“Affordable college tuition” is a bit of an oxymoron. The average cost of in-state college tuition and fees in 2017-18 was almost $10,000, according to College Board. It’s often double that when you add room and board.
College costs are a burden, as Americans owe more than $1.48 trillion in student loan debt. But as an incoming student, you can set up your financial future to be debt-free before you even start your first semester.
How to get financial aid for single-parent households
While taking out student loans to pay for college isn’t ideal, it might be necessary sometimes. Loans might help you afford college, but there’s still a big financial responsibility that comes with having them.
Keep this in mind while you’re in school and soon after you graduate so that you don’t fall into major student loan debt. Getting financial aid for single-parent households might be tedious, but you do have choices.
Here are a few ways to get financial aid for single-parent households.
1. Fill out the FAFSA
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is your first step to getting federal grants and loans. You’ll need your — and your parent’s — personal and tax information.
In your award letter, you’ll learn your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is the key to knowing how much your family will need to pay toward your college education.
The lower your EFC, the more you’ll be eligible to receive in federal grants, scholarships, and loans. For some borrowers, it can be as little as $0. To get the most financial aid for single-parent households, you might consider getting your EFC to $0.
2. Apply for more aid
Aside from federal grants and scholarships, you can apply for private ones. Scholarships.com has a list of scholarships designed for children from single-parent homes. Some scholarships have other criteria, so make sure you meet all the requirements before applying.
You can also check for state- and institution-specific aid that isn’t covered in your FAFSA. Contact your school’s financial aid office to see what they offer to students from single-parent homes.
3. Consider student loans
Even if your EFC is $0, you might not get all your college funding through grants and scholarships. When the free money runs out, you might have to apply for loans.
There are a few types of federal loans administered by the government. Some require you to complete a FAFSA to be eligible.
- Direct Subsidized Loans: These are given out based on need.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These aren’t based on need, but they are available to anyone seeking extra money to pay for college.
- Direct PLUS Loans: These are available to graduate students and parents of undergraduates.
Federal loans tend to have the lowest interest rates and friendliest repayment terms. After graduation, you have the opportunity to qualify for income-driven repayment plans, deferment and forbearance help, and some student loan forgiveness options.
After grants, scholarships, and federal loans, you might need extra cash to cover college costs. Anyone can apply for private student loans, which come from banks, credit unions, and online lenders.
If you have a preferred bank, look into what rates and terms it can give you as an existing customer. Keep credit unions as an option too. Compare credit union student loans before you sign any agreement.
You also have the opportunity to get a private student loan through online lenders.
If you’ve exhausted your other payment options and are starting to compare online private student loan lenders, there are a few things to keep in mind for how to find the best one for you. Look for lenders that offer flexible repayment schedules, low fees, and low interest rates.
If you don’t have great credit, you might need a cosigner to help you take out a private student loan. Not only can a cosigner help you get a loan, but they might get you one with a lower interest rate than if you were to apply alone.
Get all the aid you can
Reviewing all the necessary documents and requirements for financial aid qualifications can be overwhelming and confusing, especially as tax forms and income are involved.
Completing your FAFSA and applying for more aid specifically for your family situation can help you get as much free money as you can before turning to other means.
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