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.
How to pay for college as a single mom
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 (DOE) 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 percent more likely than independent students who don’t have kids to score an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $0, according to 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
If you’re already learning how to deal with debt as a single parent, you might be hesitant to consider student loans. 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.
1. Government grants for single mothers
Like scholarships, government grants for single mothers 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-mother grants for college.
That said, there are grant opportunities that are specific to single moms even if they aren’t specific to college expenses. The publicly funded Oregon Student Child Care Grant, for example, helps resident students pay for 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 $5,920 for the 2017-2018 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 (TEACH) 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
A big difference between single-mother grants for college and scholarships is that the latter can be found in more places, online and off. In fact, you might find scholarships serving 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 mom, and your campus representative should point you in the right direction. They might even tell you about a school scholarship for single moms, such as the one offered at Minnesota State University.
Although your college can give you a headstart, you should take charge of your scholarship search. Scholarship search tools like Scholarships.com host long lists of opportunities specific to single moms.
Scholarship search engines won’t be 100 percent exhaustive in their results. So 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
Student loans for single moms might be the least desirable of your three options to pay for college, but they could be an option you end up needing. For one, you can’t use a federal loan to cover a non-academic expense like your son or daughter’s child care.
But a loan just 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.
There are some cases when you might prioritize private 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.
Unfortunately, there are no reputable lenders offering discounts or perks in the form of single-mom loans.
Be wary 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 than student loans.
During your search for student loans for single moms, 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 educations.
Although private lenders might not cater directly to you as a single mom, they might 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, ensure you compare that type of loan with a traditional private student loan.
Find the funding you need for college
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 that are designed for single moms, such as single-mother grants for college.
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. You’re a future college student, too.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
|1 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or Nationwide Bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 11/1/2018. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
2 Important Disclosures for Discover.
3 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
* 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.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for PNC.
PNC Bank is one of the nation’s largest education loan providers. For over 40 years, PNC has been committed to helping students and their families make possible the adventure of college.
6 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
9 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|3.94% – 12.78%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.06% – 13.06%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.34% – 12.99%2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 11.10%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.03% – 11.23%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.12% – 13.13%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.62% – 10.01%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.93% – 9.81%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.26% – 12.13%9||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|