Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Under Pressure

Every Monday at 8 a.m. while most college students are sleeping off the previous night’s buzz, 23-year-old Felicia Cooper is pulling into work and getting down to business. She will be at her desk until 3:15 p.m. when she will then tackle the I-95 traffic to Glades Road to start her second responsibility, that of a FAU student. Cooper will not leave the Boca Raton campus until 9 p.m. unless she has homework, in which case she will leave much later. This is her routine five days a week.

She does not drive a fancy car like much of the FAU student body. In fact, Cooper doesn’t have anything she didn’t earn through her own hard work and dedication, including her opportunity for a college education. “I have paid for every college credit I have taken for myself, which hasn’t always been easy,” says Cooper.

When it comes to school, Cooper is all business. This is in part because she works 37 hours a week so when she gets to class late in the day she is just getting off work. “I usually go to school straight from work so I stay in my business clothes and treat school like a second job,” says Cooper.

Now a junior at FAU, Cooper started her college career at Nova Southeastern University. Cooper explains, “I want to be a lawyer so I figured I would have a better chance of getting into Nova’s law school if I went there but it turned out to be a big mistake.”

Cooper notes that Nova sharply increased its tuition and her debt began to mount. “Everyone told me to go to FAU and get the same education for half the cost but I just wouldn’t listen,” says Cooper. “It took me until I was $12,000 in debt to Sally Mae for me to figure out the hard way that I couldn’t afford to continue school at Nova.”

She transferred to FAU last August, continuing as a pre-law major, and says she couldn’t be happier about the switch. “I love FAU and I have a lot of friends here so it makes sense to finish my bachelor’s here,” says Cooper.

Although FAU is significantly cheaper than Nova, Cooper still has to work almost a full 40-hour week just to pay the bills. She works at the National Safety Council, a traffic school where people come to avoid points from being charged to their driver licenses for violations or to complete court-ordered classes for driving under the influence convictions.

“I process the DUI offenders into our program, so I deal with some interesting people,” says Cooper. She observes that not everyone is happy about using her services and that some are angry or embarrassed about being in the DUI program. She says she tries to explain to them that the past is the past and now is their chance to start fresh.

“We all make mistakes,” says Cooper. “I let them know that I’m not here to judge or label anybody and they usually calm down quickly.”

Cooper’s smile fades instantly at the mention of her large college debt from Nova, but there is hope. Alicia Lee, Cooper’s boss, is about to take three months of maternity leave and has nominated Cooper to fill her spot.

“Felicia is by far our most reliable employee,” says Lee, “and has yet to miss a day of work since starting at National Safety Council over a year ago.”

Cooper notes that she has only missed three days of work in the past four years. “Her dependability is what made me choose Felicia over other employees with more experience,” says Lee.

She is apprehensive about having responsibility over the 25 employees at the National Safety Council, but her need for the extra money is stronger than her fears. “Even with my Gold Seal scholarship, which covers 75 percent of tuition, I was still ending up owing around $5,000 a semester at Nova,” recalls Cooper. “Now is my chance to pay off some of my debt before it gets out of control.” She adds, “I love FAU and I am glad I switched before it was too late.”

Amelia Ruiz, Cooper’s friend and a visiting professor at FAU, says, “Felicia is one of the hardest workers I know and if anyone can pull off work and school it is her.”

Cooper, with a hint of sarcasm in her voice, adds, “I can’t wait to graduate so I can pay off my college debts and then figure out a way to pay for law school.”

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