NIU expands tuition-free eligibility for qualifying students

Aim High Huskie Pledge meant to allow for more families to send their students to NIU

Northern Illinois University, large red NIU sign outside the Holmes Student Center in DeKalb, IL

DeKALBNorthern Illinois University this week announced plans to expand its Aim High Huskie Pledge program, which is meant to allow for more qualifying Illinois high school seniors to attend NIU for at least their first year without paying tuition.

NIU officials said Tuesday that the expansion is meant to help families who make below a certain income level more easily able to send their high school graduates to college, according to a news release.

The pledge has helped almost 3,500 students attend NIU since its inception in 2020, officials said. Those students recorded an average high school GPA of 3.55. More than half reported being first-generation college students, according to NIU.

Sol Jensen, NIU’s vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communications, said NIU wants to be an affordable choice for higher education for more students.

“At NIU, we’re committed to reducing barriers, creating opportunities and investing where we can make a difference,” Jensen said in the release.

In order to qualify for the Aim High initiative, families previously had to meet an adjusted gross income requirement of $75,000 or lower. The expansion – effective immediately for students enrolling as full-time freshmen in the fall – has raised that income cap to $100,000, according to the release.

Qualifying high school seniors also must graduate with an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher. Those eligible would be able to attend NIU without paying tuition costs or general fees for at least their first year.

Northern Illinois University student volunteers help new arrivals get their things moved into their rooms Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, during move-in day in front of the Fanny Ruth Patterson Complex at NIU in DeKalb.

For eligible students of the Huskie Pledge, their tuition and general fees would be paid for by grants or in addition to scholarships for at least their freshman year. The Huskie Pledge grant would cover costs not met by other financial aid.

Students who continue to meet renewal eligibility criteria can receive the same Huskie Pledge grant amount for up to four additional years, according to the release.

Jensen said students also should complete NIU’s free application and submit their FAFSA or Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid as soon as possible.

This year, significant changes were made to the FAFSA application – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, most commonly used by graduating high school students to secure federal student loans to attend school. The due date for the U.S. Department of Education to send financial aid information to universities has been delayed until at least mid-March, according to NIU.

To ease any student concerns, NIU also has moved its Aim High Huskie Pledge priority deadline back two months to April 1.

State representatives Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, and Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, both NIU graduates, said they support the Aim High Huskie Pledge.

“NIU extending the Aim High Huskie Pledge to incomes at or below $100,000 will open access to the university for so many more students, proving once again [that] NIU is one of the most forward-thinking and accessible universities in our state. Way to go, NIU!” Yednock said in a news release.

Keicher said he believes the expanded Aim High program will allow NIU to have a significant influence on students.

“As a proud alum who is a first-generation college graduate, I am able to say NIU changed the course of my life,” Keicher said in a news release. “I am consistently impressed at the opportunity provided by the NIU Aim High Huskie Pledge to students who were just like me. NIU offers today’s students the same ability to succeed in achieving dreams today as it did for me 25 years ago.”

Have a Question about this article?