ACES, financial aid top list of problems for students on first day

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Business sophomore Sarah Velaz watches an Alamo Interiors, Inc., construction worker transport equipment while waiting for a VIA student bus pass Aug. 24 at the business office in Fletcher. Business office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m weekdays except Tuesday when the office remains open until 7 p.m. Photo by E. David Guel

Business sophomore Sarah Velaz watches an Alamo Interiors, Inc., construction worker transport equipment while waiting for a VIA student bus pass Aug. 24 at the business office in Fletcher. Business office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m weekdays except Tuesday when the office remains open until 7 p.m. Photo by E. David Guel

Staying focused and balancing work and classes are challenges students plan to overcome.

By The Ranger Staff

The first day of classes Monday was off to a rocky start for some students.

Problems with ACES after an Aug. 17 update, registration and financial aid issues, canceled classes and parking were among problems for students interviewed at random on campus Monday morning.

Challenges they plan to overcome for the semester include balancing work, studying and other responsibilities; tackling difficult courses; staying focused and motivated; and getting to class on time.

Nursing sophomore Nathan Perkins missed his first two classes Monday because he was waiting to speak with the admissions office.

His experience trying to register was stressful, he said. He received error message upon error message when using ACES to find out essential information like class times and locations, he said as he waited in line behind 29 people, waiting to receive a text from the admissions office.

His current wait time was 60 minutes.

“It’s stressful but I have no other choice. I’m just waiting to find out when and where my classes are held.”

His biggest challenge is trying to find more time to dedicate to studying and schoolwork. He is working 25 hours and taking a 12-hour course load.

Biology sophomore Raphael Mancilla said his main challenge is being able to provide balance between his school and work schedule.

He was working 35-40 hours and now has dropped to 16 hours so he could allow more time to focus on his classes.

“It’s tough,” he said. “Before my summer classes, I had to drop to almost 10 hours so I could keep up with my courses.”

This semester he plans to stay focused and graduate.

Business administration sophomore David Beaty has problems navigating ACES.

“The previous ACES was not user-friendly. There were frequent crashes.”

Beaty sought help from librarians and received positive feedback, he said.

He is hoping the updated ACES will be easier to navigate.

His biggest challenge this semester will be taking calculus because he has not taken a class that difficult in a year.

“I’ll have to work extra hard, take extra notes, attend tutoring labs and email my teacher,” he said.

Computer science freshman Jackson Castillo said the recent update for ACES caused links to work on some tries and fail on others.

Castillo then said he resolved the problem by “waiting 10 minutes or so and then retrying until the link finally worked.”

The biggest problem for Castillo will be completing his assignments between attending classes and working.

“I plan on going to bed early so that I can wake up early to complete my assignments rather than staying up late getting work done and being too tired the next day,” Castillo said.

Business freshman Eduardo Fernandez had difficulty navigating ACES but was able to get help from a friend.

He said his biggest challenge this semester will be learning how to find his assignments online.

“I’m proud to be the first in my family to attend college,” he said.

Pre-nursing freshman April Padilla found the registration process confusing.

“Being new to town since I’m from El Paso, it was difficult to understand all the requirements that were needed. It was very overwhelming because I felt the process wasn’t very clear.”

Padilla said she was able to solve all the issues with the help of an adviser.

Adapting to college courses and being on her own for the first time will be the biggest challenge. She plans to get involved in activities and be friendlier to meet new people.

Mechanical engineering sophomore Cesar Chavarria was dropped from his classes and had to frantically try to re-register. And this wasn’t the first time.

“I prepare, I pick my classes and pay, and each first day I have the same issue, and I have to spend half of the first day running around making sure I still have the chance to enroll,” he said.

Chavarria’s biggest challenge is being able to stay focused on schoolwork because of outside distractions such as a job.

Video production sophomore Ryan Alcantara, who has a full-time job, agrees.

“I definitely blame myself for the loss of focus. It’s as though there is a ‘halfway mark’ in which all of the work and school finally weigh down on me and I begin to struggle,” Alcantara said.

Alcantara believes if he carries a journal and writes down all of his assignments in the beginning of the semester, it will affect his organization skills positively.

Modern languages sophomore Amber Lerma presented the difficulty of registering for classes at both this college and the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Lerma said she was unsure of how to balance her schedule between the two colleges until she went to the counselors who “helped plan out the schedule,” and now things are running more smoothly.

Lerma expects her biggest problem will be getting good grades in all five classes while making time to study, work and shuttle between campuses.

Mortuary science sophomore Anna Lopez, who is new to this college but has completed two semesters at UTSA, found out how hard getting through financial aid can be.

“It took me multiple phone calls over the course of four months until everything was finally straightened out,” she said.

What was the problem? A simple letter of the alphabet.

“My middle name is Jo, but financial aid just put my initial J. That didn’t match up with admissions. Finally, after having to re-apply through admissions everything got fixed,” she said.

Another problem that many students face on their first day is simply getting to class on time.

Criminal justice sophomore Michael Garcia said, “My first class gets out at 10:15 at the Oppenheimer building, and my next one starts at 10:25 at the McCreless building.”

So what’s the solution?

“I’m going to try to walk as fast as I can,” he said.

Liberal arts sophomore Rocio Padilla said staying motivated is a challenge.

“Waking up is a big challenge in the early mornings,” she said. “Thinking about all of the things I want to learn will help to push myself.”

Engineering freshman Kevin Espinosa experienced an issue regarding financial aid because he used his mother’s surname instead of his father’s, which led to a change of name needed for his application.

That led to the financial aid award not being available for immediate use this semester.

He expects his schedule to be challenging because he begins Monday morning with an 8 a.m. class and ends the day with a 6 p.m. algebra class.

“Having to use my own money forces me to not want to waste what I spend to drive to school,” he said.

Liberal arts sophomore Matthew Maldonado, who works in admissions, said a lack of communication among departments causes problems for students.

“The students have issues with the wait, and then when they get to the front of the line, they have been sent by another department to the wrong department,” he said. “It’s like departments don’t know how to help with issues that are not part of their department. There is almost no communication, and it causes a lot of issues both for the students and the workers.”

Physical therapy sophomore Patrick Dalmeida had difficulty parking.

“I got here at around 9 a.m. but couldn’t find a spot for almost 30 minutes when I luckily managed to find someone leaving the lot by the NAHC,” he said.

Parking was one of his main campus issues, but Patrick said his biggest challenge would be balancing his job and school.

“I’m a nurse’s aide at Morningside Manor and that requires a lot of physical work helping my superiors as well as the residents, so finding a balance between that as well as my schoolwork may be challenging,” he said.

He plans to keep a daily planner.

Psychology sophomore Cynthia Donovan also finds it challenging to secure a parking spot in time for class.

“Having to get up earlier, as well as dealing with my own struggles with going to bed early, is a challenge for me because I’ve been late to classes due to the amount of time it takes to find a parking spot,” she said.

She said she plans to get her schoolwork done earlier, so she can have a better night’s rest for the next morning’s early rise.

She said a class she had registered for had been dropped without immediate notification to the displaced students.

“I didn’t receive an email until two days after the class was canceled,” she said. “There should be a better and quicker response time to canceled classes.”

Donovan was able to find a replacement class.


Contributors to this story are Matthew Cuevas, Alejandro Diaz, J.M. Gainey, Robert Limon, Roberto Adrian Martinez, Georgina Navarro, Wally Perez, Kyle Sanders and Jordan Williams.  


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