Is there financial aid for students with single parents?

In addition to loans and scholarships, financial aid in the form of grants is a helpful way to combat the costs of higher education for students and families who demonstrate financial need.  State or federal grants are attractive because the awarded money does not have to be repaid and can help to offset growing tuition costs.  Grants are awarded based on the family’s financial standing and award amounts may vary from student to student.

Applying for Financial Aid with Divorced Parents

If a student is looking to apply for any financial aid, the first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Completing this free application is the first step to federal government assistance for college, and will help to locate both loans and grants.  The secure application is available online at http://fafsa.ed.gov and should be completed by the student and parent.  Federal government recognizes parents, whether married or single, as required to contribute to their child’s college education costs, and lack of parental financial support will not necessarily increase the amount of government aid received by the student.  It is important to remember that in the case of divorced parents, the parent with whom the student primarily resides for the twelve months prior to the FAFSA deadline (typically June 1) is the parent expected to contribute, regardless of either parent’s income.  The primary custodial parent’s tax and income information, as well as the student’s income information, will be required to fill out the FAFSA, so it is a good idea to have all necessary tax returns and other documents handy before beginning the application process.  Should the other parent wish to contribute to tuition costs, they are not legally required to provide income and tax information on the FAFSA.  If alimony or child support is paid to the custodial parent, however, this information must be documented in the FAFSA questionnaire.

Federal Aid Student Grants

The federal government offers a number of grants for undergraduate students enrolled, either part or full time, in a college or university.  The Federal Pell Grant is one and can offer students a maximum of $5,500 as of the 2011-2012 award year (July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012).  Recipients may receive varying amounts depending on the family’s ability to demonstrate financial need.  Additional grants funded by the federal government are available; some of these require the student to demonstrate more than financial need.  For future teachers, there is the TEACH grant, which is available to students who pledge to complete a degree in education and teach full-time in high-need areas.  Some academic restrictions apply, and recipients can receive up to $4,000 per year in this grant by contacting their college’s financial aid office.  Other federally funded grants are available to students who complete the FAFSA based on academic achievement or military service, typically in amounts available up to $4,000.

Additional Ways to Find Grants

In addition to the office of the bursar, each college or university has a financial aid office with staff kept up-to-date on available funds for students who demonstrate academic promise and financial need.  Students and their parents should schedule an appointment to learn about all the grants available to them, based on both academic merit and family income or financial need, through the state government, the school, and other non-profit agencies. One organization, Raise the Nation, is dedicated to awarding grants and scholarships to children of single mothers.  FinAid.com offers a list of specific grants available to students based on course of study, background, public service, and financial need.
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