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NIU removes use of standardized test scores for 2021 applicants

NIU removes use of standardized test scores for 2021 applicants

New ‘test-blind’ policy is first of its kind for an Illinois institution

DeKalb, Ill. – Northern Illinois University today announced it will eliminate the use of standardized test scores for general admission and merit scholarship decisions. This new “test-blind” policy will begin for students applying to NIU for the fall of 2021.

Any high school graduate who applies to NIU with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above will be guaranteed admission. All freshman applicants will be automatically considered for NIU Merit Scholarships, based on their GPA. The sweeping change includes the University Honors Program, with students applying to that program for the fall of 2021 no longer required to submit standardized test scores.

National higher education studies and NIU’s own data show a student’s high school GPA is a better indicator of future academic success than performance on a standardized ACT or SAT test.

“This new policy comes from our deep commitment to making a college education both accessible and equitable for a broad and diverse student population,” NIU President Lisa Freeman said. “It reflects our efforts campus-wide to eliminate unnecessary and biased barriers throughout a student’s educational path.”

“Once we know a high school student’s GPA, one standardized test score is irrelevant,” said NIU Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Ingram, Ph.D. “The new policy will allow more students to take advantage of the life-changing educational opportunities we provide. We believe that this will encourage good students to focus on getting the most out of their high school classes.”

Student applicants with a GPA below 3.0 will be considered for admission to NIU based on a holistic review which will consider a broad spectrum of factors, such as academic preparation and performance, motivation, resilience and resourcefulness.

“This now allows us, much earlier in the process, to really get to know students on a more personal level,” said Sol Jensen, vice president for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications. “We believe it also will help with retention efforts down the road as we’re able to individualize the resources and services our students need to succeed.”

The new practices aim to empower disadvantaged students without the means or resources to prepare for tests, and they reflect well-documented findings that standardized test scores often are more reflective of a student’s socioeconomic background than their academic abilities, Jensen said

Research shows that the costs and inaccessibility of test preparation resources and courses often inhibit minority and low-income students, as well as students with disabilities.

While a growing number of colleges have announced “test-optional” criteria, NIU is the first public institution in Illinois to adopt an entirely “test-blind” criteria for applicants.

“NIU faculty were instrumental in making this change and recognize that our students are more than a test score,” Provost Ingram said. The policy also has been guided and championed by shared governance including Faculty Senate, Baccalaureate Council and University Council.

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Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 areas of study while serving a diverse and international student body.

For eligible freshmen, new aid program would help fully cover 2020-21 tuition, fees

Illinois high school students who graduate this coming spring with a 3.0 cumulative GPA or above might now be able to reap the benefits of a generous financial aid program at Northern Illinois University.

The new Huskie Pledge aims to make NIU more affordable for Illinois families with household incomes of $75,000 or less. For qualifying full-time students, the Huskie Pledge Program will provide a grant to help completely cover first-year tuition and general fees.

“Our Huskie Pledge is yet another step toward our goal of making a life-changing NIU education affordable and accessible to as many students as possible,” said NIU President Lisa Freeman, who announced the program during her Oct. 22 State of the University address. “If you’re a hard-working student, we want to help you succeed at NIU and beyond.”

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.

Learn more about the Huskie Pledge. For general information on financial aid and merit scholarships at NIU, visit the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office website.

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Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 areas of study while serving a diverse and international student body.