At Seminole State College of Florida, financial aid helps students achieve bachelor’s degrees and beyond
Britt Johnson has always put others first. At 17, when his mother fell ill and could no longer work, Johnson put his dreams of college and a career in law on hold. He dropped out of high school and became the breadwinner for his family. For more than a decade, he toiled as a bag boy and worked his way up in the fast-food industry so he could put his younger siblings through school, giving them the education he had so desperately wanted for himself.
So at age 34, with his brothers and sister graduated and on to their own lives and careers, Johnson decided it was finally time to take care of himself. He believed it was time to go back to school and build the life he had always dreamed of.
“I had put my aspirations aside to get my siblings through school,” says Johnson. “But I knew that a career as a general manager in fast food wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to change my life.”
The only problem was that, despite all his hard work, Johnson’s position as a fast food general manager didn’t pay enough to cover the rising costs of higher education. And he had no sibling or guardian to help him pay for tuition, books, housing, and the other expenses that come with college.
Fortunately, while getting his GED, Johnson encountered administrators from Seminole State College. After Johnson shared his remarkable story, the officials encouraged him to look into all of the financial aid available to Seminole State students.
Johnson soon learned that it only takes a few minutes to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Or if you already have a FAFSA on file and your financial situation changes, you can go back in and update to see whether you qualify for additional aid.
The FAFSA is the first step in applying for scholarships, federal financial aid such as the PELL grant, and work-study programs that enable students to pay for college. It’s the entry point to low-interest government loans that offer more protections than most other loans, as well as grants and work-study benefits—many of which don’t have to be paid back. And even if students don’t show the need necessary to qualify for federal funds, the FAFSA is also the gateway to apply for the many financial aid and scholarship opportunities offered by the school.
“The FAFSA was my building block,” says Johnson. “Because of those scholarships, I was able to focus on my classes and not worry that I wouldn’t have enough money to pay for this, or that I would be deep in debt when I graduate. I’m very grateful for the resources at Seminole State.”
Last year, Seminole State provided a total of $1.1 million in scholarships and emergency assistance to 1,880 students like Johnson. In addition, there are dozens of privately endowed scholarships available through the Foundation for Seminole State College.
Of course, getting to college is just half the journey—once on campus, you want to make the most of the opportunity and get the education that will best prepare you for the career and life you want. That’s why, in addition to financial aid, Seminole State enables students to pursue their bachelor’s degrees in many high-demand careers, including business and information management, construction, engineering technology, health sciences, IT, interior design, and nursing. This way, the College can leverage its strong relationships with local businesses and industries to prepare students for the demands of the modern workforce—and give them a head start on a successful future.
For instance, Rachel Yang was a Chinese immigrant and single mother when she decided to go back to school and give her family a chance at the American Dream. By filling out her FAFSA, Yang was able to qualify for financial aid, scholarships, and a work-study job that helped pay for tuition and supplies. After earning her associate degree in marketing, Yang started the bachelor’s degree program in business and information management. Within three years, she was able to use her bachelor’s degree as a launching pad to a master’s in nonprofit management, which she just received from the University of Central Florida.
“The bachelor’s degree program was very easy to manage,” says Yang. “I was able to take many classes online, still work, and take care of my family. I believe that in America, if you work hard, you can make a better life and a better future.”
Hard work and a bachelor’s degree have proved to be key to the American Dream. A recent Georgetown University study found that graduates with a bachelor’s degree make over $1 million more than people without degrees in the course of their lifetimes. And of the 7.1 million net jobs lost during the Great Recession, nearly all had been held by workers with less than a bachelor’s degree—while the vast majority of jobs added during the recovery went to people with at least an associate degree.
Seminole State offers more than 200 degrees, including bachelor’s degrees in high demand careers and associate in science degrees that prepares graduates for immediate entry into their chosen careers—with a placement rate that tops 90%.
Johnson can attest to how Seminole State helps students prepare to succeed. After graduating last fall, he used the College’s DirectConnect to UCF® to enroll at the University of Central Florida, where he is now continuing his pursuit of a law degree. He says he’s grateful to Seminole State for helping him realize his dream of higher education and advises anyone who wants to go to college and improve their life, no matter their age or situation, to come to Seminole State.
“We all have external and internal barriers in our lives,” says Johnson. “It’s never too big of a problem to go in and ask for help. At Seminole State, they have people there to help. They have people with the skills to get you resources you need. Put your fears aside: If you have a dream, the journey isn’t always pretty. But the other side is bright.”
So if you’re ready to pursue your educational dream, check out the degree options and financial aid available at https://www.seminolestate.edu/go. Continued education pays off.