As a single mom, your list of financial obligations can be overwhelming along with child care, which costs between $9,000 and $9,600 per year but can be significantly higher. Food, extracurricular activities, and all other expenses associated with having children and even the thought of adding the burden of returning to college may seem impossible, but it’s doable.

Higher education remains one of the best investments that a single parent can make to support their children financially. According to the 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics results, the median bi-weekly salary of a person with a bachelor’s degree was $922 higher than that of a person with just an online high school degree, making a big difference for single moms on a budget.

But even with a clear return on investment insight, how do you pay tuition and other school-related bills on top of all your other financial obligations? Fortunately, there are various ways that single-parent families can raise funds. If you’re a single mom and plan to go to school or go back to school for another degree, there are a few options besides student loans that can fund your education. 

1. Take Advantage of Training Grants

Perhaps the largest educational grant, the Federal Pell Grant, has been around since 1965. Like most grants, the Pell Grant provides assistance based on the recipient’s proven financial need and does not need to be repaid. While this is not just for single moms, it’s open to all students who meet certain income requirements. It can be hugely beneficial for single parents who might not otherwise be able to afford college. Additionally, changes to the Pell Grant over the past decade have improved the participation of single parents. For the 2019-2020 award year, the maximum Pell Grant amount is $ 6,195. To apply for a Pell Scholarship and other federal grants, complete the Free Student Aid Application (FAFSA) form through the financial aid office of the college you wish to attend. On the form, indicate your income and the number of children you have to determine the amount of assistance you are entitled to.

When you submit your FAFSA, you will also be considered for a Supplemental Federal Educational Grant (FSEOG), an on-demand grant awarded by the United States Department of Education to students with the greatest financial hardship for their university expenses. Single parents with a significant financial burden are often excellent candidates for these grants, which can be up to $4,000 per year.

Government grants are another public option to help you get college funding. Almost all states provide financial assistance to their residents in the form of a scholarship. Some even have programs specifically for single parents. For example, Maine offers a scholarship that The Atlantic says includes a scholarship for transportation and childcare. Check with your government education agency to see what programs you may be eligible for.

2. Apply for Scholarships

Many colleges and universities offer scholarships to help students pay for their education. Scholarships are usually but not always awarded based on academic performance metrics such as GPA and test scores. An excellent place to start is the scholarship or grants office of the school of your choice. Staff can provide information and support to help you get the most out of university scholarships and also suggest suitable external scholarship opportunities.

3. Explore Private Scholarships

The many scholarships and grants offered by private organizations and foundations are an often overlooked way to offset the financial burden of going to college. The requirements for these scholarships vary; some are determined by demand; others consider academic qualifications, while others are aimed at students from specific backgrounds. Most times, the latter group includes scholarships for single women and mothers.