Dear LUCA Familia and Friends: 

Overwhelmed. Bewildered. Worried. This is what our students, families and colleagues are feeling this week.

After a lengthy wait for a delayed rollout of the 2024-2025 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the U.S. Department of Education announced this week that the soonest it would begin to transmit student information to colleges and universities is March. This news, combined with the problems experienced by students and families in trying to access and complete the online form, are disheartening. It also means that colleges’ financial aid offers will most likely not be received until at least mid-April.  We are alarmed by a process that will effectively shorten the critical time needed for low-income students to adequately assess their college acceptance offers alongside the essential need for financial aid opportunities.

The challenges presented by the new “simpler” FAFSA, marked by glitches in the platform, and now the delay in getting award letters out will create new barriers for the students and families that need financial aid the most. Our greatest concern is that these barriers will hurt the students whom we at Latino U College Access are dedicated to serving – low-income, first-generation students for whom an accurate financial aid package is critically important when making a college decision.  

At Latino U College Access we are privileged to support determined and talented first-gen college students and their families as they pursue their college dreams. Our programs include the delivery of FAFSA Bootcamps in our partner high schools where we help students and parents complete the FAFSA application, guiding and answering any questions they may have. 

We commit to continuing to help students and families navigate the hurdles presented by the 2024-25 FAFSA rollout. By hosting FAFSA boot camps, one on one meetings, and a financial aid award review day, we will support them through every step of the process.  We will continue to assist students, families and school partners to ensure that they have all that they need to make higher education possible and affordable.  

¡Siempre Adelante! Always Forward! 

Shirley Acevedo Buontempo, MPA 
Founder, Interim Executive Director 


Last month, our Founder, Shirley Acevedo Buontempo, along with two Scholar Ambassadors – Alondra (The George Washington University ’25) and Jocelyn (American University ’19) – participated in the National College Attainment Network’s (NCAN) “Hill Day” in Washington, DC. This two-day experience focused on advocacy skill-building sessions and discussions of key priorities with federal policymakers.

Our team enjoyed a panel conversation featuring two professional staff of the House and Senate education committees, Viviann Anguiano and Mary Christina Riley, as well as Lindsey Tepe, an advisor with the Office of Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Panelists offered the audience their experiences and insights on the policy process and potential opportunities for policy change.

Our Scholars also had the opportunity to meet with government officials who, through their leadership, have increased access to higher education. Some of these officials included the office of Senator Chuck Schumer, and our Westchester County district representatives Congressman Jamaal Bowman and Congressman Michael Lawler. Through their conversations, LUCA invited them to support doubling the Pell Grant, college retention, completion program grants, and FAFSA funding. 

When asked why she was passionate about being an advocate for first-gen Latino students, Alondra responded, “because I’ve always grown up learning the true value of education and to use my voice. As a first-gen Latina, I want to be a mentor and advocate so other first-gen students to know that they are not alone and that they can accomplish their dreams, too.” 

Thank you to our partners at NCAN for providing this incredible opportunity, sharing this knowledge, and letting our Scholars use their voices. Together, we can close equity gaps in post-secondary education, helping more students achieve their dreams and maximize their potential.