We’ve heard amazing stories of single parents completing an education while raising children full time. However, there are many more stories of single parents who forget about continuing their education after they have children. Often times a single income may be just enough to cover basic expenses. For many single moms and dads, getting a student loan to attend college is not accessible and the interest payments are not affordable.
This guide is about finding sources of financial aid that single parents can rely on to finish college. Education grants are one valuable but commonly misunderstood resource for adult students. In this guide, we’ll show you specific benefits offered to single parents who want to obtain a college degree.
What are education grants?
Education grants are a form of financial assistance that academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and government agencies provide to applicants who show academic potential but lack the means to cover college expenses. Unlike scholarships, which usually only cover the cost of college tuition, education grants provide a yearly sum of money that students can use to cover most college-related expenses along with food and housing.
Some institutions ask participants to sign up for other federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or Food Stamps, to make sure they have access to basic necessities. Single parents, unlike other students, have to also manage child care. Government agencies may require them to enroll in childcare programs such as Head Start or Pre-K before they can attend college. This is to ensure basic necessities are met while pursuing a college degree.
The most popular grants may have what you need
The most popular education grant programs for single parents, include the Pell and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity (FSEOG) Despite their focus on first time college students, Pell and FSEOG grants are also made available to single parents who don’t yet have a bachelor degree. To participate in either program, applicants must fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, commonly known as FAFSA. This document will help the government determine how much financial assistance applicants are eligible for. Eligibility is determined based on individual income and family income.
Single parents are usually granted the highest amount provided by grant programs. For Pell Grants, that amount won’t exceed $6,000 each year, while FSEOG grants award no more than $4,000. The amount of financial support given to a single parent is reviewed each year, taking into account changes in their annual income, and participation in other federal programs. Grantees receive the money over a period of six years. After that, applicants must rely on other financial sources to continue their studies.
Pell Grants and FSEOG Grants are mutually exclusive. This means that a single parent who receives college funding through a Pell grant will not be able to obtain the benefits of a FSEOG grant, and vice versa. Choosing which grant is best for you depends on your financial stability, income level and academic record. Obtaining a Pell grant may be challenging because, thousands of students apply each year, making the awarding process very competitive. Single parents may have better luck through a FSEOG application because Agencies often award FSEOG funds directly to institutions. Institutions have greater flexibility to determine which of their potential students need the most help.
Submitting a FAFSA application also provides additional benefits. Single parents who graduated from high school after 2005 have access to the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG). This is a merit-based program that awards college funds according to a student’s academic record. Similar to the National SMART Grant, the ACG program does not consider income level when choosing recipients. This may make it harder for single mothers and fathers to receive the benefits, but those with outstanding high school grades and other academic achievements are often approved.
Explore other options in your state or community
Pell and FSEOG grants may be the most popular avenues to obtain college funding aside from loans. However, they are not the only options available. States and local communities often run parallel programs best suited to reach the needs of their residents.
For example, the state of New York runs a popular program called Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), which awards up to $5,000 in college funds each year to students who attend a designated institution. Undergraduates living in New Mexico have access to the College Affordability Grant (CAG), which awards up to $1,000 per semester to students going through financial hardship. This group often includes residents who are single parents. The CAG benefit can be renewed for up to 8 semesters. People living in Kansas can take advantage of the state’s Comprehensive Grants program, which awards up to $3,000 annually in college funds.
Those are a few examples of the financial assistance programs individual states have set in motion to support residents who want to or already attend college. Single parents are often automatically eligible to receive the benefits, given that their average annual income nationwide is close to the federal poverty line at around $28,000, or about a third of the average income of two-parent families. This means that a significant number of single-income households are eligible for numerous federal programs, including education grants and college support.
The rise of single parents remains a concern nationwide. Getting a college degree is proven to bring single-income households into higher earning positions. For some, an education grant is the proven path to achieve independence.