9 Ways Dads Can Afford Going Back to School

Going to school as a dad isn't easy, but it shouldn't leave you broke. Find grants for single fathers, scholarships for dads, and more savings tips.
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  • Being a dad comes with challenges that non-parent students don't face.
  • Dads can help pay for school with scholarships, grants, and lower-interest loans.
  • They may also find support from their school, employer, and affordable child care providers.

No one promised parenting would be easy. But juggling dad duty while starting or returning to college introduces a whole new set of challenges.

A 2019 Government Accountability Office report found that as of 2009 over half of student parents dropped out of school compared to just 32% of students without children.

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Ready to Start Your Journey?

Student parents face obstacles, like balancing school with work and child care and navigating less-than-family-friendly classroom policies. One of the biggest hurdles can be finances.

This article offers money tips and ideas for dads going back to school, so you have what you need financially to succeed.

1. Apply for Scholarships for Fathers

Scholarships are not just for athletes, scholars, or high school students. Several foundations and organizations offer scholarships for single parents. These scholarships apply to parents attending school full time or part time, at the undergraduate or graduate level.

You can also find scholarships for specific fields of study, coding bootcamp scholarships, and even weird and wacky scholarships. Schools offer scholarships too, so ask your prospective school's financial aid office for more information.

2. Access Grants for Fathers Going to School

Like scholarships, college grants offer students free money to pay for tuition and other expenses. You can search for grants offered by organizations the same way you would search for scholarships.

To find out if you're eligible for government-funded grants, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Make sure to fill it out as early as possible as funding is limited.

There's no age limit for completing the FAFSA. After you submit, you'll find out if you qualify for:

  • Federal grants
  • State grants
  • Grants offered by your school
  • Federal loans, which we'll describe more in the next section

If you already have a bachelor's degree, you're not eligible for certain grants reserved for undergrads, like the Pell Grant. However, you could receive funding through the Federal Work-Study Program or the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant if you're pursuing a teaching degree.

3. Consider Taking Out a Student Loan

There are pros and cons to student loans. For many people, these loans enable them to pay for college.

The federal government issues some student loans, including loans for undergrad and grad students, with or without financial need. Federal loans come with fixed interest rates, which will never change for the life of the loan. In 2021-2022, interest rates for federal loans were 3.73%-6.28%.

Non-government loans are called private loans. You can apply for private loans through banks and other financial institutions. Private loan interest rates can be higher, ranging from 3-13%. Interest rates for private loans can be fixed or variable, meaning the rate can change over the life of your loan.

Read more about federal and private loans in our student guide to college loans.

4. Look Into Your Employer's Benefits

Forward-thinking companies are offering benefits to employees to help cover the cost of college. These benefits may include tuition reimbursement or student loan payment assistance.

It doesn't hurt to ask your employer if they offer tuition assistance. Also, keep an eye out for jobs at companies that offer these benefits.

5. Check Out Your Local Community College

When you're looking at what school to attend, community colleges may be your least expensive option. On average, these schools offer lower tuition than public four-year or private schools.

Don't rule out community colleges because you want to pursue a four-year degree. Community colleges in 24 states offer bachelor's degree programs. If your local college doesn't offer a four-year program, you can still save money by completing prerequisite courses at a community college before transferring to a four-year school.

6. Save Money on Child Care

Costly child care can keep parents from starting or returning to school. In a 2022 BestColleges survey, more than half of parents said inadequate child care access negatively impacted their daily lives. It prevented some from saving money or pursuing education to advance their careers.

However, dads going to school have options for offsetting child care costs. Here are a few ways to find support:

  • The Child Care Access Program helps establish child care centers on college campuses. If you qualify for a Pell Grant, you also may qualify for discounted child care at these centers.
  • The Child Care Development Fund supports child care costs for low-income parents pursuing job training or education.
  • You can find more resources in your state by searching child care.gov.

7. Get Other Support From Your School

There are many ways colleges can support student parents. If you can, take advantage of on-campus child care at your school, which may help you save on transportation costs. The program may even offer discounted child care to parents who are students.

Some colleges have family housing buildings. These buildings are like dorms, but for families rather than individual students. Whether family housing is cheaper than living off-campus will likely vary from school to school. However, it's important to factor in transportation costs that you may save by living on campus.

8. Reduce Financial Burden by Going Part-Time

Colleges typically charge you based on how many credits you enroll in. Part-time students enroll in fewer credits at a time. This means you pay lower rates over a longer period. While you may end up paying the same total amount of tuition, you could reduce your need to take out a larger loan.

In addition, part-time students may have more time to earn money through a job or watch their kids instead of paying for child care.

9. Explore Non-College Education

If making more money is what you're after, there are high-paying jobs that don't require a four-year degree. Shorter, non-degree programs can save you money on tuition while still helping you boost your career — and your paycheck.

Check out the following options to further your education and career:

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Frequently Asked Questions About Affording to Go Back to School as a Dad

How can I afford to go back to school as a parent?

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There are different ways parents can find money to help cover the cost of continuing their education. Here are a few places to start:

  • Take advantage of scholarships for parents.
  • Submit a FAFSA to see if you qualify for grants.
  • Consider borrowing federal student loans, which tend to have lower interest rates than private loans.
  • See if you qualify for discounted child care to save money for school expenses.

How do single dads go to college?

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Single parents in college -- including 1.1 million single dads --may have extra constraints on their time and budget. However, single fathers may also qualify for grants and scholarships to help cover the cost of college. They may also qualify for child care assistance.

The right timing can also make a difference. Maybe you can attend classes when your kids are in school or an afterschool program. Or, maybe you can attend school online at night, after your kids' bedtime.

Is it worth it to go to school as a parent?

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more education generally correlates to higher earnings. A better paying job could benefit both you and your children in the long run.

That said, it will be a challenge. More than half of undergraduate student parents dropped out of school as of 2009. If you need to leave school without completing your degree, you could still be stuck with loan payments.

Ultimately, the decision is different for everyone. Reflect on your reasons for going to school, find support from grants and scholarships, and explore shorter certificates or two-year degrees.

What tax breaks do I qualify for as a parent who's a student?

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In addition to claiming tax breaks for your dependent children, you also may qualify for tax breaks for students.

Undergraduate students may qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Break. The Lifetime Learning Credit may apply to students at all higher education levels and people in career advancement programs.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute professional financial advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this website should contact a professional advisor before making decisions about financial issues.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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