The good news for single mothers that are going back to school is that they comprise an ever-growing segment of the student population, thus colleges and universities are eager to get single moms enrolled. That means that these schools are more than willing to work with single mothers to create a financial aid package that can make enrollment possible.
The other good news is that many student loans that have fair terms are based on financial need and not on credit score. Many single mothers qualify for the loans with the lowest interest rates.
Available Student Loans
To get the ball rolling, you need to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA) early in the calendar year during which you want to begin school. As a single parent with dependents, you will come out far more favorably on this form than most of your fellow students, who are still dependents in a family.
The results from the FAFSA will be sent to the school that you will attend in the form of a yearly amount that you should be able to afford to pay for your schooling, called an Expected Family Contribution (EFC). From there, the college’s financial aid office will choose how to work off your EFC. Some schools that truly desire your enrollment will provide a package of grants and loans to make it work; others that have plenty of applicants will tell you that you need to make up the difference between what you have and what you owe in any way that you can.
Most schools will first recommend federal loans that are subsidized and unsubsidized. The subsidized loans feature low interest rates. They are wonderful, but they also have maximum amounts depending on what year you are in school (freshman, sophomore, etc.). The government’s subsidy pays the interest on your loan during your enrollment, and then for another six months after your graduation, when repayment must begin.
Federal unsubsidized loans also have reasonable interest rates, but you are responsible for the interest on those loans from the time that you enroll.
Non-Federal Loans for Students and Graduate Students
A second tier of student loans can sometimes be found in state-based programs. Other options in this middle ground of affordability are Career Training Loans, which can be used at technical schools or for online degree programs, and Smart Option Loans, which are a rough equivalent to federal unsubsidized loans.
Another viable option for single mothers is to major in a field of study in which you can trade your services for a time after graduation for loan costs. Teachers and nurses can often participate in these programs, which are actually grants that are repaid by service commitments. Those short-term commitments are often in difficult urban areas that lack both teachers and nurses.
Check also with your employer about loans and scholarships for college. Many have programs to help employees further their education in the form of tuition loans or grants. Your human resources department will have more information on this type of help.
Finally, single mothers can turn to private lenders for loans, most of which have interest rates based on your credit score and current employment. These can come with high interest rates and should be used only as a last resort. Many of the loans in this category will require a cosigner if your credit score is not excellent.