If you married young, and gave up a chance at college to start a family, becoming a widow can be quite a blow. Without a college degree, it can be difficult to find a good job. Fortunately, it is never too late to go back to school. Although getting a college education is expensive, there are various financial aid, grants and scholarships for single mothers that make it manageable.
So let’s say you have the determination to return to school to get your Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree. How do you find the tuition assistance you need? Fortunately, it is not difficult. Just head to your college’s financial aid office after you have been admitted and you will be able to pick up all (or most of) the application forms you need.
That’s actually an important point. Most grants and scholarships for women who are in financial need only give their awards after you have successfully enrolled in college. That said, some colleges do hand you a sheaf of application forms for grants to sign at the time you enroll. They will fill in the form for you, and then send in the form only if they accept you as a student.
What kind of financial aid for college can you receive if you are a widowed mom? Frankly, almost any government grant which a fresh high school graduate can apply for, you can also apply for. That means you are eligible to apply for the Pell Grant, FSEOG, TEACH Grant, National SMART Grant as well as your state’s college education grant. These are all free government grants, meaning that you do not have to repay the money awarded to you. However, these grants are meant as subsidies, so no single grant will ever pay your full tuition fee. As a rule of thumb, if you enroll in a public college, you can expect to see about 1/4 of your tuition fee covered by each grant, assuming you are the typical low-income single mom. So if you can get four grants approved, you can expect to see most of your college tuition fee covered.
For most widows enrolled in an Associate’s degree program in their local community college, there is almost no need to apply for scholarships. For example, let’s say you are a widowed mother resident in North Carolina and you are enrolled in your local Haywood Community College. How much do you pay in tuition fees if you do not receive any grants and scholarships? About 60 credit hours X $56.50 = $3,390 total. Let’s say you successfully apply for the Pell Grant, FSEOG and your state college grant. These three grants together should cover about 3/4 (maybe more) of your tuition, leaving about $850 (to be paid over the two years of the degree program). If you apply for the Stafford student loan, this last bit of your college tuition together with the cost of textbooks and any administrative fees is easily covered. You only need to pay 3.4 percent interest on the amount borrowed, and you only need to start your repayment after you graduate. You do not actually need to start repaying the student loan immediately. You have a six month grace period, and the interest only starts accruing once the grace period ends.
Where Can You Find Scholarships If You Are A Widow?
But let’s assume you really don’t like debt of any kind and are willing to put in the extra time and effort needed to look for scholarships to cover this final amount of $850. Where can you find scholarships for widowed mothers? The first place to look is your school or college. A small community college will probably not have any worthwhile scholarships available. But many larger public colleges have at least one or two scholarships worth your trouble. There’s no guarantee, of course, but it is worth a shot. So check with your college’s financial aid department, and also check with your school office. For example, let’s say you are studying a two-year degree for Computer Science. Check with your Computer Science office to find out if they have any dedicated scholarships that you can apply for.
It is also possible to find extensive lists of public scholarships at your state’s Department of Education website. Mind you, not every state Education Bureau has this list, and some states keep their lists under some other department, so you will need to do some digging in your state government’s website. You should also look up the websites of the public universities in your state. Many universities collect and publish lists of scholarships. Not all of these will be available to you – many will be scholarships only awarded to students of that university. But you should still be able to find a few public scholarships from charities and non-profit foundations which you are eligible to apply for.
If you are studying a professional or a vocational degree, there may be scholarships available from your official professional society or the trade association of the relevant industry. An example of the former is the Education Foundation For Women In Accounting, set up by the American Society of Women Accountants and American Woman’s Society of Certified Public Accountants for the scholarships they award.
An example of the latter was featured in the August 1, 2011, CNN Money report on community colleges. CNN Money reported that a trade association of 100 manufacturers in Northeast Ohio got together with the Lakeland Community College to design an applied science program in manufacturing. Not only that, they are funding a number of scholarships and internships. Are you surprised that there are still companies with job vacancies that are also willing to fund scholarships even during this recession? Contrary to the more widely publicized doom and gloom reports on the state of job in the US, many small and medium enterprises (SME) are actually short of staff. There are many small factories which do not have the budget to move over to China, and have adapted by moving to a just-in-time (JIT) business model where they make a variety of related products to meet rapidly changing market demands. These smaller companies rely on semi-automated computer-aided machinery to gain this flexibility. But these machines are expensive, easily costing half-a-million dollars a pop. Not only that, these machines need skilled workers to operate them. As you can see, more than a few SMEs think nothing of financing a scholarship or two if it will let them expand their business.
Since you are still a woman, you may want to look for your state’s branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The headquarters only offers scholarships for women in Master’s degree programs, but some state branches also offer scholarships for selected Bachelor’s degree and Associate’s degree programs.
If you are a military widow, have you looked at the Veteran’s Association Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA). This program offers up to 45 months of education benefits to dependents of deceased military personnel. You might also want to enquire at the official charity of your deceased husband’s branch of service. These are the Army Emergency Relief, Air Force Aid Society, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance.
Losing your spouse does not mean the end of your life. With some determination, you can still climb back up on your feet. If you have kids, it is even more important that you find a good job. This may mean returning to school. Fortunately, although a college education is expensive, there are free government grants and charitable scholarships available to help you out.