Single moms have big responsibilities. They have the complete responsibility of running a household and taking care of the kids all on their own. While these responsibilities can be rewarding, they can also be very difficult. If a single mom is not able to secure a good job that pays enough for her and her family to live comfortably it can be very difficult indeed.
Many times the key to being able to secure a better job and to create a better life for your family is to get a higher education. However, it can be very difficult for a single mom to afford the additional expenses of going back to school, not to mention the difficulties in splitting time between work, kids and school. There is also the additional expense of child care during the time she is taking classes. These challenges are often what stops a single mother from trying to go back to school. It just seems to complicated and expensive to do it.
However, the truth is that the sacrifice will pay off. The time spent furthering your education can be the best thing for your family. It can help you get into a good career that can provide all of the things that you and your family need. Even though it may seem difficult at first in the long run it can be well worth it.
Most people know that it is possible to get financial aid to attend college. However, most people do not know how much and what types of financial aid is available. Most people also don’t know exactly how to apply for financial aid. With a little research, some planning and attention to detail, almost any single mom can get financial aid to assist them to go back to college so they can improve their lives and the lives of their children.
Paying for Tuition
If you have checked it out recently you are surely aware that tuition costs for colleges are quite high. Add in the cost of books and other resources, child care and more and it can look overwhelming. However, it is better for everyone in the long run for the government or others to help pay for schooling for a short time for single moms than to have them stay a minimum wage jobs taking government subsidies for a long time.
There are several Government backed grants that are available to help single moms and other low-income families pay for tuition, books and other expenses associated with higher education. The benefit of receiving a grant is that you don’t have to pay it back. Yes, that’s right. You will be able to get an education without incurring student debt. And that would be great for anyone and especially nice for a single mom with so many responsibilities.
The Pell Grant is likely one of the best known grants that are available. This grant is provided by the Federal government o n a need-basis to low-income undergraduate and a few post baccalaureate students to promote access to college and post secondary education. A Pell grant recipient can use their grants at any one of as many as 5400 participating colleges. The amount of the grant is dependent upon the student’s expected family contribution (EFC), the cost of tuition as determined by the institution, whether the student is part-time or full-time and whether the student plants to attend for a full academic year or less. Pell grant funds can only be used for one school at a time.
Financial need for the Pell grant is determined by the U.S. Department of Education using a standard formula established by Congress. The applicant must submit the FAFSA or the Free application for Federal Student Aid. The formula are the student’s income and assets (if the student is independent) or the parents’ income and assets (if the student is dependent), the household size and the number of family members currently attending post-secondary educational institutions. The EFC or Expected Family Contribution is based upon a percentage of net remaining income after basic living expenses and taxes and a percentage of net assets after subtracting an asset protection allowance. Different assessments are made for different situations, for example dependent students and independents students and whether the students have dependents of their own. After filing the FAFSA and it is evaluated the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) or the institution that they are planning to attend will receive an Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR). These reports will notify the students of their eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant.
A Federal Pell Grant is a direct grant awarded through the participating educational institution to students with a financial need who have not yet completed their first bachelor’s degree or who are enrolled in specific post baccalaureate programs which will lead to teacher certification or licensure. The participating institution will either credit the student’s school account with the funds from the Pell grant or they will pay the student directly by check or a combination of these. The student will be paid at least one time per term, whether it is a semester, a trimester or a quarter. If the schools does not use formal terms the student must be paid at least twice per academic year.
In order to qualify for a Pell grant the student must:
- Not be in default on any federal student aid.
- Take at least six credit hours for each term that they will be using the Pell grant money.
- Be a U.S. Citizen with a valid Social Security number.
- Maintain at least a 2.0 GPA with an acceptable attendance record. They must also be careful not to fail any class while they are using Pell grant funds. Poor grades or failure to attend classes could adversely affect future financial aid.
- Meet certain income requirements, which will vary based upon the situation, such as the state of residence, annual income, family size and dependent status. The highest Pell grant award at this time is $5550.00 per school year.
- No criminal history of drug charges for at least one year. Applicants with multiple drug convictions may be declared ineligible for funds or they may have to complete a further requirement of completing a drug rehabilitation program.
- Never have earned a bachelor’s degree in the past.
- A student can only attend one school at a time. This also includes summer or Internet based classes. All education must be completed at the school where the Pell grant was issued.
For further information about the FAFSA (the Free Application For Federal Student Aid) you can visit http://www.fafsa.com/
After the Pell grant has been awarded and classes have begun the school fees will be taken out of the Pell grant funds. At that time the students may be allowed to use the balance of they grant to pay for books and other necessary school supplies. Any remaining balance is typically refunded to the student after the add/drop period for class changes has passed.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students. Students can use these grants at any one of approximately 4000 participating educational institutions. The financial aid administrators at the participating institutions have significant influence in determining the amount of the FSEOG awards. Priority for these awards is giving to students with what is considered to be ?exceptional need?. This would be the students with the lowest expected family contributions (EFCs) and also those who have been recipients of the Federal Pell grant.
Financial need is determined using a standard formula from the U.S. Department of Education to evaluate the financial information on the FAFSA and to determine the family’s EFC. The qualifications are similar to the qualifications for a Pell grant and typically they would be student’s who would still have unmet financial needs after receiving the Pell grant.
One additional feature of the FSEOG over the Pell grant is that each institution has limited funds for the FSEOG so the qualification process becomes even more stringent. If you believe that you may qualify for the Pell and the FSEOG it is crucial that you get your FAFSA in as early as possible. You may also be required to submit a Federal Income Tax return after your efile as well because that information will be used for the decision process.
The FSEOG provides a grant to qualified students in the amount of at least $100.00 but less than $4000.00 per year. If there are funds available after all of the academic expenses including books and supplies has been met, the remaining money will be sent directly to the student. The school may choose to issue a check, put the funds on a pre-paid debit card or directly deposit the remaining funds into the student’s bank account.
Once the student has received those funds, he or she may use them in any way that will benefit their education. It can be used for living expenses while attending school to to pay for gas, insurance or transportation to school. A single mom may even use the additional funds for child care that is provided while she is attending school. If the additional funds are not needed immediately it may be smart to save them for the next semester.
Student loans are probably the most commonly used financial aid for college. Most colleges and Universities across the United States have students who are using student loans. While a student loan is actually a loan that must be paid back at some point, student loans are not processed like most loans are. Student loans are needs based, meaning that low income or other students with needs can qualify for these loans even if they have no or poor credit. As of August 2011, a person’s credit score is not relevant when it comes to qualifying for a student loan.
The same FAFSA form that allows students to apply for grants will allow them to be considered for student loans. However, it does not necessarily meant that the student will get a loan based upon the FAFSA alone. After the FAFSA form is processed and the student is found to be eligible for a student loan, he or she will then be required to fill out a separate loan application. All forms and applications should be available at the financial aid office at the educational institution that you would like to attend.
The Federal student loans that are available may fall into the category of the Stafford loan or the Perkins loan depending upon the school. There are a few schools that may offer both types of loans. The loans are similar in that neither will have to be paid back while the student is attending school and at least six to nine months following graduation. If the student drops out of school or takes less than six credit hours per term, the loans may be called back for payment sooner.
Both the Stafford loans and the Perkins loan have low interest rates, however, the Stafford loan rate is variable depending upon when the loan was taken out. The Perkins loan is 5% for a 10 year repayment program and payments will commence nine months after graduation. Interest does not begin to accrue until payments have begun.
Federal student loans are relatively easy to obtain but they are still debt and they will need to be paid back in a timely manner. Currently, Federal student loans are one of the few types of debts that cannot be dismissed with a bankruptcy petition. It is advisable to understand that this is a debt that will need to be repaid and one should never borrow more than is necessary. One should also consider the job prospects for the field that they are entering and make sure that they feel comfortable that they will be able to pay back their student loans. If the student loan becomes delinquent, the Federal government may garnish wages and freeze bank accounts. All tax returns can also be garnished for payment of Federal student loans. The loan will have to be paid back and garnishments will ensue if they are not even if the student has difficulty finding employment after college.
Books and Supplies for College
The cost of textbooks for college is very high. Many of these books are extremely expensive and the fact that you have to purchase them for every class makes this a huge expense for most students. However, there are some ways to help pay for books and supplies that can save your pocketbook.
As mentioned previously, if you receive a Federal grant or loan for school and you have extra money after the tuition has been paid you can typically use those funds to purchase textbooks. Schools will often allow a student to ?charge? the textbooks and supplies at the campus bookstore and they will work with the financial aid office to receive the funds. Sometimes a student will be given a voucher for books from the financial aid office, which they can then take to the bookstore to pay for their textbooks and supplies. The student must already be registered for classes before they can use any of the financial aid funds, whether from a grant or from a loan, before they can use any of the available funds for textbooks and supplies.
There are also other ways to get books that can be cost-effective. Used books are always cheaper than buying new books and most college bookstores have a large selection. There are also a rising number of online sales and online auctions that make it possible to pay less for books. However, with the online methods the money to pay for the books is generally needed upfront. Recently, there have also been some businesses that have popped up that will allow a student to rent textbooks. This may be the least expensive option upfront, however, you would not have the opportunity to recoup any of your money after the class by selling the books back.
You may also want to check around your school for resources for book sharing. If a student has the same class but at a different time, you can share a book. This can save both students quite a bit of money, however, it may be a hassle when it comes to studying. This type of arrangement takes more planning and it may be more challenging for a single mom with kids and a job to know exactly when she will be able to study and will need to have the book.
Some schools have implemented a lending program for textbooks, similar to a library. This type of program can provide the books that are needed. The student just needs to take good care of them and make sure that they get returned by the right date. A book that has been damaged or a book that is turned in late would accrue additional penalties in the form of fines. These are the types of fees that can wreak havoc and cause big problems with your transcript and your financial aid so it is important to make sure you avoid these types of fines.
Who will Babysit while you attend school?
Each state has some funding for child-care and depending upon your individual state you may or may not qualify for these funds. Unfortunately, not every state will consider a student to be the most qualified applicant, even though you may be training for a career that can help you take care of your family in the long run. If you think you may qualify for some funding that will help you to take care of babysitting costs you should contact your individual state and find out about how to apply for this type of aid. The waiting lists may be long so it is important to do it as soon as possible if you need it in the near future.
There are some schools that have day-care facilities right on campus. Depending upon the school you may be able to get daycare for a reduced rate. Contact the financial aid office at the school you wish to attend to find out more.
Employer Sponsored Training
Depending upon the field that you are in, you may be able to get some training and education to further your career from your own employer. Many employers will assist in paying for an employee’s education and training with the commitment from the employee that he or she will continue to work at the company for a specified period of time following graduation. This period of time is generally somewhere between one and five years in the future. Most contractual agreements will specify that failure to continue working at the company could result in the obligation of immediate and full repayment of all funds used by the employee. You must be willing to make the commitment and follow through to finish the educational program and commit to working at the company and giving back your time and resources.
Miscellaneous Financial Aid
The financial aid office at the school you wish to attend will have a list of all of the financial aid that is available. You may find that there is aid for things that you have not thought of but that can be very helpful for you and your education. Be sure to check out all of the opportunities very thoroughly.
With all of the financial aid that is now available a single mom should look at every option because you can and should continue your education so that you can provide for your families future.