One Red Raider plans to use his leg-up to protect vulnerable organizations and communities.
Isaac Smith is a junior in the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University. Smith is studying information technology with a focus in cybersecurity, serves as vice president of the Association of Information Technology Professionals and is a member of President's Select.
Smith would not be where he is today though, without the Red Raider Guarantee, a grant created by Texas Tech to increase access to higher education.
The program, funded in part by donors through the university scholarship fund, ensures tuition and mandatory fees (up to 30 credit hours per year) for in-state, first-year and transfer students with an associate's degree, who have demonstrated the necessary financial need and will be enrolled full-time in the fall and spring semesters.
“I was so happy when I found out I qualified for the Red Raider Guarantee,” Smith said. “But maybe not as happy as my parents.”
Smith is an only child from the Dallas suburbs. His parents have worked hard to give their son opportunities, but they still have some limitations. After paying off student loans themselves, they didn't want to see their son weighed down by the same burden.
“My parents stressed how important it was for me to apply for grants,” Smith said. “I applied with FAFSA, but they wanted me to see what else was out there.
Smith says his parents have moved mountains for him, making many things possible, but he wanted to help take some of that pressure off when it came to college.
“Most families can't write a check to cover four years of tuition,” Smith said. “I didn't want my parents to feel like they had to; I love them, and I don't want them living under that stress.”
Smith qualified for financial aid based on his FAFSA and was identified by Texas Tech's Student Financial Aid & Scholarships as eligible for the Red Raider Guarantee. While students must qualify for this program their first year at Texas Tech, they're able to receive the Red Raider Guarantee later in their college career if there is still demonstrated financial need, and they meet the university's satisfactory academic progress requirements.
In Smith's case, his junior year was the first time he used the Red Raider Guarantee.
“I had grants that covered my tuition minimum the first two years,” Smith said. “At the beginning of this year though, I came up a bit short.”
The Red Raider Guarantee made up the difference.
Smith said the ability to keep focusing on his studies and not stress about finances has allowed him to excel in his academic career.
“After grades, I think students' biggest stress is financial,” he said. “It weighs heavily on us. Sometimes you'll be with a group of classmates and suggest grabbing lunch and some students can't even eat out. Even working two jobs, a lot of students just have enough to break even. That's a stressful way to live for four years.”
Smith is grateful for the financial assistance he gets for school, so the money he makes at work can go toward housing and food. His work not only pays the bills today but will also pay off in his future career.
“This past summer, I took an internship with Price Waterhouse & Coopers (PwC) in Dallas,” Smith said. “I worked in their consulting department and was able to run penetration tests; showing which of their online assets could be at risk for hacking.”
This was a perfect fit for Smith since his dream is to work with the FBI.
“I've wanted to be an FBI agent for a while,” Smith said. “But it was when I realized I could specialize in cybersecurity and meet the bureau's needs that way, that it really clicked.”
Smith is passionate about combining modern technology with security measures to better guard the country's banks and federal reserves.
“When you go to an airport, we now have programs like CLEAR which get you through security in a touchless experience,” Smith said. “Well, banks could be the next place to implement these security protocols. The problem is that technology like this is expensive.”
Smith is convinced though, with the right strategy and problem solving, it can be done.
Smith accredits the Rawls College of Business' Career Management Center with the career trajectory he is on now. Not knowing what he wanted to study when he arrived at Texas Tech, the center helped Smith identify core strengths and passions.
The Career Management Center itself was a draw to the Rawls College of Business, but so was the college's job placement rate of more than 90%. And maybe not as important, but very relevant to Smith, is its food.
“I love a good meal,” Smith said. “Since coming to Lubbock I've made a list of the best restaurants, both on and off campus.”
The Rawls College of Business offering many restaurants right in its building sealed the deal for Smith. As a member of President's Select, Smith is responsible for giving campus tours to hundreds of potential students each semester, and he prides himself on giving the best tours when it comes to on-campus eats.
“I know every spot to eat on campus and can tell you what's good there,” Smith said proudly.
But more than his recommendations on food, Smith is passionate about other students getting the financial help they need.
“I will pass on the advice that was given to me – apply,” Smith said. “Many students start with FAFSA, but there is so much beyond that. Most people get down on their luck before they even try. You'd be surprised how many people out there want to help you succeed.”