Paying for College: Asia Demmer

Asia Demmer is a second-year computer science major with a passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of artificial intelligence. Georgia Tech has proven to be a place where she can build and develop her interests, but funding her time here has posed some challenges. Demmer utilizes creativity, scholarships, and her work to help alleviate some of the financial stressors of college.

To get started her first year at Georgia Tech, Demmer relied on a small amount of savings from her grandmother as well as the Zell Miller Scholarship. However, she knew she would have to figure out an alternative plan for future semesters.

Demmer worked in the John Lewis Student Center at Tech her first year, which helped her cover day-to-day expenses and save for upcoming semesters.

Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and military scholarships were other options Demmer pursued, though she became too ill to continue her participation at the end of her first year.

“I originally joined in high school because it would be an easy way to pay for college. I knew there were scholarships available, so I joined with some friends,” said Demmer. “And then I ended up finding family in the friends I made, staying all four years of high school, and planning to continue in college.”

The programs also range significantly in what kind of participation they require. For Demmer, the participation expectations were kept to on-campus training a couple of times a week and the expectation to stay fit and healthy.

These programs often pay for housing or tuition, as well as provide a monthly stipend for participants.

“It’s a huge cache of money that goes untouched,” she explained. “And it doesn’t matter what background you come from.”

Additionally, over the summer, Demmer worked as a conference services assistant for the Residence Hall Association, which allowed her to live on campus through a housing stipend that covered the cost of housing while she took summer classes — in addition to paying her an hourly wage. During this time, she also used her computer science knowledge to build an app to keep track of the checklist for the daily building checks she was responsible for, and she received compensation for that as well.

Currently, she participates in a research program monitoring the progress of Black women in STEM. The program provides her with a stipend in exchange for filling out prompts and doing other tasks for the project. Demmer also participates in other paid research initiatives on campus, which she often finds invites to in her email inbox.

“Usually, it’s a survey here and there, and you’ll get $50, $20, something like that,” said Demmer. “It might not be something people think about very often, but it’s out there.”

On top of her other financial resources, she has used loans in the past, and works to find interest-free loan options where she can. When she had an emergency during her first year, Demmer used the Dean Griffin Hip Pocket Fund, a short-term, interest-free loan for Tech students in emergency situations. She also received a loan from the Parents Fund, another interest-free option.

Funds in these accounts are typically reserved for emergencies or special cases but can be helpful for students who have unforeseen circumstances that change their ability to pay for school-related expenses.

Demmer has used a number of sources to pay for her time at Tech, but she said that most of it comes as a result of asking when she needed it.

“People are generally helpful, but you have to let them know your situation,” she said.

For her, part of that means little things, like filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the GT App early every year so that she can make the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid aware of her needs as soon as possible.

It also means checking her email frequently for research, job, grant, and loan opportunities. Demmer was recently able to attend a conference paid for by the Student Government Association Conference Fund, an opportunity she found via email.

Though she hasn’t taken on an internship in the computer science field yet, she notes that she knows the opportunities are out there.

“Companies want Tech students, even if they’re in their first or second year,” said Demmer. “You can get a job relevant to your interests quickly and get paid for it.”

To hear more about financing an education at Tech, visit the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid or read more student stories.