Freshman enrollment, performance up despite prolonged pandemic, according to data from NIU

The freshman class is the biggest it has been at NIU since 2014.
The freshman class is the biggest it has been at NIU since 2014.(WIFR)
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 5:48 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

DEKALB, Ill. (WIFR) - Northern Illinois University saw freshman enrollment climb this fall, marking the sixth straight year of increases in the size of its freshman class in wake of the impacts of the prolonged pandemic

More than 2,400 students were in attendance by the second week- the largest freshman class since 2014. These numbers come after steep declines in the pipeline of community college students, pandemic-related stresses on students and a strong job market that could entice students to delay their education.

Incoming freshmen with a 4.0 high school GPA each earn a merit scholarship of $7,000. This year, more than 470 students entered NIU with those accolades. The freshman Huskies have a cumulative average high school GPA of 3.42, the highest average for new freshmen on record.

“Despite the challenges of the past two years, we continue to see very positive enrollment trends in other key areas, including enrollment increases among international students and in our University Honors Program,” NIU President Dr. Lisa C. Freeman said.

Even more impressive, more than half of this year’s freshman class are first-generation college students. The university saw a 55% increase this fall in the total number of applicants over 2020.

“In addition to removing barriers to higher education, we’re leveraging our strong academic programs,” said Sol Jensen, NIU vice president for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications. “Along the way, we’ve recruited a very diverse and strong freshman class of high achieving students.”

The university’s success in recruiting new freshmen is directly tied to a combination of innovative new admissions policies, and partnerships with Illinois high schools. NIU became one of the nation’s first public universities to announce test-free admissions and merit scholarship processes. Eliminating the use of standardized tests in merit scholarship eligibility served to make the process more equitable.

Admission programs like Rockford Promise, now in its second year, guarantees that tuition and general fee costs will be met by gift aid such as grants and scholarships for up to four years for students who meet requirements.

This year NIU and other state schools entered formal partnerships with Hope Chicago, an innovative scholarship program committed to investing $1 billion over the next decade in postsecondary scholarships to Chicago Public School (CPS) students and their parents. And NIU’s Huskie Pledge program, funded by the State of Illinois’ AIM HIGH Program, continues to ensure that qualifying Illinois students from lower-income households can attend college with no tuition or general fees for their first year and potentially beyond.

NIU also eliminated undergraduate application fees and joined the Common App in August 2020 to reduce barriers for students in their pursuit of higher education. The Common App gives students a way to apply to NIU and multiple other colleges with one.