The odds of getting a four-year degree aren’t great for most community college students. Cost is a major barrier, especially for lower-income students, who were half as likely as their higher-income peers to transfer to a four-year institution, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. And only 13% of students who start at a community college get a bachelor’s degree within six years.
However, for community college students interested in a career in information technology, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The Foreign Affairs Information Technology (FAIT) Fellowship, funded by the U.S. Department of State, provides a path to an exciting IT career and offers funding for a bachelor’s degree.
Launched in 2016, the FAIT Fellowship program is designed to attract underrepresented populations in the technology field interested in Foreign Service careers. The program encourages students with varied backgrounds, including ethnic, gender, racial, social and geographic diversity, as well as those with financial need, to apply.
A path to success
Community college was a path to success for many of the students selected for this prestigious Fellowship program. Of the 44 Fellows who are either currently in the Fellowship or have completed the program, 23 have taken courses at community colleges during their academic career. Of those, 11 earned their associate degrees at a community college.
“The academic funding provided by the FAIT Fellowship program helps to greatly reduce or eliminate the financial hurdle of a four-year institution,” says Shannan Spisak, The Washington Center’s director of federal programs. “In addition to the funding, Fellows get summer internships, mentorship and professional development, that prepare them to enter the Foreign Service after graduation. And the State Department creates a pipeline of top technology talent for its Foreign Service Information Management staff.”
Enoch Masih was selected for the 2021 cohort of the FAIT Fellowship program. Masih is a first-generation college student who earned an associate degree in computer science information technology from Northern Essex Community College, while struggling financially to support his family and pay for school. He applied for and was selected for the FAIT Fellowship program in 2021 and will receive up to $75,000 in academic funding toward the junior and senior years of his undergraduate degree program.
Masih will pursue a bachelor’s degree in information technology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. As a FAIT Fellow, he also will have summer internships (with stipends), mentorship and professional development. When he graduates from UMass Lowell and meets the State Department requirements, he will enter the Foreign Service as an information management specialist.
His is only one story of success.
Khaled Mamun was born in Chittagong, Bangladesh, and is a United States Army veteran who received an honorable discharge in 2018. He studied at Fayetteville Technical Community College and is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in cyber security and homeland security, with a minor in IT management at Campbell University in North Carolina.
And Erin Moran, born in New York to immigrant parents from Mexico, is a first-generation college student. She attended Bergen Community College and is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in IT at Pace University with hopes of earning a master’s degree someday.
Cochise College graduate Sara Robinson-Camarena, who was born in Mexico and raised in Arizona, is now earning a bachelor’s degree in cyber operations, in the Defense & Forensics Track and the Law & Policy Track at the University of Arizona.
Because the FAIT Fellowship is a two-year program, it is designed as a cohort model. Applications for the 2022 cohort will be accepted starting this fall. Eligibility requirements are on the FAIT Fellowship website.