family members of political contributors instead of students in need of financial assistance.
“There is no place for political scholarships in Illinois,” Quinn said in a statement. “I believe in the power of education, the importance of ethics and integrity, and the idea that you can get ahead in life with a little hard work."
Under the new legislation, members of the General Assembly can no longer award higher education scholarships after Sept. 1. Students nominated for scholarships for the 2012-2013 school year will still get them.
Quinn's signing comes as a federal probe took aim this week at a state senator's tuition waivers. The U.S. Attorney's Office opened a criminal investigation alleging Sen. Annazette Collins awarded legislative scholarships to five students who lived outside her district.
The program previously allowed legislators to award eligible students from their district with annual scholarships to state universities.
“It is unfortunate that the legislative scholarship program was misused by legislators, taking away what for some students was their only way of attending college,” said Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) in a statement. “This new law will allow us to take a comprehensive look at all tuition waivers and how we can make higher education more accessible for those who need the most help.”