8 Ways Moms Can Afford Going Back to School

Moms interested in going back to college shouldn't stop themselves because of the cost. Explore your options to offset tuition and childcare costs.
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  • Moms face obstacles traditional students don't face when going to college.
  • Mothers can access scholarships and grants to make college more affordable.
  • There are also options to cover or help with childcare costs.

With the high cost of college and childcare, as well as potential work responsibilities, moms who want to go back to school might feel like the odds are stacked against them.

However, there are ways moms can go back to school without breaking the bank. Student parents can apply for scholarships, attend school part-time, and take out student loans. You don't have to choose between financial stability and an education.

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Ready to Start Your Journey?

The first thing you should do if you're considering going back to school is complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This gives you an estimate of how much federal grant and scholarship money you may qualify for.

With that information, you can take as many steps below as necessary to lower the cost of going back to school.

1. Apply for Scholarships for Moms Going Back to School

Any student can apply for general scholarships. But there are some tailored for moms. There are even some specifically for single moms.

Scholarships are loans you don't need to pay back — so they're free money. They can range from just $100 to thousands of dollars. Applying for scholarships tailored for moms or single parents can increase your likelihood of winning because fewer people apply.

Here are just a few scholarships geared toward moms:

The university you're attending may also offer scholarships or grants exclusively available to moms — so contact your financial aid office to find out. The office can also connect you with state-specific grants for moms or single parents.

2. Apply for Grants for Moms Going Back to School

Grants, like scholarships, give you money you don't need to pay back in most circumstances. The difference between them is grants are usually need-based, and scholarships are usually merit-based.

Grants can come from your school, your state, and the federal government. Below are some popular federal grant programs:

  • Pell Grant: The Pell Grant is a need-based grant for undergraduate students. You can find out if you qualify by completing the FAFSA. The maximum amount for the 2022-2023 school year is $6,895.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG): This is another grant you can apply for by filling out the FAFSA. Although it's a federal grant, your school must be a participating institution for you to earn the award. The amount can vary between $100 to $4,000 per year.
  • Federal Work-Study Program: The Federal Work-Study Program, as the name suggests, pairs students in financial need with jobs to help them offset college costs. The jobs usually align with students' areas of interest and can be on or off campus. While completing your FAFSA, you'll be asked if you want to be considered for the program.

3. Take Out a Student Loan

Millions of people have student loans. They're an accessible way to pay for college if you can't pay for your tuition upfront.

You do need to pay your student loans back, so it may be helpful to explore the options you don't need to pay back first, like scholarships and grants. This can help you lower the amount of debt you'll owe because you can reduce how much interest you'll accrue.

Some of the pros of taking out student loans include the ability to fund the majority of your schooling and the possibility of loan forgiveness. On the downside, student loans can take decades to pay off, and the cost increases with interest as time goes on.

There are two main types of student loans: federal and private loans. Federal student loans are offered by the government, and private student loans come from private companies. When possible, you should opt for federal loans. Private loans typically have higher interest rates than federal loans, and federal loans have many more repayment options.

Finding and researching student loans can seem exhausting, especially for busy moms. But the return on investment you can get from your loans is often worth it.

4. See Whether Your Employer Helps Pay for Education

If you already have a job, your employer may offer benefits to help employees pay for college.

Employers aren't required to offer any educational benefits. But when they do, it usually comes in the form of student loan repayment programs. Employers may also offer student loan financing or matching contributions. They can provide employees up to $5,250 in tax-exempt student loan repayment and tuition assistance.

Here are just a few companies that will help pay for your college:

  • Starbucks: Starbucks covers the full cost of tuition for full- and part-time employees who attend Arizona State University online in pursuit of an undergraduate degree.
  • SoFi: The financial services company covers student loan repayments for up to $200 per month.
  • Google: Google offers full-time employees up to $2,500 per year in student loan assistance.

5. Attend School Part Time

You don't have to attend school full time to earn a degree. You can take as few as one class a semester and still reach your goals.

Spacing out your classes can make it easier to balance school and other responsibilities as a parent. A lighter course load can also allow you to spend less on childcare and spread out your tuition payments.

By taking just a few classes at a time, you can also focus more on your studies instead of jamming a full-time course load into your busy schedule.

6. Consider Taking Gen-Eds at a Community College

The first two years at a community college and a university usually look similar.

General education courses, or gen-eds, consist of introductory English, science, and math courses. If you take those classes at a community college rather than at a four-year institution, you can save a lot of money.

After you take your gen-eds at a community college, you can transfer to a four-year university if you'd like. Just be sure to contact the university you want to transfer to and see if they'll take your transfer credits for those courses. If they don't, you may need to take them again and spend more money.

Another benefit of taking gen-eds at a community college is that they often offer night classes. This flexibility can help moms and busy parents create schedules that best suit their needs.

7. Consider Attending a Bootcamp or Certificate Program

Depending on your goals, you may not need a college degree.

Bootcamps and certificate programs may be a good alternative for you. Courses in these programs are usually condensed to a few weeks. They may offer hands-on experience, self-paced classes, and sometimes job opportunities.

Bootcamps and certificate programs are also a lot less expensive than college. People don't usually go into years-long debt because of these programs. They're not free, but there are financial assistance options available for bootcamps and certificate programs, too.

These courses of study are also becoming increasingly valuable to employers. Some employers would rather you have hands-on experience in your field with no college degree than a college degree with no experience or credentials.

8. Save on Childcare Expenses to Help With Tuition

Childcare expenses can add up quickly over four years, and most parents say that they have to sacrifice their career advancement due to childcare. There are several places you could look for childcare support to help you save.

  • Federal assistance: ChildCare.gov is home to a database of resources sorted by state. These programs are primarily geared toward low-income families, but other demographics like military families may also qualify for assistance.
  • Your employer: Employers may offer a dependent care flexible spending account, which lets you put part of your paycheck into a special, pre-tax account intended for childcare expenses. Some employers also offer on-site childcare assistance.
  • Local resources: Some nonprofits and childcare providers in your area may offer free or discounted childcare for students.

Frequently Asked Questions About Paying to Go Back to School as a Mom

Is going back to college as a mom worth the cost?

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Going back to college as a mom can certainly be worth it in some instances. Having a college degree can open up career opportunities and allow you to earn a higher salary. Higher education can also be worth the cost if you're using college to switch to a better-paying industry.

However, there are also drawbacks to consider: Going to college could mean that you have to pay more in childcare if you're attending classes in person or just need time to focus. Ultimately, it depends on what you're looking to get from your education and degree.

How can I pay to go back to school as a mother?

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You can apply for scholarships and grants, as well as take out student loans to pay for college. Attending school part time or at a community college can also help you lower the costs.

If you're not sure where to start looking for financial assistance, contact your school's financial aid office. They can help you find opportunities to save -- some of which are exclusively available to moms, like specialized scholarships.

How can I cut my spending to save for tuition?

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You can create a budget that works for you and learn how to stick to it.

Evaluate the budget you have now, and look for ways to save and cut back on costs. You may have streaming services or gym memberships that you haven't used in months. Those are easy monthly costs to cut to start saving for tuition.

Budgeting can help you come up with some money for college even without additional sources of income.

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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