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NIU Today | Hope Chicago and NIU to provide debt-free higher education for future Huskies

Northern Illinois University is announcing a formal partnership with Hope Chicago, the innovative two-generation college scholarship program committed to investing $1 billion over the next decade in postsecondary scholarships to Chicago Public School (CPS) students and their parents.

The partnership will support inaugural Hope Scholar cohort participants from five partner CPS high schools: Benito Juárez Community Academy (Pilsen); Farragut Career Academy (Little Village); Noble-Johnson College Prep (Englewood); Al Raby School for Community and Environment (Garfield Park); and Morgan Park High School (Morgan Park).

NIU joins more than 20 other Illinois institutions of higher education partnering with Hope Chicago, a non-profit organization that seeks to reduce economic and social inequity. Hope Scholars coming to NIU this case will be eligible for the full suite of comprehensive supports offered by the nonprofit.

Hope Scholars will receive a “gap-closing scholarship,” which means Hope Chicago will pay for any costs not already covered by other grants or scholarships. This includes tuition, room and board, books, fees and surcharges. Hope Scholars will also receive a laptop, a grant and access to emergency funds for unexpected expenses that could be obstacles to their success, as well as transition support, academic and social/emotional supports, and exclusive access to dedicated support staff.

“We know the transition for any scholar into a new postsecondary setting is a critical moment in time,” Hope Chicago Chief Program Officer Michele Howard said. “That’s why we are so excited to have such deep relationships in place with our partner universities that ensure a deep bench of support for our first cohort of Hope Scholars enrolling this fall.”

In February, Hope Chicago visited its initial five partner CPS high schools on the city’s South, Southwest and West Sides, promising 4,000 students and one parent/guardian of each student access to debt-free higher education. With future cohorts in the works, the partnership with Hope Chicago opens the door for more CPS graduates and their families to experience the world-class education that NIU has to offer.

“NIU has been making a significant investment in the talents of CPS graduates, with financial aid and scholarship offerings that have more than doubled the enrollment of CPS first-year students over the past five years,” said Sol Jensen, NIU vice president for enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications.

“This partnership between NIU and Hope Chicago is transformative,” he added. “It will build on our past efforts, help provide a top-notch NIU education to more CPS students and help them focus on their studies and success by removing financial burdens for the entirety of their college careers.”

Other Hope Chicago partner institutions of higher education include the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, Illinois State University and Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

“We know a college degree is the most powerful tool one can use to maximize their career opportunities,” added Hope Chicago’s Chief Executive Officer Dr. Janice Jackson. “That’s why we aim to change the game and redefine the college experience for our scholars in collaboration with our partner institutions.”

For more information on Hope Chicago, visit

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