Home > News > Single Parents & the Struggle to Pay for College

Comments 0 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


Paying for college is difficult for many families, but the burden can be even heavier for single parents.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that a four-year college costs approximately $22,000 per year. That number seems enormous, especially when you factor in that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, half of single mothers make only about $25,000 annually. There are grants and loans available to those families, but they don’t bridge the gap. For some, this leaves the dream of a college education out of reach.

Others decide to take on the financial burden themselves. According to a report by the Project on Student Debt at the Institute for College Access & Success, students graduate with an average of $29,000 in debt. To make matters worse, the study found a fifth of that debt was owed to private lenders, which often charge higher interest rates. After four years of college, many students are left with nearly $30,000 in loans that quickly become much more.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any relief in sight. The NCES reports that during the past 10 years, the prices for undergraduate tuition, room and board at public institutions rose 42%. Annual family incomes haven’t risen at the same rate, and the Census Bureau found the annual family income for single parents actually decreased during the past 10 years.

Easing the Burden

So, how can we help these families before and after they take on the burden of paying for their education? We need to make sure they are aware of the reality of taking on $30,000 in debt and what that means for their future. New data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that 600,000 federal student loan holders who entered into repayment in 2010 defaulted on their loans by 2012. Defaulting on those loans could have a long-lasting impact on their financial future. Not only does it cause the cost of their loan to increase, but it can also impact credit, which can make it difficult to buy a home or a car. It can even make it difficult to get hired for certain jobs that require a credit check.

(Editor’s Note: If you want to see how student loans impact your credit, the free Credit Report Card will break down your credit strengths and weaknesses and update two of your credit scores every month.)

It’s also important that students take advantage of every grant opportunity that might be available to them. One family, whose story we found out about when they applied for a grant through our organization, shared the same worries about college costs that we commonly see among single parents. Sharon McNeely wasn’t sure how she was going to pay for her three children to go to college. Her husband was killed while serving in the Navy 10 years ago and as a single mother, she didn’t know if she would be able to afford it. Previously, she had looked into scholarships and received some assistance from the G.I. Bill, but it wasn’t enough. Her oldest son, 21-year-old Devin, started at an out-of-state college, but had to come home because tuition went up. He enrolled at an in-state school, then obtained additional grants to help with the costs. After discovering new resources to help cover college costs, McNeely is now confident that her two other children will also be able to attend college.

Looking for Assistance

Finding scholarships and grants to meet your specific needs can be easier than you think.

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-parent families. Applying for federal aid is a straightforward, standardized procedure that starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

In many states, reserve funds are held for the most disadvantaged applicants. Consult your state’s department of higher education for specifics about grant programs.

Some educational institutions are committed to advancing education for single parents and issue scholarships of their own. For example, the University of Wisconsin — Eau Claire offers several scholarships for single mothers returning to education and Kaplan University established a single-parent scholarship for the university’s undergraduate and graduate programs.

There are also several websites to help the search. At fastweb.com you’ll find thousands of websites at your fingertips as well as help with career planning. There are grants specific to subject majors at scholarships.com and 2,300 sources of financial aid and more than $6 billion in scholarship awards at collegeboard.org. These are just a few of the many resources that are available online.

Cost shouldn’t stop anyone from pursuing an education, whether it be a child or a single parent. If their goal is to be a college graduate, there are federal, state and private grants available.

More on Student Loans:

Image: Getty Images

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team