Democratic Representative Will Guzzardi paid a visit to Southern Illinois University (SIU) last week to promote his legislation that would offer free tuition to students attending public universities in Illinois, according to Daily Egyptian.

Guzzardi represents the 39th District, which covers Avondale, Belmont Cragin, Hermosa, Old Irving Park, Portage Park and Logan Square.

He explained that his legislation—called “Tuition Free Illinois” (TFI)—would include a 3 percent surcharge on residents who make over $1 million per year, as well as eliminate the most abused tax loopholes for corporations. The program needs to raise about $2 billion to cover the cost of the grants handed out to eligible students.

Guzzardi is hoping that if TFI is approved, private universities then would have to lower their tuition to be competitive. According to Progress Illinois, the rep pointed out that many state institutions are seeing a decrease in enrollment, as well as a loss of qualified professors to teach.

“This issue is personal for me,” Guzzardi told a crowd of students, school employees, and local residents during the event. “I’m carrying tens of thousands of dollars of student debt.”

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The 29-year-old Illinois House member, who hails from Chicago, also spoke of how the state’s budget stalemate, which has been going on for more than a year, can negatively affect public universities. He noted that some state institutions—including Chicago State University—might not be able to pay their bills because of it. Guzzardi placed the blame for the state’s financial problems on Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Guzzardi hopes his legislation will not only help the state’s public colleges, many of which are scaling back on programs, but also attract more outside students to Illinois. He noted that Illinois sends 10 times more students to out-of-state public universities than non-residents come to Illinois. He encouraged students at the gathering to help lobby for his bill.

Image Copyright Tyler Neu.