CSU grads reflect on impact of Tuition Assistance Grant program

More than 19,000 students have taken advantage of the Tuition Assistance Grant in the past 10 years. Two graduates share their stories below.

Violeta Flores and Lora Elliott have never met each other, but the two Colorado State University graduates have a lot in common.

Both are from Colorado Springs, with less than five miles separating their high schools. At CSU, Flores and Elliott both worked jobs to help make ends meet, while taking full course loads each semester, in addition to excelling at internships and participating in student organizations.

And at graduation, both were among the first in their families to earn a college degree, something they say would not have been possible without the financial support of initiatives like the CSU Tuition Assistance Grant program.

“As someone that didn’t have the means to pay for college, the Tuition Assistance Grant, among other scholarships, definitely helped me by not always having to work 40 hours a week while going to school,” said Flores, who recently earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. “It allowed me to pay for my dorm, pay for my tuition, pay for my books.”

CSU graduate Violeta Flores now works engineer at Lockheed Martin.

Today, Flores is an engineer at Lockheed Martin in Englewood, Colorado, working on the electrical ground support system for hypersonic missiles.

Elliott, who graduated in 2015 with her bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, is an assistant planner for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, just outside of Pendleton, Oregon.

For Elliott, who had dreams of working in government back in high school, she said she didn’t initially pay attention to all of the sources of funding as a student because of classes and work. But a lot has changed since then.

“With the hindsight of having been out of school for a few years, the money I received from the Tuition Assistance Grant Program allowed me to work a reasonable number of hours while still attending school,” she said. “It has directly led to the life and career that I have right now. It’s something that didn’t matter at the time, but it means everything to me now.”

Creating opportunities

Now in its 10th year, the CSU Tuition Assistance Grant program provides need-based financial aid packages to Colorado residents looking to attend Colorado’s land-grant university.

Tom Biedscheid, assistant vice president for enrollment and access, said the Tuition Assistance Grant program helps make higher education accessible for low- to middle-income students.

“A bachelor’s degree often serves as a bridge to a life filled with choices and economic self-sufficiency,” Biedscheid said. “The CSU Tuition Assistance Grant has been a part of the bridge’s foundation for a decade. While it has certainly created opportunity for students, the students have made CSU such a better place.”

Q&A with CSU’s AVP for Enrollment and Access

Learn more about the CSU Tuition Assistance Grant program by reading a Q&A with Tom Beidscheid, assistant vice president for enrollment and access at source.colostate.edu/qa-about-the-colorado-tuition-assistance-grant.

Both Flores and Elliott said they took full advantage of the opportunities presented to them at CSU both inside and outside of the classroom.

Flores was a key member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. It’s where she met many of her friends, with whom she would spend late nights studying in Room 229 of the Suzanne and Walter Scott, Jr. Bioengineering Building. It’s also where she met her future husband.

For Elliott, it was participating in the Associated Students of Colorado State University and interning at the Colorado statehouse and working with legislators, one of whom would request five chocolate-covered espresso beans during committee meetings. She added that the Tuition Assistance Grant and scholarships gave her the chance to enjoy the college experience.

“I had the chance to go to a Macklemore concert with two of my best friends,” she said. “It wasn’t necessarily my favorite type of music, but it was just a fun opportunity to be a normal human and not think about work.”

Paying it forward

CSU graduate Lora Elliott now works as anan assistant planner for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

Now in their careers, both Flores and Elliott are looking to give back.

Elliott, who spent two years of service with AmeriCorps, is looking to make an impact on the local level through her work as an assistant planner in Oregon.

“I enjoy that I get to help a local community in how they want to use the land that they have and make decisions that impact their community,” she said. “It’s just the small things like building a house or opening a business.”

For Flores, she heads down from Englewood to Colorado Springs at least twice a month to spend time with her mother and her sisters, especially the youngest who wants to study equine sciences in college.

My mother “did a lot. She’s been through a lot,” Flores said. “She managed to get five kids through high school and set them on a path for a decent life, and I want to be able to give that back to her and give that back to all of the people that helped me.”

Since college, Flores has written a quote in her notebooks, which is now on her LinkedIn profile: “She believed she could, so she did.”

Flores can’t remember where she got the quote, most likely social media, she thinks. But it’s something that both Flores and Elliott have embodied throughout their journey from Colorado Springs to CSU and now their careers.

For the next generation of students coming into CSU, Biedscheid and his team are working hard to eliminate financial barriers to make a CSU degree more accessible.

After that, it’s up to the students.

“At the end of the day, it’s up to you if you want to make it,” Flores said. “It’s up to you to get up and do want you want to do in life.”