San Antonio/ Politics & Govt
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Published on April 13, 2024
San Antonio Students Scramble to Meet FAFSA Deadlines Amid Nationwide Technical WoesSource: Unsplash/ Element5 Digital

With the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) beset by system glitches, students in San Antonio are racing against time to secure their financial aid. The improved but problematic new version of FAFSA is causing particular difficulties for families with non-citizens or mixed citizenship statuses, as reported by FOX San Antonio. The nationwide issue is more pronounced in the San Antonio area where 70% of students in the Alamo College System identify as Hispanic, compared to 21% nationally.

Despite the technical hiccups, which came in the wake of the 2021 FAFSA Simplification Act, local education officials are pulling out the stops to guide students through the confusion. According to San Antonio Report, Harold Whitis, Director of Student Financial Aid for Alamo Colleges, has assured students that the college district is determined not to deny any student affected by these glitches. Whitis recommended that those experiencing issues should check the Student Aid Website or seek assistance from their school.

San Antonio's 'promise' programs aim to offer unparalleled access to higher education through initiatives like Alamo Promise, UTSA's Bold Promise, and Texas A&M San Antonio’s newly introduced Jaguar Promise. However, eligibility for these programs hinges on the successful submission of the FAFSA. As schools scramble to minimize the negative impact on new admissions, students and their families grapple with the uncertainty this creates. The frustration is palpable as parents with dual citizenships and students face an application launched months later than expected and fraught with issues.

Erika Cox, UTSA’s assistant vice provost and executive director of financial aid and scholarships, emphasized the importance of completing the form correctly and on time. "Students everywhere are navigating the complexities of the new FASFA form, and we know how important it is for them to get this process right," she told San Antonio Report. The stakes are particularly high for soon-to-be college attendees like Madelyn Ocampo, a senior at Warren High School. Following a long-anticipated wait to fill out the FAFSA since early January, Ocampo and her family are seeking scholarships and contemplating taking on jobs amid the unpredictable financial aid landscape.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, during a visit to Burbank High School, promised to convey the urgency of the situation back to Washington, acknowledging the vital role FAFSA plays in college decisions. The overarching concern shared by education professionals like Brandy McLelland, VP of Enrollment Management at TAMU-SA, is for the potential dropout of overwhelmed students from the financial aid process. As efforts to provide assistance continue, the hope for smoother operations in the future remains, with advisers like April Garza from Northside ISD envisioning the day when the FAFSA becomes a great asset once past the technical troubles.