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Funding college amid the pandemic, record year in savings plans

FAU’s Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program accepting applications
Florida Atlantic University sign
Posted at 5:51 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 17:54:32-05

Investing for college cost amid the pandemic is a question countless face today and for some, the crippling burden of college debt has compounded.

WPTV takes a closer look at a few options from a scholarship program that guarantees “zero debt” to the largest prepaid program in the nation which has seen record numbers.

Florida Atlantic University senior Ta’ Shyra Johnson is a first-generation college student juggling five classes, two jobs, two student organizations and prepping for a second internship with the NBA.

”A lot of people think it’s a lot but I’m personally really good at time management and I actually get everything done very well,” Johnson said. ”I look at it as good stress. I know it’s going to get me where I want to go. And it’s building personal development skills that I know I’m going to need.”

Johnson’s the recipient of FAU’s Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program a full ride scholarship for low income high school seniors who receive more than just the money to complete their four-year-degree as first-generation college students.

“It covers career readiness, financial literary, mentoring and academic support,” said Dr. Andrea Oliver, associate vice president, FAU Student Outreach and Diversity Office. “I’m a first-generation grad myself so I can say that there are options out there.”

Each scholar follows “The Path,” a 17-step program which includes wraparound services supporting successful collegiate careers and post-graduate lives, including career planning, mentoring, and financial literacy, among others.

”It’s very extensive. It’s discussing goals, dreams and where they see me going,” said Johnson.

And the university expects more competition among first-generation applicants amid the pandemic. And there’s other funding options peaking interest. Florida Prepaid is the largest and longest running prepaid college program in the nation. They also have seen a record year in savings plans.

”In the brackets where people have the income to do so amid COVID-19 [people] are actually saving more because there’s nothing like a crisis to make you realize I need a little bit more in the rainy day fund,” said Shannon Colavecchio, Florida Prepaid Program spokesperson.

A recent study by Sallie Mae and Ipsos entitled How America Pays for College 2020 shows 91-percent of Americans believe higher education is an investment. But across all economic classes FAFSA applications have decreased by 12-percent since 2018 which could signify a shift in where people are enrolling.

”We’re starting to see in Florida a lot more students that want to go to trade schools and technical schools because those jobs are in huge demand,” said Colavecchio.

For now, students like Johnson have zero concerns about costs. Instead focusing on the job market ahead as a sports agent.

”I want to be able to help someones dreams come true,” Johnson said. “It’s all I really want. I want to see someone whose put in that determination and dedication like myself.”

15 people will be chosen for the Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars Program. Applications will be accepted through March 1. Prospective Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholars must meet the following criteria:

  1. Florida resident
  2. First-generation student (Defined as high school graduates whose parent(s) or legal guardian(s) did not complete postsecondary education. Students with siblings who have graduated or are in college are eligible.)
  3. Accepted to FAU for the fall 2021 semester
  4. Submit a completed FAFSA application [] and eligible for a Federal Pell Grant
  5. Submit a completed Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholar Program application form []

For more information on Florida Prepaid plans, savings plans and other options visit:

To read the full Sallie Mae and Ipsos study entitled How America Pays for College 2020 visit: