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How to Cover the Cost of Tuition as a Single Parent

As rewarding as it is, raising children isn’t always easy. As a two-parent household, you might not have to worry about the financial aspect of parenting. It is easier to juggle work and childcare and to save money for your child’s RESP. But what happens if you find yourself single again? As a single parent, you have to account for every dollar. So much so that you might not think you can afford to send your child to college. Even if your household income is reduced, there are ways to give your children the education they desire.

How to Cover the Cost of Tuition as a Single Parent

Talk about Your Finances

Unless your children are very young, you need to have a serious conversation about the household’s finances. Ask about their educational goals and where they want to go to college. What schools they want to attend plays a huge role in affordability. If they have their hearts set on an Ivy League school like Rory in Gilmore Girls, discuss how you can offset the cost of attendance. If they live out of state, you’ll have to cover the cost of housing and food as well as tuition and books. If you’ve been saving for college since your children were born, you can combine that with a low-rate Private Parent loan.

Depending on your income, you can apply for this kind of loan to cover the cost of your child’s tuition. Be mindful that you do need to have reasonably good credit score and prove that you can pay the loan back. There’s also an origination fee associated with this type of loan. Similar to your child’s FAFSA, you’ll also have to fill one out as well. These types of loans are usually good options, especially when used in conjunction with grants, bursaries or scholarships.

While we all want our kids to succeed in life and to be able to reach their goals, it’s great to encourage your child to work towards those goals himself. See what resources and ideas your teen has for paying for her college tuition and expenses before you offer to step in and make up the difference.

Encourage Your Teen to Get a Job

Encourage your teenager to get a job to help pay for their college or university degree. I started working as a house cleaner and babysitter when I was thirteen, and continued regularly working for various families until my first year of university. When I finished grade 12, I also got a job as a cashier at our local gas station. I worked that job through my first year of university, and then got a summer job with my dad’s company. All of these jobs helped me pay for my tuition and books at university.

While your teen may not know yet where they want to attend university, working gives them excellent experience as well as a regular pay cheque. Encourage them to set aside some of their pay cheque for savings—whether for university, travel, or other future expenses. They may be able to get a job that is related to their desired field of study but any job experience helps to learn valuable career skills and begin building their resume.

Get a Home Equity Loan

Depending on how long you’ve been paying your mortgage, you might qualify for a home equity loan. Although home equity loans usually have lower interest rates than student loans, there are some drawbacks. Using your home as collateral could be risky and if something financially catastrophic happens, you could lose your home.

Consider Community College

Your child can also consider attending classes at a community college as well. It’s not uncommon for students to complete the prerequisites in community college and then transfer to university to complete their degree. Classes at community colleges usually cost less per credit hour and can be transferred to a degree program. As with other public colleges, in-state students may qualify for lower tuition rates.

Encourage your child to consider the options available at their local colleges. Living at home, even just for the first year or two of their degree, and attending a smaller community college, can not only save them money but also give them a more intimate experience. Community colleges offer smaller campuses and class sizes, which can be less intimidating for new students and make it easier to get to know other students and professors.

You may also want to read… How to Help Your Homeschooled Student Prepare for College

Research Private vs. Public Universities

It’s also important to know the difference between public and private universities. Public universities are funded by the government. Private colleges rely on tuition and alumni donations. While both types of learning institutions offer students quality education, there’s a significant difference in cost of attendance. Private colleges usually cost more than public ones. In-state students who attend public universities also have lower tuition than out-of-state students.

I attended a small, private university for my first degree. While I had an excellent experience there due to the small campus and class sizes, I knew that I was paying more for my education than my friends who attended the local public university. For me, that higher cost was worth it (and I was able to pay for it with scholarships, savings, and summer jobs). Discuss the pros and cons with your child, and consider their personality, needs, and goals as they choose where to attend.

Look at Apprenticeships and Trade School

Another option for young people is to do an apprenticeship in a trade. For example, while I went to university to get a bachelor’s degree, my twin brother did an apprenticeship at our local trade school as a heavy duty mechanic. He worked for various big-name companies as a mechanic before starting his own company. Apprenticeships can sometimes be completed in less time than a university degree. Students are usually paid for the time that they work during their apprenticeship, which can offset the cost of their tuition.

Apply for Scholarships and Bursaries

One great way to teach teens about handling money is to get them involved in some of the processes. In some situations, seniors in high school can apply for college scholarships. This will depend on where you live and the college entry requirements. If that’s not an option, your child can apply for an education scholarship when they apply to college or during their freshman year.

Many colleges and universities have bursaries available for students. For example, when I was a student, I remember combing the bursary list every year and applying for anything I could. Oftentimes the bursaries were very specific—students who were from a certain geographical area or who belonged to a certain organization or who had a specific handicap could apply for the bursary. Other times, the bursary requirements were more open. My dad always encouraged me to apply for as many bursaries as possible; even if I wasn’t the perfect applicant, the organization had money to give away and may not get their ideal applicant, so they’d give the money to the next-best-qualified student.

Get a Student Loan

You could help your child apply for a government student loan. This is how I got through my second degree, as a young mom with two (and then three) children. Government student loans are often available at lower interest rates than private or bank student loans. You may want to discuss various types of loans with your financial adviser and determine which loans offer the best rates and what the pay-back terms are (and whether there is a grace period after graduation). Is it better for you to get a loan such as the ones suggested above, or for your student to get the loan in their name? Which has the best interest rates? Try to consider all the options.

Ask for Help

Another option, as Lorelei did in Gilmore Girls, is to ask for help from grandparents. They have often paid off their mortgages and may have more disposable income than you do as a single parent. They may be happy to invest in a grandchild’s future goals and dreams. Such assistance could be offered in the form of a gift or as a loan. If a bank is unwilling to give the student or single parent a loan, perhaps the grandparent could foot the loan, which the student could pay back once he graduates and gets a good job.

What options have you considered to cover the cost of tuition as a single parent?

Photo by Vitaliy on Unsplash.

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