Kids of college professors in Virginia public universities would get at least half off their tuition at any state school under a bill that passed the Senate on Monday with bipartisan support.

Backers of the bill said giving tuition breaks to the children of state college professors will help recruit and retain talented teachers.

"If we can't give them the pay, then we need to do something like this," said Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Springfield. "At a lot of these [out-of-state public] universities, they're not only paying them more they're giving them this benefit."

To be eligible for the perk, professors must be full-time and employed at any state-run college or university for at least seven years. The average in-state tuition at a four-year college is about $9,900 a year and about $4,000 at a Virginia community college. There are about 6,500 faculty members at Virginia public institutions but a financial study could not determine how many would be eligible.

The bill passed overwhelmingly, 34-5, with bipartisan support, and is contingent on state dollars being allocated to it.

Opponents said the state should not give out freebies to professors when many families are struggling to pay for tuition rates that have gone up every year.

"To throw this in as a sweetener, I just think it's unreasonable to the people who struggle to pay their way through school," said Sen. Dick Black, R-Leesburg.

The bill now moves to the House.