Financial Aid for College for Single Mothers

Updated on September 29, 2010
M. asks from Plainfield, IL
11 answers

My step-daughter is a single mother. She lives with her mother and step-father. She is going to college, but is having trouble getting financial aid. "They" say she doesn't qualify because she lives with her parents. She gets government aid for her child. Does anyone know what she can do? Are there any programs or grants for single mothers?

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answers from Portland on

She will get a generous Pell Grant if she moves out, or at least says she moved out. If she claims that she lives with her parents, she will get next to nothing, because a majority of her needs are met. I am a single mother and live alone and am meeting all my needs on Pell grants right now.(rent, tuition,living expenses) I take out loans for extras like getting a cheap car, etc.

She should see the financial aid officer at her school and ask about options outside of Pell grants. She can also meet with her caseworker for whatever government program she is in and see if they offer any kind of college assistance or vocational training program that will help her with school. I have been receiving assistance through my state program to go to school. Every state is different on what they offer. Some states will help you for only a year like mine, and other states like Iowa will help you go to school for 4 years while on assistance.

Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

She has to prove "independant" status. Years ago when I did it, I had to show at least $4,000 income on my most recent tax return. The finaincal aid office at the school will know how to go about it. If she doesn't have that much income there is still an alternative route. You have to get letters signed by the people you live with saying it is temproary and that they don't give her any money or support. Letters of recommendation from teachers, clergy, etc There is a way. There are lots of programs available besides just FAFSA. They are offered at the county and state level. There are housing programs - such as section 8. Child Care Management Service for child care. Counties usually get block grants to fund the housing authority and school aid programs. I'm not sure in your state, but a good financial aid counselor and a good contact at the unemployment office would be very helpful.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Her parents need to quit claiming her as a dependent and then she will qualify for more financial aid.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

She is a Dependant as long as she lives in that home. That is fact and nothing can be changed until she moves out. Tell her to move into married student housing, or what ever they call it. She cannot accept financial help from her mom or father again or she will still be classified as a Dependant. This is what they see...If you pay for my housing and college fees then you are supporting me and I don't need assistance.... Unless the family is willing to foot the bill for her living arrangements and school bills she must be more independent. Just because she is not claimed on someone else's taxes does not mean she is independent. She has to be living on her own and there may be a time limit on that too, perhaps a year of independent living...that would be determined by the financial aid advisor.

She does need to go to the financial aid office and visit with an advisor. She may be able to apply for scholarships based on academics, on religious affiliations, there are families who lost a beloved child and just want to help red headed blue eyed girls...REALLY! There are family foundations, college work study, on campus jobs, displaced homemakers, minority scholarships (being a single mother can be the minority factor not necessarily race), she may qualify for an in college award of some sort if she has declared a major. There is a way if she is willing to spend hours and hours and hours in front of a computer monitor looking at money stuff in the financial aid office.

I went to Jr. College to get my basic ed classes out of the way, talk about a cost difference...Jr. College classes were $45 a credit and at college they were hundreds of dollars per credit hour. I got a scholarship to a big name state college and didn't have to pay a dime for school, books, fees, and had a little spending money left over, etc.... I hated that school, it was culture shock. Transferred to a different state college and loved it. I got low income housing on campus, food stamps, a monthly check from the state, a medical card for my daughter (students get medical care through the health center), and all the financial aid was still on top of that. My yearly income, (including all the housing assisatance, food stamps, etc...) the first year at the second college/university was over $25,000, back in the 80's. I was financially set. I DID NOT GET ANY LOANS.

I know it can be done and done well. She just needs to visit with the financial aid advisor and then decide to move on to campus in the student housing for families. She need to apply for low income housing and get on the waiting lists and do everything she can to move out and pay her own way so she can qualify for the money to go to school.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I've heard of Pell Grants...don't know if that's the answer, but maybe something to look into.



answers from New York on

Valuable things are hidden and have to be searched out. Gold, diamonds, emeralds, platinum, silver, sapphire all have to be mined. To find scholarships for your step daughter, there must be some serious digging. Think foundations, companies, etc or try her school's alumni etc. Start digging because free money isn't found on the surface but with deep digging you will find what you are looking for. Good luck.



answers from Chicago on

Has she considered financial aid in the form of student loans? Basically, financial aid is awarded based upon a calculation where the government decides how much you can pay and then subtracts that amount from the costs of college. Whatever is leftover is awarded in financial aid - either gift or loan. It is possible that the family is seen as making "enough" money to be able to pay for the costs of college. It may also be a matter of accepting financial aid in the form of repayable student loans.

No one really wants to pay student loans back but in the grand scheme of things, the loan amounts to be repaid are never quite as valuable as higher education, increased skill set, and the ability to earn money over a lifetime due to better employability. If she hasn't yet considered student loans, she may wish to do so.



answers from Los Angeles on

I agree with all other answers - she needs to not be a dependent to be able to receive financial aid. If she is not, she could be eligible for the FAFSA and maybe other state level financial assistance - depends on what state she lives in. Also, it is worth exploring the school she is at as often they have financial assistance available to their students as well. You can find more information here:



answers from Houston on

It can be hard to qualify for financial aid if her parents are still claiming her on their taxes. However, depending on their level of income, she should still qualify for some aid or government-subsidized loans. If they aren't claiming her, and she is providing more than 50% of her own support, it doesn't matter with whom she lives.

Pell Grants are easy to apply for, but funds are limited and everyone applies for them.

Have her check into jobs on campus that may qualify her for a tuition break. If she's declared a major, some departmental scholarships may be available--yes, you'll have to stick to that major until those funds are used, but good if you already know where you are headed.

The best thing to do is to make friends with someone in the financial aid office. Remember when you start searching online for sources of money that, aside from nominal application fees paid when you submit, you shouldn't have to pay to access applications....for most, you shouldn't have to pay at all.

Also, if you have any contacts in your local Kiwanis Club or Masons, they may be willing to sponsor part of her educational costs. When I did it, it required some community service on my part...but that was a small price to pay for having all my books paid for three years it took to get my Bachelor's degree.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Check out It's a website that lists scholarships and grants.



answers from Toledo on

There are five questions on the FAFSA that will exclude your parents income. One of the questions is if you have a child. I am pretty sure that if you are a single parent, your eligibility depends on your inome and not your parents. I could be wrong but she should atleast fill out the FAFSA and see where it leads her.

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