In the digital age, where every click and keystroke carries the possibility of progress and risk, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges’ (EICC) cybersecurity program empowers students to protect online spaces while enjoying a high-demand career. This opportunity, paired with Iowa’s Last-Dollar Scholarship, gave Morgan Vargas the courage to leave her job in mental health services behind and learn a completely new craft.
“I went to a four-year college after high school and graduated with a bachelor's degree focused on psychology,” said Vargas. “I worked in the field for five years, and during that time, I came to the realization that the field is not for me. I wanted to do something different.”
Through Iowa’s Last-Dollar Scholarship, she was able to enroll in EICC’s cybersecurity program part-time with zero tuition costs. Established in 2018, the Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship covers any tuition gaps not covered by other federal and state grants/scholarships for eligible Iowa residents enrolled in high demand career and technical programs.
“Without the Last-Dollar Scholarship, I likely wouldn't have made the decision to attend college a second time and make a career change,” Vargas said. “At the time, I was unable to afford it once more and I would have stayed at a job that was affecting my mental health.”
With the fear of additional college debt wiped away, she enrolled in EICC’s cybersecurity program with enthusiasm. Thanks to curriculum mapped to industry-standard certifications from CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco, and Amazon Web Services, she earned several certifications prior to graduation. Building a strong foundation - even before finishing her degree - allowed her to start working in the field.
This fall, she accepted a full-time position at Purina as an Associate IT Technician. Her work includes setting up computers for new workspaces, general troubleshooting, password resets, and more. Her coursework in programming languages, server configuration, website development, and security best practices have helped her be successful.
“I'm excited that I am able to follow a career path that I can be proud of,” she said. “Cybercrimes have increased with more devices that run off of Internet connections and having a job I enjoy, while also having that job security, has been the route for me.”
EICC’s cybersecurity program can be completed online or in-person, allowing students who work full-time to create a schedule that works for them. EICC is also one of only three colleges in the state to be recognized as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD). The designation, awarded by the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity program, signifies that EICC’s Cybersecurity, AAS Degree meets all criteria established by the NSA, FBI, CISA, and its other federal partners.
“There's always something new out there to discover and learn,” Vargas said. “I'm looking forward to seeing what new technological advances are around the corner, and what I can do to make them secure.”
EICC’s other Information Technology programs include Networking, Programming, and Web Development. Each are eligible for the Last-Dollar Scholarship, as well as dozens of other high-demand programs. For a full list, visit eicc.edu/lastdollar.