Introduction to Financial Aid

We know that the financial aid process can feel overwhelming. We’ll help you understand what options you have to help pay for college and how to apply for them.

Understanding Costs and Financial Aid Options 

You’ll want to get an idea of what it costs to attend NIU. The Cost of Attendance (COA) is sometimes referred to the Estimated College Cost (ECC) or the budget. It includes expenses billed by NIU, such as tuition, and expenses not directly billed by NIU, such as books and supplies. It is important to understand the COA because it limits the total amount of aid that you can receive.

You have many options for paying for your education. You may be eligible to receive one or more of the following forms of financial assistance:

  • Scholarships
    Scholarships are awarded based on a variety of factors, including academic achievement and financial need. They do not need to be repaid. Many scholarships are awarded by NIU as well as private organizations.
  • Grants
    Grants are offered by the federal and state governments, as well as by NIU, based on financial need. You need to file a FASFA or Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid to be considered for most grants. In general, grants do not need to be repaid.
  • Loans
    You may choose to take out a federal loan and/or a private loan. To be considered for a federal loan you must file a FAFSA each year. Private loans may require a separate application and credit check. Loans must be repaid. 
  • Federal Work-Study
    Work-study gives you the opportunity to earn money by working for NIU. Work-study earnings do not need to be repaid.

Finally, take some time to get to know your rights and responsibilities regarding financial aid.

Applying for Financial Aid

Please refer to our financial aid process for a complete overview of the application process.

You can apply for many financial aid options by filling out an online form called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Here’s what you should know about the FAFSA:

  • It’s your application for federal grants, loans and work-study.
  • You need to complete a FAFSA each year.
  • NIU uses the results of the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for additional grants.
  • You’ll need information about your household's income and finances.
  • Don’t wait to fill it out! Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Undocumented Students

If you're a qualifying undocumented student, you can submit an Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid instead of the FAFSA. Our Undocumented Student Resource Center can help you navigate your unique situation.

Financial Aid Notification

After you submit your FAFSA or Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid and provide any additional required documentation, we will send you a letter which lists the aid you are eligible to receive.

We will use an amount known as the Student Aid Index (SAI) to determine your financial aid. Your SAI is determined by a federal formula from your FAFSA results. The SAI is used to calculate need-based aid, and is not the amount you will owe the university.

Visit Your Financial Aid Offer for complete details on your financial aid.

Huskie Spotlight

Olivia Elliot

Not only was it financially the best option, but it was so close to home, that even as a commuter student it’s provided me with a lot of opportunities to get involved.

NIU School Code

Use NIU's School Code when completing the FAFSA.


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