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FAFSA delays stall Austin-area students’ college decisions into summer

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FAFSA delays stall Austin-area students’ college decisions into summer


Brian Lerma-Alfaro, a senior at Lehman High School in Hays County, started his Free Application for Federal Student Aid with paper forms in December.

After months of trying to submit the paper forms, he opened an online application in March.

Two weeks from graduating from high school, he’s still wading through technical difficulties.

“Literally, the only thing I need is a signature from my mom,” Lerma-Alfaro said. “When I go into her account, my form doesn’t pop up.”

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Lerma-Alfaro received his acceptance to the University of Texas in February, where he wants to study data science and statistics. But he needs his aid package from the university — which requires the FAFSA form — to receive other scholarships.

He spent two hours in his counselor’s office Monday, trying to work through the form’s technical issue. 

“It’s been a huge pain in the butt,” Lerma-Alfaro said.

Delays in the FAFSA process have plunged what’s already a stressful and cumbersome matter for high school seniors into a plague of uncertainty.

Weeks after the usual May 1 college decision deadline, many seniors are still waiting on aid information that’s crucial to making a decision.

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A lot of things went wrong this year to create the uncertainty, said Shareea Woods, director of the Texas College Access Network. The organization is meant to improve students’ ability to attend college.

The U.S. Department of Education overhauled the entire system to one that’s meant to be a more streamlined, easier process.

However, glitches pushed back the opening of the FAFSA application process from the typical October date to January. The federal department also didn’t start processing applications until March.

Processing turnaround times are down to one to three days now, according to the federal department.

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Burden on colleges

Cindy Melendez, the vice president of student success at Concordia University Texas in Northwest Austin, said universities’ largest challenge with sending out financial aid packages has been waiting on data from the U.S. Department of Education.

“We’re used to these packages going out in February,” Melendez said. “So from February to May, our staff has been really working hard to figure out how we prepare for this time when we have to condense packaging into a much shorter time frame than usual.”

For students with multiple acceptances trying to decide which college will give them the most educational bang for their buck, the delays are causing stress.

“There has been some understanding that our students need more time, especially our students that are coming from economically disadvantaged backgrounds,” Woods said. “We’ve heard some stories of parents putting in deposits at multiple institutions so they can hedge their bet.”

Melendez said the university sent out the first round of aid packages last week. Because Concordia works so closely with families, the deadlines are very flexible, and university staffers have been working with applicants one on one to offer support and guidance.

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The University of Texas included an option for students to extend their deadline to June 1. Miguel Wasielewski, vice provost of admissions, said about 1,000 students opted for more time, while about 9,000 committed to the university without knowing their financial aid packages. The office has been in contact with all 1,000 students, he said.

“In this case, it’s all about just making sure that we advocate wherever possible to get them the resources that they need, while also monitoring where they are in the process,” Wasielewski said.

To date, the university hasn’t noticed differences in the makeup of next year’s class compared with previous years because of the FAFSA delays, he said.

Brian Dixon, vice provost for enrollment management, said UT plans to start sending out packages this week. Earlier in the process, the admissions team identified some particularly strong candidates that it anticipated would need financial aid, something typically evaluated from FAFSA data, and offered some early tuition guarantees.

“The institution took that financial risk to try to provide the assurance for those students, and that has been highly effective,” Dixon said. “About 4 out of 5 students who received those early guarantees have taken us up on that offer.”

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Cost of delays

Even if colleges let students push back their decision, the delays still cost them, Woods said.

A postponed college acceptance means students could miss out on summer boot camps that colleges offer for some intensive programs or might delay housing choices, she said.

“Our concern is some students may be so turned off by this process they may choose not to enroll,” Woods said.

For students who are still waiting, they should keep an eye on their inboxes and stay in communication with the colleges they’d like to attend, she said.

Dixon still thinks there will be problems to work out next year. For instance, students of parents without a Social Security number initially could not complete the form this year.

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Nationwide, fewer students have completed the FAFSA this year compared with last year.

Only 50.4% of Texas high school seniors had completed the FAFSA by May 3, according to the federal Education Department.

By this time last year, 70% of students had completed the application, according to the Texas College Access Network. Even in 2021, which was a record low year because of the pandemic, 58% of Texas seniors filled out the application.

Dixon expects more students will still fill out the form once their peers start receiving letters.

Lerma-Alfaro is the only one among his group of friends left still awaiting an aid package, he said.

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With graduation ahead, he’s been working to keep his grades up, look for jobs and spend time with his friends. The balance is already difficult, and he’s ready to get his college plans set in stone.

“I don’t like saving things until the last day,” Lerma-Alfaro said.

The Education Department has updates at studentaid.gov.



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Austin, TX

Live: No. 1 Texas softball faces Texas A&M in Game 2 of NCAA Tournament super regional

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Live: No. 1 Texas softball faces Texas A&M in Game 2 of NCAA Tournament super regional


Texas A&M survived a wild opening to its super regional against Texas on Friday, winning 6-5 in the first game of the best-of-three series. Texas A&M (44-13), the No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament, will try to qualify for the Women’s College World Series by eliminating the No. 1 Longhorns (50-8) in the second game at 4 p.m. today at McCombs Field.

More: As expected, Texas and Texas A&M softball delivers big hits, drama and fireworks | Bohls

Can Texas stay alive on a blistering afternoon on its home turf? Follow along with the Statesman.

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Middle 9: Texas 9, Texas A&M 8

Texas uses some small ball and speed to grab the one-run lead. Now, the season depends on the ballyhooed pitching staff. Looks like Texas coach Mike White will stick with Mac Morgan, who has yet to allow a base-runner in 1.1 innings.

Top 9: Texas 9, Texas A&M 8

Texas freshman Kayden Henry legs out an infield single, steals second, reaches third on a infield out by Bella Dayton and scores on a fielder’s choice by Ashton Maloney The throw home is errant but the speedy Henry would have scored anyway.

End 8: Texas 8, Texas A&M 8

No problems for Texas pitcher Mac Morgan, the third Longhorn to take the circle today. She doesn’t allow a base-runner and we go to the ninth. What’s at stake? Nothing less than a Women’s College World Series berth and arguably the best season in Texas history – excluding previous appearances in the WCWS, of course.

Middle 8: Texas 8, Texas A&M 8

The Longhorns leave two on against Texas A&M’s Emiley Kennedy. The last out by Joley Mitchell had warning-track power. The great Robert Cessna of the Bryan-College Station Eagle says Kennedy has thrown 233 pitches over the past two games. Unbelievable effort in this heat.

End 7: Texas 8, Texas A&M 8

Extra innings seems fitting for this series between No. 1 Texas and No. 16 Texas A&M, right? Both teams seem stunned after Aggie freshman Mya Perez tied the game with a 2-out, 3-run homer in the bottom of the seventh. Texas A&M ace Emiley Kennedy remains in the game; let’s see how Texas bounces back.

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Bottom 7: Texas 8, Texas A&M 8

Texas A&M freshman Mya Perez just launched a 2-out, 3-run home run into the centerfield bleachers and we are suddenly tied and the crowd at McCombs Field is stunned. Mac Morgan is in the game to stop the bleeding and force extra innings.

Middle 7: Texas 8, Texas A&M 5

Bella Dayton blasts a 2-run homer into center field to give Texas pitcher Estelle Czech some breathing room, and the Longhorns are three outs away from a wild comeback and a game three against Texas A&M in the NCAA Tournament’s super regionals on Sunday.

Middle 6: Texas 6, Texas A&M 5

An epic inning for Texas included an overturned call at home plate and RBI hits from Mia Scott, Vivi Martinez and Reese Atwood. Oh, and a stoppage in play because of an issue with the padded wall, some trash on the field, or perhaps both. Five runs, four hits and two errors from the Aggies. Wow. Does this series have even more late-game drama in it?

Top 6: Texas 6, Texas A&M 5

More drama in the sixth. Freshman Kayden Henry races home on a grounder from pinch hitter Vic Hunter and is called out on a tight play at the plate. But the sixth inning means an automatic replay, and the umpires overturn the call because of catcher impediment. Henry is safe, the Horns have two on with one out, and here comes Aggie pitcher Emiley Kennedy back in the game to try and finish what she started. Softball, folks; you can do that. Mia Scott greets Kennedy with an RBI single into center that scores Ashton Maloney, and Vivi Martinez follows with a 2-RBI shot. Once again, the Texas bats have heated up late in the game. Oh my.

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And you remember that wardrobe malfunction years ago? We have a wall-pad malfunction, apparently. Play has stopped, players are off the field, workers are looking at the outfield wall like I do my car engine when I hear some strange knocking, and we’re in a delay.

The UT worker pulls out some duct tape, and we’re ready to play ball again. One on, one out for Reese Atwood, who promptly gives Texas the lead with a bloop single into left field.

End 5: Texas A&M 5, Texas 1

This feels familiar for anxious Texas fans, whose team trailed 6-0 on Friday after five innings. Texas rallied for five runs in the final two frames yesterday, so four runs is light work, right? Texas A&M will come back with spinballer Brooke Vestal this frame. It doesn’t need to be said, but No. 1 Texas has six outs to save its season against No. 16 Texas A&M and force a third and decisive game on Sunday.

Bottom 5: Texas A&M 5, Texas 1

Texas A&M’s Trinity Cannon loves her some McCombs Field. She played here at state for Forney High School and she just launched her third home run of this series series. This 2-run shot off Texas starter Teagan Kavan has the Longhorns on the ropes. That one screamed over the left-field wall. That’s all for Kavan, who gave up six hits and five runs in 5.1 innings. Senior Estelle Czech is now warming up for Texas.

Middle 5: Texas A&M 3, Texas 1

A brilliant play by Aggie shortstop Koko Wooley, who turns a double play to end a promising inning. But the Texas dugout isn’t happy, since replay shows Katie Stewart appeared safe at first. But Texas is out of challenges and the tension mounts for the No. 1 Longhorns, who are six outs from elimination.

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Top 5: Texas A&M 3, Texas 1

Concerning how Aggie coach Trisha Ford will use her bullpen? We have our answer. Brooke Vestal, who has a nasty spinball, comes in for Texas A&M starter Emiley Kennedy to face Katie Stewart. There’s one on and no outs for Texas after Kennedy plunked Reese Atwood.

End 4: Texas A&M 3, Texas 1

Three up, three down for the first time since the first inning for Texas pitcher Teagan Kavan, who has settled into this game. Now it’s about the Longhorn bats against Texas A&M starter Emiley Kennedy – and it’s about how Aggie coach Trisha Ford will use her bullpen considering Kennedy has now thrown 11 innings in blistering heat over the past 24 hours.

Middle 4: Texas A&M 3, Texas 1

The Longhorns finally get on the board against Texas A&M starter Emiley Kennedy with a solo shot by Joley Mitchell, but Texas coach Mike White thinks it should be more. He signaled Bella Dayton to round third and go home on a shot into center field by Mia Scott, but Dayton holds at third as the throw to home goes wide. Vivi Martinez flies out for the third out in the next at-bat, and White gives Dayton an earful.

Top 4: Texas A&M 3, Texas 1

The Longhorns finally get to Texas A&M starter Emiley Kennedy. Leadoff hitter Joley Mitchell, the transfer from Notre Dame, launches a full-count homer over the left-field wall and screams in joy while rounding the bags. The other Longhorn hitters hope that stuff is contagious.

End 3: Texas A&M 3, Texas 0

A big challenge by Texas coach Mike White overturns a call and helps keep Texas within three runs. Trinity Cannon was originally called safe at second after a toss from third baseman Mia Scott, but replay calls her out by an inch. The Aggies end up stranding two. Huge escape by the Longhorns and starter Teagan Kavan, who has given up four hits, two walks and hit a batter in three innings.

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Middle 3: Texas A&M 3, Texas 0

The first big mistake by the Aggies all series, but they survive the error. Second baseman Rylen Wiggins has a chance to turn a double-play that would have ended the inning but short-arms the throw to second into left field. Vivi Martinez is safe and Reese Atwood follows with a single to load the bases, but Texas A&M starter Emiley Kennedy fans Katie Stewart and gets Alyssa Washington to hit into a weak grounder. That inning could haunt Texas coach Mike White if the Horns don’t rally.

End 2: Texas A&M 3, Texas 0

A 2-run home run from centerfielder Jazmine Hill gives the Aggies the early lead, and the pressure begins to ratchet up on the No. 1 Longhorns, who will be eliminated from the NCAA Tournament with a loss. A 2-out RBI single by Kennedy Powell adds to the lead. Texas pitcher Teagan Kavan gave up three hits and two walks as well as a hit batter that frame, and only a nice throw by catcher Reese Atwood that caught Rylin Wiggins stealing helps keep it a three-run game. How long will Texas coach Mike White stick with Kavan?

Bottom 2: Texas A&M 2, Texas 0

Small ball? Not these Aggies. After Julia Cottrell draws a leadoff walk, Texas A&M coach Trisha Ford bypasses any thought of bunting her to second and Jazmine Hill launches a homer over the left-center wall. That’s the third Aggie homer of the series.

More: Texas and Texas A&M softball coaches were ejected Friday. Are they available for game two?

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Middle 2: Texas A&M 0, Texas 0

Alyssa Washington draws a leadoff walk against Texas A&M starter Emiley Kennedy, but the Longhorns can’t make it count. They’ve now stranded three runners through the first two innings. A one-out, pop-out bunt attempt by freshman outfielder Kayden Henry really hurt Texas that inning.

End 1: Texas A&M 0, Texas 0

A much better start for Texas today. The Longhorns gave up three runs in the opening frame on Friday, but freshman pitcher Teagan Kavan retires the side in order today. She had lots of help from the outfield, including a diving catch by left-fielder Bella Dayton on a well-hit ball from Koko Wooley for the second out.

Middle 1: Texas A&M 0, Texas 0

Texas A&M ace Emiley Kennedy gives up several hard-hit balls but she escapes the inning without any damage. Shortstop Vivi Martinez had a 2-out hit for Texas and Reese Atwood followed with a walk, and a shot by freshman Katie Stewart drives centerfielder Jazmine Hill to the wall, but Hill makes the catch.

Texas pitcher Teagan Kavan will face Aggie ace Emiley Kennedy in game two

Less than 24 hours after earning a complete-game win, Texas A&M ace Emiley Kennedy will return to the circle and try to close out the series. Kennedy gave up six hits with five walks and five strikeouts in game one, so keep an eye on how big a toll those seven innings took on a field with temperatures over 140 degrees. Texas coach Mike White will counter with Teagan Kavan, the Big 12’s freshman of the year who leads the Longhorns in innings pitched (108.1), wins (18) and strikeouts (113) this season.



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Austin boat renters facing issues ahead of Memorial Day due to diminished lake levels

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Austin boat renters facing issues ahead of Memorial Day due to diminished lake levels


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Diminished lake levels in Austin have caused problems for boat renters of what is expected to be a busy Memorial Day weekend.

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Lake levels at locations across Austin and Central Texas are in various stages of flow, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Dashboard. Most water sources around Austin appear to be at normal or steady levels, though some, including sections of the Colorado and Blanco rivers, are measuring much below normal for this time of year.

Effects of decreased lake levels have been felt by Jacob Williams, owner of ATX Boat Rentals. The company normally operates on Lake Austin and Lake Travis, and it typically allows guests to board its boats at the Mansfield Dam Park Boat Ramp.

More: Here are 10 most popular boating locations in Texas and rules to follow

However, the ramp has been closed since September 2023 due to low water levels, according to the Travis County Parks Department. That has forced Williams, his company and his customers to pivot ahead of Memorial Day.

“It’s forced us to move everything,” Williams said. “We have to tow boats now over to Lake Austin all the time instead of just going to my house (and) hopping on boats that are already in the water.”

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What are the lake levels at Lake Travis?

Lake Travis is about 48 feet below its normal level, according to Go Lake Travis, an informational site. That’s much lower than its level at this time in 2022 and 2023, according to LakesOnline.com.

What water levels are needed to boat safely?

With water levels down in some lakes and rivers across Central Texas, it’s important to know how much water you need to safely operate a boat. A variety of factors go into determining whether a body of water is deep enough to operate a boat in, but the biggest things to pay attention to are your boat’s weight and the shape of its hull.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure any body of water you’re boating on has at least one foot of water in it, according to BoatPowered.com. Even then, boaters should use depth monitors to ensure the water they’re in is deeper than that to avoid problems.

Lake Austin to experience influx of boaters this summer

Williams said having to switch around logistical operations hasn’t had a major effect on his business, but with more people being forced to use fewer lakes to rent and drive their boats, some of the lake options are becoming clogged.

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“When nobody can get their boats on Lake Travis, it causes Lake Austin to be more and more packed,” Williams said. “Lake Austin will always be an option, but it’s not fun being on a smaller lake that’s extra packed.”

The city of Austin is enforcing its annual ban this Memorial Day weekend on the use of personal watercraft, wet bikes, motorized surfboards, and similar devices on Lake Austin. Kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and other non-motorized devices are still allowed.

No plans for Memorial Day? Here are 5 things to do around Austin over the holiday weekend

Texas Parks and Wildlife warns of low lake levels

A record 3.6 million Texans are expected to travel for Memorial Day, signaling a possible boon for tourism activities in the Lone Star State. That aligns with ATX Boat Rentals’ busy season, which typically begins around May and extends into September, Williams said.

That figure, coupled with Texas having more square miles of inland waterways than any other state and nearly 560,000 registered boats, means the state’s waterways are likely to be packed for the long weekend.

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The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is warning boaters of potential hazards on waterways. A year ago, the state saw 13 boating accidents during Memorial Day weekend, resulting in two boating fatalities and two drownings.

To avoid those types of accidents, the department is reminding boaters to operate at safe speeds and keep an eye out for low water areas and submerged objects, among other things.

Is Travis County in a drought?

Not really, but some parts of Central Texas are. Eastern parts of the county are not experiencing any drought conditions, and the western half is mostly experiencing abnormal to severe dry conditions.

Counties northwest of San Antonio are experiencing an extreme drought, the worst drought level in the state.

To check your county’s drought stage, check out the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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Austin, TX

Trinity Cannon hits 2 HRs, Texas A&M beats Texas 6-5 in Game 1 at Austin Super Regional

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Trinity Cannon hits 2 HRs, Texas A&M beats Texas 6-5 in Game 1 at Austin Super Regional


AUSTIN, Texas — Trinity Cannon hit two home runs, including a three-run shot in the top of the first inning, and Texas A&M never trailed in its 6-5 win over top-overall seed Texas on Friday in Game 1 of the best-of-three Austin Super Regional.

No. 16 national seed Texas A&M (44-13) can clinch its first berth in the Women’s College World Series since 2017 with a win in Game 2 on Saturday.

Emiley Kennedy (24-10) allowed five runs on six hits and five walks with five strikeouts over seven innings for Texas A&M.

Kennedy Powell led off the game with a single and Koko Wooley followed with a double before Cannon capped a nine-pitch at-bat with a home run to left center that made it 3-0.

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Powell singled and Wooley fouled out before Cannon hit a two-run shot in the fifth inning before Mya Perez drew a two-out walk and then scored on a double by Kramer Eschete to give Texas A&M a 6-0 lead in the top of the sixth.

Viviana Martinez led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, Reese Atwood walked, Katie Stewart reached on a fielder’s choice and Joley Mitchell drew a walk to load the bases. Victoria Hunter pinch hit for Kayden Henry and drove the first pitch over the wall in right center to cut the Texas (50-7) deficit to 6-4.

Atwood hit a two-out solo shot in the bottom of the seventh but Kennedy struck out Stewart to end the game.

Texas associate head coach Steve Singleton and Aggies assistant Russ Heffley were both ejected after a confrontation that began when Powell stepped on the foot of Stewart at first base on the final out in the top of the sixth.

Texas ended the Aggies’ 2023 season with 2-1 and 11-5 victories over Texas A&M in the Austin Regional.

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