Nothing derails a college degree faster than financial challenges.
Knowing this, and with a commitment to ensure access to higher education, FIU Online has awarded more than $200,000 in scholarship funds to learners in the past three years. The funds have supported more than 100 students, helping them start or continue to make progress toward their academic goals.
“We’re doing our part to help our students,” says Lia Prevolis, interim assistant vice president of FIU Online. “Through these scholarships, we help students mitigate barriers to education.”
Even though students at FIU pay less tuition upfront and carry less debt after graduation than the national average, the university is committed to keeping higher education accessible to all and awards more than $180 million in financial aid each year. Moreover, FIU is consistently ranked in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine's 100 Best Values in Public Colleges and is ranked No. 8 for Most Affordable Online College by Study.com.
“We want our students to be successful and we are dedicated to helping them find ways to achieve their goals and keep costs down,” says Cynara Suarez, associate director of online student services for FIU Online. “An FIU Online scholarship can make a significant difference for many of our students.”
Prevolis adds that in addition to the FIU Online scholarships, initiatives such as Affordability Counts and the FIU Online team of success coaches help to further student resilience.
The Affordability Counts initiative, created by FIU Online in 2016, and adopted statewide at all public universities, reducesthe cost of textbooks and materials to less than $60 per course. Likewise, a unique feature to FIU, all fully online undergraduate students are assigned success coaches who help students manage personal commitments while pursuing a college degree. Success coaches work with students to develop and set goals, as well as connect them to resources and services available to them, including scholarships.
FIU Online scholarships
FIU Online offers scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students and they range between $500 and $2,000. They include an FIU Online Corporate and Community Scholarship for employees or members of select professional industry organizations; an FIU Online Academic Merit Scholarship for students who exhibit strong academic credentials upon admission; an FIU Online Distance Learning Scholarship for undergraduate students who meet specific criteria and provide a strongly written essay; and the GET STARTED scholarship, which supports students who may be challenged with hardships due to the impact of COVID-19.
Help when needed most
For Valoria Thomas, who started her Master of Public Health in the fall 2020 term, the GET STARTED scholarship was essential. Thomas, a first-generation college student, works as an HIV Prevention Manager in Broward County. Her work focuses on delivering assistance to vulnerable populations with HIV testing and ongoing care.
“There were sacrifices made for my undergraduate education, but I don’t have a lot of financial support for my master’s degree,” she says when speaking about her mother, a single parent and widow. Thomas is grateful to be an essential worker during the pandemic, and her online program helps her juggle all of her obligations including her work.
“The scholarship meant a lot because I could buy my books this semester,” says Thomas, who has a lot of hope and confidence in the future—she intends to continue her studies to earn a doctorate.
Goals in reach
Chelsea Bermudez, also a recipient of an FIU Online scholarship adds that the award money she received allowed her to continue earning her bachelor’s degree in international relations. As a single mother to an 8 year old, Bermudez was diagnosed with cancer in her first semester. Her salary as a full-time restaurant server would not cover all of her basic needs, cancer treatments and tuition.
“So many of our students face financial challenges, but it is our mission to help provide the resources and connect them with services they can use,” Suarez says. “We believe in our students—the scholarship funds for the FIU Online Distance Learning Scholarship come directly from the staff members who pay it forward through donations.”
“The scholarship gave me the opportunity to conquer a goal—earning a bachelor’s degree. If I didn’t receive the award, I likely wouldn’t have been able to continue my degree,” Bermudez says.
Anfernee Duncombe also feared that she would not be able to continue her bachelor’s degree in psychology. Duncombe paused her education before, but this time she was determined and didn’t want to stop. As a fully online student in the Bahamas, she reached out when COVID-19 restrictions reduced her working hours and salary.
“The scholarship means so much to me. Without it, I would not have been able to afford school this semester,” says Duncombe, who is on track to graduate in April.
“If you’re in a position where you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for help—know that FIU has a plethora of resources,” Bermudez advises.