As a single parent contemplating a return to education and a college degree, some of the costs associated with it can appear massive. Single parents often fall within the low income family bracket, working full time just to keep the family above water, without considering additional costs such as college. It can actually be cost effective though to take the leap to return to education, even when it means no other option than to take out loans. Career prospects will be greatly enhanced with a college degree in hand, thus offering the opportunity to step out from poverty long term.
The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) has been established since 1957 with the specific goal of making post secondary education accessible to the students of Illinois. This includes single parents who fall into the category of non-traditional students. ISAC is there to guide in the process of applying for college funding, and to administer federal student loans.
The first step which any student needs to take in the search for funding is to complete the FAFSA form as standard, which covers the application for the federal Stafford subsidized means based loan, which is not subject to any credit check. This Illinois loan is available to all students who are on a low income, and the federal government assume responsibility for the interest on the loan whilst the single parent completes their degree. The interest payments are guaranteed by the federal government and the student need only start repaying the loan six months after graduation.
Those with greater means will qualify for the unsubsidized federal Stafford loan, where the repayments of the interest on the loan must be met by the student during college days. However it is more than likely that the single parent will qualify for the subsidized Stafford loan and perhaps the Pell student grant as well.
All students should attempt to locate scholarship money to assist with college costs and single parents should not assume they won’t qualify for scholarships. Make sure to search well for any scholarships available in the state of Illinois, available often through the individual colleges.
ISAC also offers a service known as MAP, Monetary Award Program, which awards need based grants to help towards tuition costs and fees. Private loans which are administered through ISAC via the IDAPP program (Illinois designated account purchase program) have some benefits, as those who meet all payments on time may qualify for a reduced interest rate. These are the private loans which many students have to take to cover the difference between federal loans and the cost of funding school. Those obtained through IDAPP must have a co-signer, but are available to single parent students.
As a single parent student resident in Illinois it is worth searching for all available scholarships and grants available to supplement loans, as well as making application in the first instance to the federal loan programs, which remain the cheapest way of funding college. Remember though, the state of Illinois is there to offer advice and assistance through ISAC, so don’t fail to use it, as it can be an extra source of funding for you, as well as providing sound advice.