Financial Aid Significance Hits Home For This Advisor


Student Assistant Kayla Gutierrez and Financial Advisor Elizabeth Longwell pose in front of FGCU’s Veterans Pavilion. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Longwell

Gwendolyn Salata, Staff Writer

Elizabeth Longwell, an FGCU financial aid advisor, is a walking testimony of the importance of financial aid. 

Born in Ecuador, Longwell came to the United States in 2004 with little belongings, and she did not speak English. She now has a master’s in applied psychology in higher education personnel administration and has been working at FGCU for three years. 

“Looking back, I see myself as a teenager with dreams…not knowing where my life was going,” she said. “Here I am living the American dream.” 

Longwell raised three children, worked and learned English while she attended school. She said it was not easy. 

“I sold…my wedding ring to have [school] books,” Longwell said. “That’s how bad I wanted it.”  

Longwell moved from Moore Haven to Fort Myers after she and her husband separated. She said she had nothing but her purse and the clothes on her back. After interviewing with FGCU, she was hired in March 2019.

“Everything that I have done so far is for a reason,” Longwell said. “If I didn’t go through it, how could I understand somebody who is going through it now?” 

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Longwell

Tracia Elliott, a junior at FGCU, said she visits Longwell for more than financial aid help.

“I’m always in the financial aid office…almost every day,” Elliott said. “Whenever I need help, I go to her. If I’m having a bad day and I just need to talk, I’ll also just go to her. I call her, like, my school grandma.” 

Elliott recommends students go to Longwell for financial aid assistance. 

“She’s just really passionate about what she does. If you want somebody [who is] going to help you and do it from a place of true sincerity, she’s the person to go to,” Elliot said.

Longwell said some students know her from Instagram as “the financial aid lady.” She took over the social media account in December 2021, when she was asked to double its followers. She is still working on reaching that number. She regularly posts tutorials and reminders for students and parents. 

Longwell said one driving force behind her posts is the fact that less than half of FGCU students took advantage of financial aid relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It made me sad,” she said. “I always put myself in that situation, where if I would have had a little bit more help, maybe I wouldn’t have sold my wedding ring.”  

Longwell said her posts are not just about getting more followers.

“It’s not like I’m getting paid more because I’m doing this,” Longwell said. “At the end of the day, it’s for [the students’] benefit.” The best part of her job is when she “can make dreams happen.” 

Longwell said the most memorable moment at work is when she helped a student who was living in a garage and who was experiencing food insecurity. She helped the student get a place, access to food and a scholarship to pay for classes. 

“I am a big believer in you reap what you sow,” Longwell said. “You have to put good in the universe to get good back.” 

Katia Gutierrez, a former FGCU student, said she met Longwell when she was a student worker in the financial aid office. Longwell helped her get a scholarship and extra hours at the office when Gutierrez’s father, the main financial provider at home, was out of work.

“She also helped me process a lot of things that every college student faces,” Gutierrez said. “I really feel like she connects with her students and really tries to make sure that they feel safe not only financially, but I feel like emotionally, too.”

Longwell said she believes in paying it forward. “There is always fragrance in the hand that gives roses,” she said.

Longwell’s videos can be viewed on Instagram @fgcufinancialaid.