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College Image Gallery For some single parents, going back to school can be practically impossible without financial assistance. See more college pictures.

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It's only four years to a better shot at job satisfaction and financial stability. Just four years, and maybe $40,000, to improve your quality of life.

That's $40,000 minimum, actually. College tuition can run a couple hundred thousand at a top private university. For most people, that price is a bit of a stretch. For most "nontraditional" students over the age of 25 who have to support themselves, that price, along with four years of studying instead of working, is even more of a stretch.

For single parents, who are supporting a child, too, going back to school can be practically impossible. For single parents on welfare, who can lose their eligibility if they obtain school loans that are counted as income under certain regulations, it's often impossible.

While some legislators and organizations are trying to get these types of regulations changed, both the government and private foundations have instituted other ways for single mothers (and fathers) to get a higher education without spending the rest of their lives paying it off: grants and scholarships directed specifically at solo, underprivileged parents.

These financial aid opportunities fit in with the overall system for helping people get a higher education. There are tons of grants, scholarships and loans out there targeted at every type of student, from math prodigies to minorities to duck callers [source: EducationGrant]. Single moms can find a fairly wide range of targeted financial-aid sources if they do some research. The Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation Scholarship is for "mature women." The American Association of University Women offers money to moms returning to school after raising a family. The federal Pell Grant gives single moms free tuition assistance to attend any college in the country.

Student loans are always an option, but paying those back can be a prohibitive hardship for a single parent. In this article, we'll look at some of the major sources of "free" college financing for single moms, including both government and private scholarships and grants. We'll find out who's eligible and how a single parent can begin the application process.

Federal financing is a great place to begin, since a fairly recent development makes it a bit easier for single moms to get public assistance toward a college education.