Financial aid makes dream a reality for first-generation student

Feb 21, 2022
Ivelisse Rodriguez is a freshman computer engineering major

Ivelisse Rodriguez, a freshman computer engineering major at Florida Polytechnic University, is funding her education through scholarships, grants, and a position as a student worker at the University.

As Ivelisse Rodriguez progressed through high school and the time to enter college neared, she wondered how she’d pay for the education she always dreamed of. While she aspired to be the first in her family to go to college, the path toward her dreams was unclear.

“Growing up, some kids have college funds or Florida Prepaid (college savings plan), but we didn’t really have that,” said Rodriguez, a freshman majoring in computer engineering at Florida Polytechnic University. “When the time was coming, I was stressed out because I knew I was going to college but didn’t know how I was going to pay for it.”

Her fears were assuaged when she enrolled at Florida Poly with the assistance of a University scholarship, private scholarships, and a Federal Pell Grant. She also is a student worker in the Office of Financial Aid.

February is Financial Aid Awareness Month and Rodriguez is one of the more than 88% of incoming Florida Poly freshmen who received aid from the University, and the more than 60% who did not utilize student loans.

“Our students are fortunate to be able to graduate with in-demand STEM degrees and the majority with no or very little student debt, so they are able to hit the ground running in their well-paying careers,” said Dr. Ben Matthew Corpus, vice provost for enrollment at the University. “With their affordable, core STEM degree, they can pursue any future they want given the prevalence of technology in every career field.”

Rodriguez, a graduate of Armwood High School near Brandon, Florida, said she is especially grateful for her newfound financial security after seeing the struggles of some of her peers. She said students should be sure to apply for the many smaller scholarships that are available from a variety of organizations, businesses, and others.

“I applied for lots and lots of scholarships and I didn’t hear anything for a while, but that shouldn’t be a reason for you to stop,” she said. “After a while if you keep doing it, you will see results – you just need to put in the hard work.”

Although she originally intended to pursue computer science as her major, a conversation with Dr. Bruce Jacob, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, inspired her to make a switch.

“He was talking about how we learn the hardware and the software and he made the courses sound so interesting,” Rodriguez said. “That kind of interaction and access to professors is one of the biggest reasons why I came to Florida Poly.”

Now that she’s settled into college life, Rodriguez has joined the women’s soccer team, the women’s powerlifting team, and the Society of Women Engineers.

“I put in a lot of hard work to get here,” Rodriguez said. “Now that I’m here, the weight of massive debt is definitely off my shoulders.”


Lydia Guzmán
Director of Communications