Ds Scholarship

Students benefit from NIU’s partnership with Rockford schools

DeKalbThanks to a partnership between NIU and Rockford Promise, a nonprofit organization that provides full scholarships to selected students, 96 first-year students are attending the Rockford Public School District NIU this year.

NIU’s implementation of the program greatly increased the number of Rockford residents attending the university.

“Last fall we had 21 students who came to us from Rockford Public School, and this fall we have 100, which is a big difference,” said Ann Hardy, director of scholarships at NIU. “This really increases the chance for students from Rockford to see that they can have this educational opportunity and increase our enrollment.”

To be eligible for the Rockford Promise at NIU, students must attend Rockford Public Schools for all four years of high school and earn a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

In order to remain eligible for the scholarship, students in the program must maintain a GPA of at least 2.5 while attending NIU. Students who do not meet these requirements or who have a GPA of less than 2.5 will be placed on probation for a period not exceeding one semester.

The agreement we’ve got is for at least 17 years, so that’s really exciting because, in Rockford, they can start talking to their students in elementary school and middle school.”

– Anne Hardy, Director of Scholarships at NIU

Although the program’s partnership with NIU is recent, many Rockford students have already taken advantage of this opportunity.

“We saw a 380% increase in children choosing to go to Northern Illinois University from Rockford Public Schools, and 79% of the children who chose to participate in this program were first-generation college students,” said Tom McNamara, Mayor of Rockford. .

McNamara said the response to the program’s development has been very positive.

“When a community has higher levels of educational attainment, it has lower levels of violent crime,” McNamara said.

Academic programs like the Rockford Promise don’t just impact potential college students. McNamara has testified to the positive effects of promising programs on communities implementing promise programs. Even Rockford landlords who don’t have college-aged kids can reap the benefits.

“If you own property in Rockford and don’t have a student who can take advantage of that, your property value has now increased because your home now comes with free college fees,” McNamara said.

The organization’s goal is to increase the educational attainment of the collective community and motivate students within the Rockford Public School District.

“The agreement we have is for at least 17 years, which is really exciting because in Rockford, they can start talking to their students in elementary school and middle school,” Hardy said. “So these students will know they have the opportunity to come to NIU, and if they are part of this program, tuition and fees will be covered by scholarships and grants.”

Kevin Salazar is a first-year business major at NIU. Salazar graduated from Jefferson High School in Rockford this year and was accepted into the program this fall.

“The way I heard about it was just through an ad on Facebook, I just scrolled through it and saw it in our local newspaper, and they said they were offering full scholarships and I was interested in it,” Salazar said. “It is definitely worth it; The only reason I came here in the first place is because I joined the program, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

The program offers full tuition to eligible students, but other than the financial barrier to higher education, there are other hurdles to consider.

“The financial barrier is only one part, but researcher support is a big part,” said Tasha Davis, CEO of Rockford Promise. “So that we don’t waste money, we really have to focus on supporting the scholars while they are there to ensure that they graduate.”

The Rockford Promise program offers mentorship courses to accepted students and helps provide postgraduate tools.

The scholarship offered by the university and the program is renewable annually. Students will continue to receive grants from the fund for a period of four years as long as they meet the requirements. The scholarship ends four years after enrollment or after graduation, whichever comes first.

These scholarships and grants come from the program as well as directly from NIU.

“For the fall semester, NIU committed about $355,000, then the Rockford Promise committed about $84,000,” Hardy said.

The grant offered through the partnership is considered the “Last Dollar” program. Funding from the Rockford Promise is applied after all other forms of financial assistance, such as grants, merit-based scholarships, and other federal funding sources.

“The program is not a specific dollar amount that we get,” Salazar said. “It’s just all we have in terms of tuition fees. If we had other scholarships, they would use them first, and then (Northern Illinois University and Rockford Promise) they would cover the rest of it.”

Although the current partnership between NIU and Rockford Promise is a recent development, the program has partnered with a university before. NIU is the third college to participate in the program, the first two being Rock Valley College and Rockford University. The Rockford Promise continues to find new ways to help students from the Rockford Public School areas achieve higher education.

It is definitely worth it; The only reason I came here in the first place is because I joined the program, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

– Rockford Promise student Kevin Salazar

In terms of expansion to other universities, we are constantly working to partner with other universities. Currently, we are working on speaking with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and several other partners within the University of Illinois systems,” Davis said. “So, the goal is to expand scholarship options for Rockford Promise scholars.”

Seniors hoping to apply for the Fall 2022 semester must apply for admission and submit a FAFSA or file Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid By the priority deadline of February 1, 2022.

“Yes, it’s a very good opportunity,” Salazar said. “If you want to go to college to further your career or anything like that, I will definitely try to do it no matter what.”

NIU will be accepting scholarship applications between October 1, 2021 and February 1, 2022. To apply for the Rockford Promise Scholarship, visit website.

“We hope that the students will return to Rockford and become part of their workforce,” Hardy said. “So it’s really, you know, a community development initiative as well.”

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