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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

'Rockford Promise' Scholarships Hope To Open Tuition-Free Pathway From RPS To NIU

Chase Cavanaugh

A newly proposed scholarship would give Rockford Public School students an opportunity for free tuition and fees at Northern Illinois University.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said the impact of the Rockford Promise scholarship program for the Rockford community is beyond just education.

“We know that educational attainment is an education in and of itself is directly tied to public safety. It is directly tied to neighborhoods; it is directly tied to economic development,” he said.

Students who attend Rockford Public Schools all four years of high school and finish with a 3.0 GPA or higher would receive free tuition and fees at Northern Illinois University.

McNamara stressed that property taxes wouldn’t be increased to pay for the scholarships. Instead, he said they’ll primarily be using funds derived from the new casino.

“We heard loud and clear from citizens, they didn't just want those dollars to go into the general fund, and make sure that we're patching potholes and things of that nature with it,” he said. “They wanted some portion of these dollars to be used for long-term, meaningful change.”

The Rockford Promise organization would also provide recipients with mentors during their collegiate journey.

The plan still needs to be approved by city committees, RPS and NIU over the coming weeks. They hope they can get it okayed in time to open the scholarships up to RPS 2021 graduating seniors.

It would provide up to $6,000 per year, with NIU covering the rest of the tuition and fees.

Even though it’s yet to be finalized, McNamara said over a dozen students have already begun the process to apply.

The scholarship has a similar function as NIU’s recent Huskie Pledge grant program. However, the Rockford Promise scholarship doesn’t have a family income threshold and they’re also providing mentors to awardees.