Pell Grants for Single Mothers

education, graduation and motherhood concept - happy mother student with baby boy and diploma at home - pell grant for single mothers

If you’re a single mother going to college, there are many financial aid opportunities to reduce your education costs. Between your living expenses, your household expenses and your child’s expenses, you may not have much money leftover to pay for school. In this guide, we will look into Pell Grants for single mothers and how you can apply for them. 

What Is a Pell Grant?

A Pell Grant is a free form of financial aid provided by the federal government. Pell Grants are designed to help students pay for college if they can display financial need. Pell Grants for single mothers do not have to be repaid. They are not student loans, and they can be used for any undergraduate degree program at an accredited university. You may qualify for a Pell Grant for up to 12 semesters as long as you make sufficient academic progress. The definition of “sufficient” is determined by the school you attend.

Determining Pell Grant Eligibility for Single Moms

pell grants for single mothers - image of mother with daughterPell Grant eligibility comes down to two major components: the expected family contribution (EFC) and the cost of attendance for the school and degree program you will be enrolled in. Your EFC is calculated based on your income. You will most likely be categorized as an independent student because of your child. The EFC formula says that an applicant can be labeled independent if: “The student has or will have one or more children who receive more than half of their support from him or her.”

Being an independent student means you do not need to report your parent’s income on your application. Simply fill out the information based on your tax documents and income statements. You will be asked about the school you’re attending and the types of classes you’ll be taking to approximate your cost of attendance. This, combined with your EFC, will determine your financial need – which will determine if you qualify for a Pell Grant.

What Is the Max Pell Grant for Single Mothers?

Currently, the maximum Pell Grant available is $5,920. However, students may qualify for a portion of that if they don’t show enough financial need for the full value. This is the cap for all students, not just single mothers. Single moms are evaluated like other students when determining eligibility and award limits.

If you are eligible for a max Pell Grant but only attend school part time, you may still receive the amount proportional to the number of hours you attend. In most cases, full time attendance is 12 hours. If you are enrolled in 6 hours, you could receive up to 50% of the maximum Pell Grant.

Some Single Moms Automatically Qualify for Zero EFC

pell grant for single mothers mother sitting with son against wooden backdropAs we mentioned above, your EFC score has a lot to do with the value of your Pell Grant. Some single mothers automatically qualify for a 0 EFC score, which means they are not expected to contribute anything to the cost of their education. If you have a dependent and your household income is less than $25,000 (with or without a spouse), you will receive an automatic zero EFC calculation. This means that you will qualify for the maximum Pell Grant available based on your enrollment status, full time or part time.

Child Support and Pell Grants for Single Moms

If you receive child support, you will need to report that in the appropriate area of your Pell Grant application. You must include all of the child support you receive for all of your children, if you have more than one. With this in mind, you only have to report child support that has been legally granted to you by the court in a child custody case, a separation agreement or a divorce decree. Moreover, if your child’s father provides extra money/supplies during the month, that is not considered part of your income.

african american mother and children laughing concept for pell grants for single mothersThere are many stipulations regarding child support and Pell Grants for single mothers. For instance, if your child lives with his or her father but you pay for more than half of his or her expenses, you can still consider the child as a dependent of yours. If the father is in arrears for his child support payments, that could alter your reported income. Your Pell Grant application will prompt you to answer questions like this, as needed, so you can receive as much support as possible.

Do All Single Mothers Qualify for Pell Grants?

No, being a single mother does not guarantee that you will get a partial or full Pell Grant. Pell Grants are traditionally awarded to low-income families. You may fit into that category based on your income and cost of attendance. Therefore, it all comes down to financial need.

How to Apply for a Pell Grant for Single Moms

If you would like to apply for a Pell Grant, you must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You will also need to complete this if you are taking out federal student loans. Some scholarships require FAFSA information even if they are not issued by the government. Complete the application once a school year to continue receiving your aid, and you’ll have fewer out of pocket expenses.

Read about online learning for stay-at-home moms.

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