Disclaimer: I graduated from NIU 20 years ago, so the program has probably changed quite a bit in that time. Some or all of my criticisms may no longer apply.
Overall, I liked the program at Northern. My expenses were a fraction of those at a private school, and I was able to complete the program in 3 years (I transferred in as a sophomore), so my time spent in school was less than friends who attended community college programs with wait lists.
I had 3 major criticisms of the program:
First, we were so far removed from most of our clinical sites (Rockford and the western suburbs) that our clinical time was severely limited. We had 4 semesters of off-campus clinicals. The first involved one 1/2 day per week of med-surg. The second involved two 1/2 days per week of community health and/or psych. Some students did only community health, some did both. I did not have a psych clinical. (I have enough psych cases in my own family that I didn't mind, but that was a shortcoming of the program for those who desired psych clinical time.) The third semester was two 1/2 days per week combined peds/OB/med-surg. Not enough time to learn much in any of those areas. The final semester was two full days per week, but only for half of the semester. We had some freedom to choose the unit on which we did this "leasership" clinical. I ended up on an ortho unit at CDH, which was NOT my choice, but I did learn a lot!
My second criticism was the quality of some of the faculty. I guess this can be a problem anywhere, but we had instructors who ranged from FANTASTIC to God-awful. At that time, NIU required their nursing faculty members to obtain a doctorate within 7 years of hire, or be dismissed. I understand the rationale of a well-educated faculty engaged in research, but some of the faculty were so absorbed in their own studies that they couldn't be bothered to teach their students. By and large, the really good instructors were the ones who had no desire to obtain a doctorate. They spent their summers and weekends working as staff nurses, keeping their skills up to date, and establishing good relationships with the nurses on our clinical units. Unfortunately, they were out the door in 7 years, so there was a fair amount of faculty turnover. And the instructors who did earn their doctorates usually left for more prestigous positions in the city. DeKalb doesn't have much to offer to draw high-quality faculty away from the city.
Finally, at that time, our curriculum was weighted very heavily on adult-med-surg. Very little emphasis on OB, peds, psych, or ICU and very few faculty members who would encourage a new grad to try anything other than med-surg.
I got a good theoretical education at a modest cost. I passed boards (along with 96% of my classmates, and was offered the job of my dreams (Special Care Nursery at Rush), based largely on the reputation of NIU's program. My employer provided me with an excellent orientation program that made up for my lack of relevant clinical experience.
May I ask what other programs you are considering?