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Freeman makes ‘pledge’ to bridge gap where Pell, MAP fall short

October 23, 2019

Saying the university must bridge the financial gap for students when Pell and Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants fall short, President Lisa Freeman announced a generous new financial aid program that aims to make NIU more affordable for Illinois families with household incomes of $75,000 or less.

President Lisa Freeman delivers the State of the University Address in which she announced the new Northern Pledge Program.

For qualifying Illinois high school students who graduate this coming spring with a cumulative 3.0 GPA or above and begin at NIU full-time in the fall of 2020, the new Huskie Pledge Program will provide a grant to help completely cover first-year tuition and general fees.

“To a high school student, having the talent, drive and determination without the financial means is debilitating and discouraging,” Dr. Freeman said during her Oct. 22 State of the University address. “Where Pell and MAP fall short is a gap that I want us to bridge. 

“The Huskie Pledge is our continued and unwavering commitment to reducing barriers, creating opportunities for those who are ready to thrive and investing where we can make the difference,” she added.

Determined after factoring in a qualifying student’s initial institutional, federal and state aid (including Pell Grants and Monetary Award Program grants), a Huskie Pledge Grant will meet the amount of any remaining first-year expenses for tuition and general fees.

If income, enrollment and university GPA criteria continue to be met, the same Huskie Pledge Grant amount received during the initial year of NIU enrollment will be renewable for up to four additional years, regardless of increases or decreases in other aid during subsequent years.

The program is open to freshmen starting at NIU in the fall of 2020. Funding is limited, and students should apply for admission to NIU and file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Illinois RISE Act application by the priority deadline of Feb. 1.

Key qualifying criteria for the award include the following:

  • Illinois residency.
  • A cumulative 3.0 grade point average at an Illinois high school.
  • Graduation from high school during the 2019-20 school year.
  • A family income of $75,000 or less.
  • Family assets of $75,000 or less (as defined by the FAFSA).
  • Fall 2020 enrollment at NIU as a full-time student.

Sol Jensen, vice president for the Division of Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communication, said the Huskie Pledge is designed to support the university’s mission as an institution providing access to and serving talented incoming students who reflect Illinois’ broad socioeconomic diversity.

“We think this is one of the more generous financial aid programs in the state, one that makes our university even more accessible to students of all backgrounds,” Jensen said. “If you’re a high school student currently carrying close to a 3.0 GPA, you should be checking out NIU to see if you qualify. We’re eager to see you become a Huskie.”

The Huskie Pledge Program is supported by funding from the State of Illinois.

In addition to need-based financial aid, thousands of NIU students each year receive grants and earn merit scholarships that have no family-income requirements. When students apply for admission to NIU, they are automatically considered for the merit aid.

For more detailed information on the Huskie Pledge, visit For general information on financial aid and merit scholarships at NIU, visit