Today, as many people struggle to make ends meet, single parents have an especially steep climb. While a college degree will help improve conditions, tuition costs often make it inaccessible. Whether you are a single parent attending college for the first time or returning to school after many years away, there is financial aid available that is aimed at helping you complete your degree.

Single parents attending college must juggle classes, coursework, work, childcare, household responsibilities and home life. While not the traditional students, there are still support systems in place to help parenting students.

Balancing on a Wire

In many cases, single parents are self-supporting, often working more than one job. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2013 more than 4 out of 10 children were born to unwed mothers, and nearly 45% live at or below the poverty level. These factors make balancing family care, employment and education a precarious balancing act.

There are many reasons why single parents struggle to acquire funding for school. Some parents’ income is low enough that they have a zero ‘Expected Family Contribution’, and yet they still are expected to cover the difference of thousands of dollars per semester. Even understanding that completion of a bachelor’s degree can increase median income by over 75%, the daily battle to balance educational needs with family often wins out.

Tuition Waivers & Grants

Some schools offer waivers of tuition costs and fees for students meeting specific criteria. For instance, the Soka University in California, Columbia University and Texas A&M offer full tuition waivers for students with an income of less than $60,000 a year. Other states like Michigan offer waivers and subsidies based on current Medicaid coverage. In addition, tuition and fees are often waived in full for students entering specific careers upon graduation – most often in public service.

Grants are often need based gifted monies (you don’t need to repay). They can come from federal or local government, your college of choice or private or nonprofit groups or businesses. There are several organizations that offer grants to single mothers, such as the Patsy Takemoto Mink Foundation Grant, the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, and the Soroptomist Grant, among others. Requirements are different for all and some involve an employment obligation for a specified time period upon graduation. It pays to research the grants offered thoroughly, and understand the guidelines and offer completely.

So How Do I Find the Scholarships for Single Parents?

Scholarships are financial awards for your education that do not need to be repaid. While they are typically awarded based on merit, very often the scholarship committees take financial need into consideration in awarding their recipients. The amount of total financial aid cannot be more than the cost of attendance for your college or university.

Scholarships are typically developed to fit a particular student profile – whether based on academic interest or proficiency, ethnicity, interests or field of study, or they could be related to an affiliation (such as religion, military, club membership, employer, etc.).

Scholarships can help lessen the impact of ever increasing tuition costs. Scholarships help to fill the gaps for lower-income families and can help reduce the Expected Family Contribution significantly. And for single parents who are paying their own way through school, it means less time spent away from your family and working while trying to finish your degree.

Below Are Some Other Examples of Scholarships That Single Mothers Can Take Advantage Of:

Scholarships4Moms.net is dedicated to helping mothers further their educations, get back to work, and move their careers forward. This fund gives away a $10,000 scholarship every month, and you could be a winner.

Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund – Award amount varies. Women over 35 with low-income pursuing their first degree are eligible for this scholarship.

Patsy Mink Foundation – Offers up to $5,000 to low income mother pursuing education.

BPW/AZ Foundation Scholarships – Award amount varies. Women attending an Arizona community college are eligible for these scholarships.

Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund – Award amount varies. Economically disadvantaged parents working on their first degree are eligible for this scholarship.

Live Your Dream Award – Offers up to $10,000 to women who are the primary family financial support.

Emerge Scholarships – Offers up to $5,000 to women dedicated to achieving their educational goals and giving back to the community.

AAUW Fellowships and Grants – Scholarship amount varies. This scholarship is offered to women pursuing higher educations – especially in STEM fields.

SR Education Group – Offers monthly scholarships to women pursuing higher education,

CAL Grants – Offers up to $12,000. Applications must be low-income and attending a California school.

Curiel and Runion Single Mother Scholarship – Offers up to $1,000 to single mothers going back to school with a GPA higher than 3.0.

While the cost is high, the competition for scholarships can be even more intense. It’s important to start your preparations early and pay attention to the details and guidelines of each scholarship offering. Don’t limit yourself to only high-dollar scholarships; ten thousand dollars from one award works the same as ten separate thousand dollar awards. Talk to the admissions department at the school you are attending; sometimes there are supports and grants available you are not aware of as a student.

Apply for as many scholarships as you can, and aim for making it through the first round of review. If you don’t get a scholarship this year from one particular organization, try again next year. Use what you’ve learned, make adjustments if necessary, and don’t give up.

Search and Apply for Scholarships on ScholarshipChart.com

ScholarshipChart.com helps students and parents search and apply for scholarships, grants, awards and other financial aid options to help pay for college. Whether you are a high school senior starting college or a single mom going back to school, you can find money for college through ScholarshipChart.com.