College Grant Opportunities for Single Moms

Fund Your College with Free Grant Money

Higher education is an extraordinary expense under the best circumstances, but single parents face even greater challenges paying for college. Often, mothers suspend their educational pursuits to address the needs of their children.  When a mom is on her own, it becomes increasingly difficult for her to jump back in and complete her studies.

Grants and scholarships help single mothers, many of whom are living in poverty, advance their upward mobility through education.  Whether you are a first-time college student, or a single mother returning to school, there are public and private grants aimed at helping you succeed.  As a single parent, your best approach is to capture as much general aid as you can, but also to target funding that is explicitly offered to financially challenged moms.

Grants and scholarships are similar, in that they are not repaid, but distinction exist between the two.  Grants are usually issued based on the financial need demonstrated by recipients.  Scholarships, on the other hand, are tied to performance indicators like grades and test scores.  In practice, many organizations responsible for issuing student aid to single mothers use the terms indiscriminately.  A wealth of scholarships are in place that do not require applicants to prove their worthiness beyond financial need.  For all intents and purposes, these are grants.  Don’t allow semantics to limit your search for financial aid.

In general, grants for single mothers originate from the same funding sources as other forms of general financial aid.  The most common entities that finance grants and scholarships include:grants for single moms

  • Federal and State Governments
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Private organizations
  • Corporations
  • Women’s advocacy groups

Federal Grants

Federal Grants represent one of the most enduring and often-used pillars of student financial aid. Most federal grants are considered to be need-based forms of college aid, but some funds have a merit-based component attached.  That is to say, some awards also use performance matrices to determine eligibility.

The Federal Government issues more grants than any other entity, so this should be the first stop for all college students requiring financial aid-including single mothers.

Applying for federal aid is a straightforward, standardized procedure that starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The FAFSA requests specific information about your family; including income, assets and number of members.  If you file your FAFSA as a dependant student, it means your parents are able to claim you as a deduction on their federal tax return.  If this is the case, your parents income and asset information must be included on your FAFSA and will be taken into account when determining your eligibility for financial aid.

On the other hand, if you submit your FAFSA as an independent student, your parents’ financial status is not considered. This is an important distinction for single moms who are likely independent, and as such may qualify for substantially higher grant awards.

To be considered for the greatest amount of available aid, it is important that you file your FAFSA on time. June 30th is the customary federal filing deadline each year, but states impose their own unique deadlines, so the location of your school might require you to file sooner.

The absolute bottom line is that the FAFSA can be submitted any time after January 1st, of the year you are attending school. If you anticipate financial hardship related to your college expenses (and who doesn’t), why not file your FAFSA as soon after the first of the year as possible?  Single moms, hungry for higher education, are most likely to get the financial help they need by filing early.

Information contained on your FAFSA is used to tabulate the anticipated cost of your education and arrive at a figure representing your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).  All things considered, EFC estimates the proportion of your total education bill  that falls within your ability to pay. Your EFC carries over to your formal Student Aid Report (SAR), which is forwarded to the colleges and universities you are considering attending.  Each school uses your SAR to compile a formal financial aid offer letter that synthesizes the entire package of aid that the school can make available to you.

Scholarships, grants and loans are generally offered as blended solutions for financing college.  Scholarships and grants are key features, because they do not require repayment.  Single mothers with mouths to feed are best served by college financial aid that does not create an unmanageable debt-load following school.

Federal grants for single mothers include:

  • Pell Grant – This is the proverbial grandaddy of free federal college money. Whether you are a first time student or a single mother returning to college following an absence; if there is financial need present, then you are eligible for Pell funding. Since 1972, need based Pell Grants have been the cornerstone of college funding, using four distinct criteria to determine grant amounts:
  1. Financial need that goes beyond your EFC
  2. Total cost of attending your school
  3. Enrollment for an entire academic year
  4. Status as a full or part-time student

Congressional funding determines individual maximum Pell eligibility amounts each year, currently in excess of $5000 per student.

  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) – U.S. Department of Education administers this need-based grant for students who display the greatest levels of financial hardship related to college expenses. College is a significant additional expense for families-and single parents-who struggle to meet customary living expenses.  As a result, some EFC scores drawn from FAFSA applications stand at zero.  These candidates are considered first for FSEOG awards, followed by the next most disadvantaged groups, and so on down the line.  Time is of the essence with this grant, because once the funding is exhausted, no further grants are issued.  Don’t come up short:  File your FAFSA early.  Qualified applicants are eligible to receive grant amounts as high as $4,000 annually.

Merit-based awards from the Federal Government are tied to performance standards that must be maintained by grant recipients.  Two grant programs specifically promote academic excellence in science and technology subject areas.

  • Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) - To encourage students to maintain high academic standards during high school, the ACG program distributes up to $750 to qualified first-year college students and $1300 for second-year students. Eligibility considers high school GPA and financial need, as determined by an applicant’s FAFSA.
  • National SMART (Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent) Grants - This merit based grant program picks up where ACG leaves off.  The gist is the same-to promote excellence in STEM education, but SMART speaks to the financial aid concerns of third and fourth year candidates.  Applicants pursuing degrees in engineering, science, math and certain foreign languages are eligible for up to $4,000 worth of assistance, beyond Pell and other awards, each academic year.

Other grants issued by the U.S. Department of Education include:

  • Iraq and Afgahnistan Service Grants go to students who have lost a parent during military service.  There is no financial need determination or performance criteria attached to this grant; it is issued in respect to the service of American soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice defending U.S. liberty.
  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grants illustrate a unique form of financial assistance for college students, which requires a service commitment for eligibility.  In exchange for help paying tuition for teaching-related majors, recipients of TEACH grants agree to apply their skills at specific schools, following graduation.  The initiative addresses teacher shortages in areas that serve low-income families. Applicants are eligible for up to $4000 worth of annual free grant money, provided they commit to teach for at least four years in a high need school. If you accept TEACH funds, but fail to honor your obligation to the program, your grants revert to unsubsidized student loans, requiring repayment (with interest).
  • Other under-served professions, including nursing and other medical fields, receive special financial support from federal agencies too. Grants, scholarships and loans are issued by the Health Resources and Services Administration to bolster access to health care in critical shortage areas.  Nurses and doctors that work in under-served facilities are eligible for a range of benefits including student loan repayment and low interest loans.

State Grants for Single Mothers

In most cases, state financial aid opportunities for single mothers mirror those put forth at the federal level.  Need-based aid is available to general student populations, but some states also reserve funds for the most disadvantaged applicants.  Economics are a primary consideration, but financial hardship isn’t the only disadvantage taken into account by state granting agencies.  Individuals whose social circumstances severely limit their access to higher education are also targeted for state college aid.

Some states use your FAFSA to determine eligibility, while others require additional application materials.  Consult your state’s department of higher education for specifics about grant programs.  Examples include:

  • New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP)- This program awards up to $5,000 annually to eligible residents attending approved New York post-secondary schools.
  • New Mexico College Affordibility Grant serves financially needy resident  undergraduates pursuing higher education at approved state schools. Maximum grant awards stand at $1000/semester, but can be renewed for up to eight semesters.
  • Kansas Comprehensive Grants are issued to resident students attending public and private universities on a full-time basis .  Awards range from a few hundred dollars to more than $3000 annually, and are based on financial need.

Grants from Colleges and Universities

Educational institutions commited to advancing education for single parents issue scholarships of their own. For instance:

  • Minnesota State University runs two distinct financial aid programs for single mothers.  The Mary Jane Young Scholarship is worth up to $1000 annually for single mothers studying full-time.  The scholarship is need-based, and the number of individual awards varies each year.  The Coplan Donohue Single Parent Scholarship has similar eligibility requirements, but is also available to moms studying at the graduate level.
  • University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire supports single mothers returning to education, with a number of nontraditional family scholarships.  Some have performance requirements, but most are strictly need-based.
  • At Illinois College of DuPage, single parents with dependant children are eligible for annual scholarships of $1000 each.  Ten are awarded each year, and to be eligible you must reside in DuPage county.  A GPA of 2.0 is required to be considered for this award.

Other Grant Opportunities

Corporations and private advocacy groups sponsor college grants for single mothers exhibiting financial hardship.  This cross-section of grant providers illustrates the diverse scope of organizations that support education for single moms.

  • Capture The Dream is a California Bay Area organization committed to helping single moms overcome financial obstacles that prevent them from seeking higher education.  Need and performance are considered when awarding each $1000 scholarship to deserving mothers.
  • The Sunshine Lady Foundation provides assistance to single mothers who are coping with abusive relationships.  Access to education is a cornerstone of the organization’s effort to help victimized women.
  • Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund is a private funding source for single-parent educational expenses.  As such, interested single mothers must apply directly to the granting agency to be considered.
  • Emerge empowers women through education, including scholarships for moms.  Over the course of a decade, the group has provided more than $300,000 to needy mom/students.
  • Denny’s offers financial aid to single mothers who are also Hispanic.  Scholarships are worth between $500-$1500, and do require a 3.0 GPA.  Additionally, Talbot’s, Google and other high-profile corporations each offer college aid that is only made available to mothers.

Leave no stone unturned in your quest for single-parent financial aid.  Grants originate from unexpected sources, so use each of your unique traits to qualify for college cash.  Your employer, community organization, college or other group might hold the key to your educational financing.