A choice worthwhile

Single moms should take advantage of available student loans

By Lauren Lukens, Editor-In-Chief [email protected]

The gift of life creates an indestructible bond between a woman and her child. When finding out one is unexpectedly pregnant, it is one of the bravest, most noble decisions a woman can make to keep and nurture the baby.

While the father oftentimes stays in the picture, women give up their normal routine for their child.

Sadly, some moms are forced to single-handedly raise children without a degree and with no reliable source of income or job benefits. This often happens when women get pregnant in high school or college because they must suspend their education to address the needs of their children. When a mom is living alone with her child, it becomes increasingly difficult to jump back into school and complete a degree.

Higher education is extremely expensive under the best circumstances, but single parents face even greater challenges paying for education. That is why an assortment of grants and scholarships are available for single mothers.

While one does not have to pay back grants or scholarships, there is a distinct difference between the two. Grants are based on financial need demonstrated by recipients, while scholarships are usually based off grades and test scores. Common entities that finance grants and scholarships include federal and state governments, colleges and universities, private organizations, corporations and women’s advocacy groups.

Federal grants represent one of the most enduring and often used resources of financial aid. Most federal grants are considered to be need-based forms of college aid, but some funds have a merit-based component attached. While students, single moms in particular, have the advantage of receiving federal grants, performance is evaluated to determine eligibility, such as a minimum GPA and class completion rate.

Applying for federal aid is a straightforward, standardized procedure that starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA requests specific information about your family; including income, assets and number of members.

When filling out the FAFSA form, is it important to be knowledgeable and answer each question correctly. If one submits their FAFSA as an independent student, their parents’ financial status is not considered. This is an important distinction for single moms who are likely independent, which may qualify them for substantially higher grant awards. Also, to be considered for the greatest amount of available aid, it is vital to file FAFSA on time.

In addition to FAFSA, one with financial need present is eligible for the Pell Grant. Since 1972, need based Pell Grants have been the foundation of college funding, using financial need, the total cost of attending school, enrollment and status as a full or part-time student to determine grant amounts.

While a combination of FAFSA and Pell funding is enough to pay for classes and supplies, one is not always eligible for these benefits due to financial status or acadmic performance.

In this case, one always has the option of applying for additional merit-based awards and scholarships. One can also take out some student loans and pay them back after graduation. For example, President Barrack Obama launched a student loan forgiveness program this year called Pay As You Earn, which allows monthly Federal student loan payments capped at just 10% of discretionary income, supposedly saving borrowers hundreds to thousands of dollars per month.

Aside from help with school, single moms are oftentimes eligible for financial help with childcare, healthcare, food and supplies.

Whether a young mother that never got the opportunity to attend college or one who dropped out of college to care for their child, higher education is mandatory in the current economy due to competition in the job market. All students, single moms in particular, should take advantage of loans, grants and scholarships available to them.

With all of the free public and private financial support for students in America, there is no excuse not to pursue a degree. Single mothers in particular should consider finishing a college degree for the greater success of their child.