Many single parents realize that professional training opens doors for better jobs and higher pay, but the cost of college and technical school often deters them from pursuing a degree.
What many do not realize is that financial aid is often available to help pay educational costs. Scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid are available through colleges and universities, private foundations, and state and federal programs.

Before you decide you can’t afford to get a degree or other specialized training that meets your goals, be sure to investigate thoroughly all of the funding possibilities available.

How Financial Aid Works
Financial assistance for higher education is available in several forms, and many of them do not require repayment. Work-study programs allow enrolled students to work, usually on campus, in exchange for payment of some tuition and living expenses. Grants and scholarships reward exceptional students or help needy students by paying some or all of their school tuition and expenses.

The primary qualification for most financial aid is need. Often aid is awarded to those with the greatest difference between what it costs to attend a college or technical school and what you can afford to pay. The income of most single parents is low enough to qualify them for grants. Scholarships are given based on a variety of qualifications, including need, ranging from academic ability to family heritage.

The only way to know if you are eligible for any type of financial aid is to apply. Colleges and technical schools have financial aid officers who can help you complete financial aid applications and inform you of other necessary paperwork.

It’s important to turn in the complete financial aid packet before the deadline. You should include a brief but detailed letter explaining personal or financial circumstances that affect your ability to pay but aren’t apparent on the forms you turn in (such as high medical expenses or disabilities). Be prepared to provide a copy of your tax return from the previous year if it’s requested. You may be asked to provide other types of information, depending on the type of grant or scholarship for which you apply. The information you provide will be used to determine what you can afford to pay for your education.

Where to Look
Although the financial aid officer at the school you are planning to attend should be a primary contact in your search for help in paying for your education, your local library has up-to-date resources that list various public scholarships and grants. Some grants and scholarships are available for specific areas of study. Some employers offer financial assistance or scholarship programs to employees who want to further their professional careers in return for a guaranteed length of service. Local service organizations, such as Rotary Clubs and women’s leagues, often offer scholarships to members or member’s families. Your research will lead you to other sources of aid.

Potential Pitfalls
Even though there are many benefits to obtaining a higher educational degree, be careful not to fall into the traps that may tempt you as you strive to reach that goal. Many students leave college in greater debt than when they entered, because they take on college loans rather than working or saving to pay for school. Educational loans should be used only as a last resort and should be avoided altogether, if possible.

Work-study programs can greatly reduce college expenses. However, they may be difficult for many single parents to manage if they don’t have assistance from extended family. Work-study participants are often required to work odd hours and, since the job is payment for school expenses, students receive no or very little pay for their work. These jobs don’t usually allow for study time during work hours, so students must find additional hours for study.

You may be required to work between terms and attend classes each quarter or semester in order to remain eligible for the program. This option will work only if you have minimal living expenses and family support to meet child-care concerns. If this works for you, it can provide needed work experience, which can be a plus when looking for a job in your degree field.

It Is Possible
Not everyone is meant to go to college. Many people develop careers without a college education. But if you believe God’s plan for you includes higher education, keep seeking Him and He will guide you in reaching that goal. Although it takes perseverance, many single parents succeed in reaching their educational goals without going into debt.