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Local

NIU unveils 'Huskie Pledge' to fully fund tuition for low-income freshmen

NIU President Lisa Freeman announces enrollment strategy in State of University address

Northern Illinois University President Lisa Freeman speaks Thursday during the unveiling and dedication ceremony of the new sculpture, Huskie Pride, in the Martin Luther King Jr. Commons.
Northern Illinois University President Lisa Freeman speaks Thursday during the unveiling and dedication ceremony of the new sculpture, Huskie Pride, in the Martin Luther King Jr. Commons.

DeKALB – As part of ongoing efforts to grow enrollment at Northern Illinois University, Illinois high school students could have their tuition fully funded beginning in fall 2020 if they meet certain income and academic requirements.

NIU President Lisa Freeman unveiled the new initiative, called the Huskie Pledge, during her State of the University address. Illinois high school students who graduate this spring with a 3.0 cumulative GPA or above could have their first-year tuition completely covered if they live in a household with a net income of $75,000 or less.

“To a college-bound high school student, having the talent, drive and determination but not the financial means is debilitating and discouraging,” Freeman said Tuesday in her address.

She said the university’s data shows student success is related more heavily to high school GPA and not what score a student receives on the SAT or ACT.

She said the university is reexamining certain admissions practices as it heads into the 2020-21 academic year, and that research shows standardized tests are often biased against students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds or communities which are traditionally marginalized.

Those who receive freshman year tuition coverage through the Huskie Pledge will be eligible to have the grant renewed for up to four additional years provided they meet the GPA and income requirements, she said.

For the 2019-20 academic year, total scholarship giving increased by more than 200%, Freeman said, and an additional $10.3 million is committed.

Freeman also identified other goals for the coming year at NIU, including improved disability services.

The university also is revising policy and practices related to sexual misconduct. In May, students held a protest against the university’s handling of Title IX cases, and called on staff to improve reporting, investigation and disciplinary policies to better advocate for survivors.

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