New enrollment data reveals that Northern Illinois University’s innovative Huskie Pledge program was a key factor in lifting enrollment this fall.
Created in January of 2020, the program is designed to promote NIU’s commitment to making a college education affordable to qualified students of limited means. Designed to benefit Illinois high school graduates with a minimum high school GPA of 3.0 and a family adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less, the program is funded by the State of Illinois’ AIM HIGH Program. It covers whatever amount of tuition and fees remains after all other grants and scholarships are applied.
“The Huskie Pledge reflects our continued commitment to reducing barriers, creating opportunities and investing where we can make a big difference,” said NIU President Dr. Lisa C. Freeman. “We know how debilitating and discouraging it is to college-bound high school students who have the talent, drive and determination to attend college, but not the financial means to do so. This removes that barrier and creates a path to success for those students.”
That message apparently resonated with families. Approximately 20% of all students admitted this fall qualified for the program. Of those who actually enrolled, 37% percent qualified. Ultimately, 719 students (35% of the incoming class) received NIU’s Huskie Pledge and paid no out-of-pocket expenses for tuition and general fees. The average recipient received $2,571 through the program.
The Huskie Pledge was particularly successful in attracting students from the university’s proverbial back yard.
The two high schools with the highest number of recipients were DeKalb High School (15) and Sycamore High School (13). Another 10 students from other high schools across DeKalb County also benefitted from the program. Each of those students also received a one-time grant of $3,000 extended to DeKalb County high schools.
“This is particularly exciting because we know the students who graduate from area high schools. We know the quality of the education they receive. They are the caliber of students any university would be happy to attract: smart, hardworking and focused,” Jensen said.
That supposition was borne out by the way the program helped boost the academic profile of the incoming class. The average high school grade point average for each Huskie Pledge recipient was 3.57 – considerably higher than the 3.32 average for the freshmen class as a whole, despite being the second highest incoming overall GPA in the past decade.
Because the Huskie Pledge provides support for four years (at the same level as freshmen year), it is of particular value to those high-performing students as they are more likely to persist to graduation and earn degrees that can significantly change their earning trajectory.
“That is one of the most exciting aspects of this program,” Jensen said. “Three-quarters of the recipients are first-generation students, so this is very impactful for the students and their families.”