Huskie Pledge to cost NIU $1 million


NIU President Lisa Freeman speaks about the Huskie Pledge Tuesday at Altgeld Auditorium.

By Dan Doren

DeKALB — NIU has put aside about $1 million in funds for its upcoming Huskie Pledge financial aid program, Sol Jensen, vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communications, said.

The Huskie Pledge will launch in the fall 2020 semester and will provide qualifying Illinois residents with a grant that covers their first year’s tuition in full.

To be eligible for this grant, the applicant must have graduated from high school during the 2019-20 school year, be enrolled full time as a first-year student, have a 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher and have an annual household income of $75,000 or less.

The grant will be renewable for up to four years if criteria continue to be met, according to the Huskie Pledge website.

Funding for the Huskie Pledge comes from the State of Illinois AIM HIGH program, in which the state allocates money to Illinois public universities for scholarships to increase enrollment of Illinois students, according to NIU’s AIM HIGH website.

The state has pledged a total of $35 million in grants to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission in accordance with the AIM HIGH program, the state’s current budget shows.

Jensen said the university doesn’t yet have an estimate for how many students will be eligible for the Huskie Pledge in the 2020-21 school year because a student’s financial aid needs can’t be determined until after the student submits a FAFSA or an Illinois RISE Act application.

The university recommends applying by NIU’s priority deadline of Feb. 1 with a FAFSA or an alternative student aid application filed, according to the Huskie Pledge website.

If Huskie Pledge funds remain once the university has considered applications submitted prior to the deadline, students who have submitted their applications after the deadline but meet the criteria will still be eligible to receive the grant, Jensen said.

The university has plans to promote the Huskie Pledge to Illinois high school seniors, which Jensen said will be put into action soon.

“We are sending out postcards probably next week,” he said. “We have an open house coming up on Monday, and I think it’ll certainly be a big topic of conversation there.”

Jensen said about 1,500 students and families are planning on attending open house.