About NIU Located in one of the most dynamic regions of the country, NIU is a comprehensive teaching and research institution with a diverse and international student body of more than 24, 000. NIU opened in 1899 as the Northern Illinois State Normal School solely to prepare college-educated teachers. It became Northern Illinois State College on July 1, 1955, Northern Illinois University on July 1, 1957. The university has since grown into a world-class university that attracts students from around the globe while still serving the northern Illinois region, and yet two traditions established in 1899 remain paramount today: We are deeply committed to preparing teachers and providing an excellent and affordable higher education to Illinois families. The Illinois General Assembly granted NIU its own governing board in 1996. The university also operates education centers in Hoffman Estates, Naperville and Rockford to offer many of NIU's programs at times and locations designed to accommodate the needs of its vital service region.