Student Loans for Single Moms and Dads — And Other Financial Aid

 June 10, 2020
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how to pay for college

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If you have a child who’s years from leaving the nest, you have time to save up for their college costs. But paying for your own college tuition might feel more last-minute — or even impossible.

Fortunately, there are ways to finance your path back to campus that don’t require a long-term savings plan. You might be able to avoid student loans for single moms and dads, too, if grants and scholarships are your saving grace.

How to pay for college as a single mom or dad
3 ways to pay for college as a single parent
Consider financial aid options before borrowing

How to pay for college as a single mom or dad

Whether you’re returning to school or stepping onto campus for the first time, paying for college will start with the FAFSA. As a student with dependents, you’ll meet the Department of Education’s definition of an independent student. That means your FAFSA results could be based on your income, not your own parents’ tax returns.

Your status as an independent undergraduate could help you qualify for need-based aid from the federal government, your state and your school.

In fact, you’re 50% more likely than independent students who don’t have kids to score an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $0, according to a 2017 report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Your EFC is how much the FAFSA determines you can pay out of pocket for college. The lower your EFC, the greater your chance at securing aid like a federal Pell Grant, state-based grants and direct subsidized loans.

3 ways to pay for college as a single mom or dad

If you’re already dealing with debt as a single parent, you might be hesitant to consider student loans for single mothers and fathers. Racking up as many grants and scholarships as possible might lessen your need to rely on loans.

Here are three ways that explain how to pay for college as a single mom or dad.

1. Government grants
2. Scholarship opportunities
3. Student loans

1. Government grants for single moms and dads

Like scholarships, government grants for single mothers and fathers don’t need to be repaid. Unlike scholarships, grants are almost always based on financial need, not merit.

Having a low income and another mouth to feed might qualify you for a need-based grant that’s available to anyone and everyone, not just parents. Don’t overlook those opportunities as you hone in on single-parent grants for college.

That said, there are grant opportunities that are specific to single moms and dads even if they aren’t specific to college expenses. The publicly funded Oregon Student Child Care Grant, for example, helps resident students afford child care.

Find your state’s appropriate education-related agency via the DOE’s handy map.

Beyond grants available in your state, consider federal grants that are available to all students who can demonstrate financial need. They include:

Pell Grants As much as $6,345 for the 2020-2021 award year
Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants Between $100 and $4,000 per year and awarded by your school
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants Up to $4,000 per year for aspiring teachers
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants Equal in value to Pell Grants but restricted to children of fallen veterans

2. Scholarship opportunities for single moms and dads

A big difference between single-parent grants for college and scholarships is that the latter can be found in more places, online and off. In fact, you might find scholarships for single parents from any of the following organizations:

  • Your school
  • Your state government
  • Federal agencies
  • Charitable foundations
  • Professional associations

If you’re already enrolled in college, or at least know where you’ll be attending, contact your school’s financial aid office. Explain your situation as a single mother or father, and your campus representative should point you in the right direction.

Although your college can give you a headstart, you should take charge of your scholarship search. Scholarship search tools host long lists of opportunities specific to single moms and dads.

Scholarship search engines won’t be 100% exhaustive in their results, however. Check in with your school or state education agency to find privately run organizations like Capture the Dream (California), Emerge (Georgia), and the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund. Also, be on the lookout for national organizations like Soroptimist.

3. Student loans for single moms and dads

Student loans for single mothers and fathers might be the least desirable of your three options to pay for college, but they could be an option you end up needing if grants and scholarships aren’t enough.

A loan might mean the difference between going to class and staying at home.

You’re likely better off prioritizing federal loans over private loans. With direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, you’ll probably score a lower interest rate as well as more favorable repayment options, such as income-driven repayment plans.

Plus, if you’re a single parent heading a household with one income (instead of two), you might be more likely to qualify for need-based subsidized loans, which don’t accrue interest while you’re enrolled and in deferment.

If you’re seeking student loans for single parents with bad credit …
Keep in mind that federal loans for student borrowers don’t require a credit history review of any kind (although you must not have “adverse credit history” if you’re a graduate student or parent borrowing on behalf of your child). Be wary of private lenders advertising bad-credit student loans, though, as they could be bad actors looking to make a buck.

There are some cases when you might prioritize private student loans over federal loans. If you have an extremely creditworthy cosigner, for example, a private lender might beat the federal government’s rates even if it can’t offer the same level of repayment protection.

In almost all cases, though, a private loan would supplement your federal loan borrowing, not replace it.

More on private student loans for single mothers, fathers

Unfortunately, there are no reputable private lenders offering discounts or perks for single-mom loans or single-dad debt.

Be skeptical of “single parent loans” you might see advertised by personal loan companies. Personal loans often come with higher interest rates and shorter terms, making them harder to repay.

Although private lenders may not cater directly to you as a single mother or father, they may have a loan product that fits your needs in another way. Sallie Mae, for example, offers loans for career training at non-degree-granting schools. If you’re a single mom attending a trade school, for example, ensure you compare that type of loan with a traditional private student loan.

Clearing up potential confusion around single-parent borrowing …
During your search for student loans for single moms and dads, you might also see the federal government’s parent PLUS loan and private lenders’ “parent loan” options. To clarify, these loans are for the parents of college students, not for parents paying for their own education.

Exhaust financial aid before borrowing student loans for single moms, dads

If you’ve been wondering about how to pay for college, now you know that gift aid can help you get there. And fortunately, you can find opportunities designed for single mothers and fathers, such as scholarships for adults returning to school after starting a family.

Before resorting to student loans, don’t forget to apply for grants and scholarships. You might apply for first-generation student scholarships, for example, if you’re the first in your family to seek a degree.

When applying for gift aid, find ways you can differentiate yourself on applications. After all, you’re more than a single mom or dad. You’re a future college student, too.

Need a student loan?

Here are our top student loan lenders of 2022!
LenderVariable APREligibility 
2.49% – 13.85%1Undergraduate

Visit College Ave

2.55% – 11.44%2Undergraduate

Visit Earnest

3.25% – 13.59%3Undergraduate

Visit SallieMae

0.00% – 23.00%4Undergraduate

Visit Edly

3.25% – 9.69%6Undergraduate



Visit FundingU

* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.

1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

  1. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
  2. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
  3. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 9/15/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.47% APR to 13.03% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 2.80% APR to 11.69% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

3 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

4 Important Disclosures for Edly.

Edly Disclosures

1. Loan Example:

  • Loans from $5,000 – $20,000
  • Example: $10,000 IBR Loan with a 7% gross income payment percentage for a Senior student making $65,000 annually throughout the life of the loan.
    • Payments deferred for the first 12 months during final year of education.
    • After which, $270 Monthly payment for 12 months.
    • Then $379 Monthly payment for 44 months.
    • Followed by one final payment of $137 for a total of $20,610 paid over the life of the loan.

About this example

The initial payment schedule is set upon receiving final terms and upon confirmation by your school of the loan amount. You may repay this loan at any time by paying an effective APR of 23%. The maximum amount you will pay is $22,500 (not including Late Fees and Returned Check Fees, if any). The maximum number of regularly scheduled payments you will make is 60. You will not pay more than 23% APR. No payment is required if your gross earned income is below $30,000 annually or if you lose your job and cannot find employment.

2. Edly Student IBR Loans are unsecured personal student loans issued by FinWise Bank, a Utah chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to eligibility criteria and review of creditworthiness and history. Terms and conditions apply.

5 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  • Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates are based on the 30-day average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of September 1, 2022, the 30-day average SOFR index is 2.23%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the SOFR index, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable interest rate is the greater of 21.00% or the prime rate plus 9.00%.
  • Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
  • Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates are only available for the most creditworthy applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate or medical degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.


    Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.25%-10.35% (3.25% – 9.69% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.24% – 10.59% (4.24% – 9.93% APR). 

    Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.90% (3.75% – 9.68% APR). Fixed interest rates range from  5.22% – 10.14% (5.22% – 9.91% APR). 

    Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.35% (3.75% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 5.20% – 9.59% (5.20% – 9.39% APR).

    Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.02% (3.75% -8.98% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 5.18% – 9.26% (5.18% – 9.22% APR). 

    Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.25%-9.21% (3.25% – 9.21% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.96%-9.50% (3.96%-9.50% APR).

    Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 6.58%-11.72% (6.58% – 11.62% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.82% APR). 

    Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 5.67%-9.17% (5.67% – 8.76% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.08% APR).

6 Important Disclosures for Funding U.

Funding U Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.