Getting Financial Aid as a Student Mother

woman in a bright red dress graduating

Motherhood doesn’t have to put a full stop to your educational goals.

Finishing college is important. That’s why, when students find out they are pregnant, one of the first things they worry about is school. Not only does it become physically harder to attend classes, but there are suddenly many other issues to consider. If you become a mother you’ll have to tackle things like finding good childcare so that you can go to class and study, or moving from the dorms to a child-friendly apartment. A lot of these things cost money, and it can be hard to know where to start with financing the rest of your education. The good news is that there are a lot of resources available if you know where to look.

Beware of Scams.

Unfortunately, the internet is full of fraudulent sites that promise federal grants for “single mothers” or “student mothers” or “mothers returning to school” in exchange for your personal information. It’s important to realize that there are no government programs that offer money specifically to single mothers. Be suspicious of things that sound too good to be true. Check the domain name to make sure you are on a verified government website before entering any personal information. Do not ever pay to find out about money for college. If you want to find out more about scholarship scams, visit www.studentaid.gov and click on “Types of Aid.”

There is legitimate aid available.

There is government money available to assist low-income people with educational expenses. It comes in two types: loans, which you will have to pay back with interest, and grants, which do not have to be repaid. Your FAFSA score will determine if you are eligible for either type of aid. While most people are eligible for loan money, grant money will be given only to people who demonstrate extreme financial hardship. Student mothers do sometimes qualify.

How do I find out if I qualify for government aid?

The most important first step is to fill out your FAFSA, which you can do online at fafsa.ed.gov. Once you’ve filled out the FAFSA the government will determine what your expected family contribution (EFC) is, and what percentage it will cover of your educational expenses.  They will use these numbers to generate a Student Aid Report, which is then sent to your college or university. Then the school uses that information to create a financial aid package that they offer to you.

If you have a child while you are in school, your financial situation changes. So, even if you filled out a FAFSA once before, you will need to fill it out again to find out what kinds of aid you can receive. Someone at the school financial aid office should be able to help you update your information so that you can get the best financial aid package possible.

What kinds of grants are available?

There are federal grants for low-income students, some of which can assist with living expenses as well as tuition. The Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), the Academic Competitiveness Grant, and National SMART, are all possible sources of funding for deserving students. The Pell and FSEOG grants are based entirely on financial need, but the Academic Competitiveness grant is tied to high school GPA, and National SMART is limited to disadvantaged students seeking careers in science, math, engineering and technology.

Are there any private or state scholarships available for single mothers?

The Michigan Competitive Scholarship is based on financial need and academic merit demonstrated by a qualifying SAT score. The Michigan Tuition Grant is based simply on financial need. Both awards will be delivered directly to the first institution you’ve listed as your college choice when filling out your FAFSA. The institution applies the award money toward your tuition, and issues you a check for the remainder.

Some women are also eligible for private scholarships, like the Sunshine Lady Foundation’s scholarship for survivors of intimate partner abuse. There are also hundreds of other scholarships in varying amounts, targeting different recipients. You can search scholarships for on free, reputable internet sites like www.michigan.gov/ssg and www.collegeboard.org.

You may also qualify for childcare assistance.

Once you have a child, paying for childcare can become an expense almost as large as your tuition bill. If you are struggling to pay for quality childcare, you might qualify for childcare payment assistance. You can apply from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services page here. If you live in Washtenaw county and have an older, preschool age child, find out about the Head Start program. This program supports low-income children by providing quality childcare and early childhood education to families below the federal poverty line. For eligibility guidelines and participating schools in Washtenaw county, visit the WISD page here.

Don’t give up!

It can be overwhelming to sift through all your financial options, especially when you aren’t feeling well and are dealing with the natural emotions of pregnancy, or when you’re taking care of a little one. However, there is help out there so that you can finish your degree. Your dreams matter—now more than ever. Finishing college and finding a career you love could be the beginning of a better life for you and your baby.

Iris Proctor
Iris is the director of ArborWoman.