Single parents often find it difficult to pursue a higher education, because a sole income cannot support the costs of tuition combined with providing for their family. However, there are several loan programs for which single parents may qualify, such as federal or private loans, and there are also multiple forms of scholarships and grants available to help single parents. Some important qualities to look for in financial aid as a single parent is low-income funding, dependent-based scholarships, and private and federal loans with low interest rates and loan forgiveness periods.

Eligibility Requirements

Most financial aid options specifically designed for single parents come in the form of grants and scholarships. Many of these organizations look for women who are the sole providers for their dependents. Other organizations provide assistance for low-income women, or they award merit-based scholarships to students who have excelled in a particular subject area. Common requirements for eligibility are having at least one dependent for whom you are the sole provider, acceptance to an accredited college or university, acceptable SAT or ACT scores, a GED or high school diploma, and, sometimes, an income below a specified amount.

Repaying a Single-Parent Loan

Repayment of loans designed for low-income or multiple-dependent recipients will often function the same way as any other school loan. Students typically have a forgiveness period after graduation, usually up to 6 months, and then they must begin repayment. Students can choose the repayment plan that meets their needs, and they may also be allowed to apply for deferment plans if they are struggling financially during the repayment period. If a student is awarded a scholarship or grant, it will be applied to tuition costs by the financial aid department at the student’s university.

Types of Single-Parent Loans, Grants, and Scholarships

  • Stafford Loan: The Stafford loan is not a representation of single parent student loan programs, but single parents may want to look into this loan because it has low interest rates and is federally subsidized based on income. A subsidized loan means that the lender covers the interest rates while the student is in school, so graduates do not end up paying more than the original loan amount.
  • Women’s Opportunity Awards: This award is offered by Soroptimist, an international volunteer organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls through a single parent student grant. They are given to women who are the primary providers for their dependents and are enrolled in an undergraduate or vocational academic program.
  • Jeannette Ranking Women’s Scholarship Fund: This scholarship is designed for women who are trying to go back to school. To qualify, an applicant but be at least 35, have a low income, and be enrolled in a vocational, technical, associate, or bachelor’s degree program.