Single Parenting and Finance: Getting Ahead Through Education

Last time we covered single parenting and finances, we took a look at how to get on stable ground, which included information about applying for government assistance. Now that we're on solid ground, it's time to work at getting ahead and breaking the poverty line. One of the very best ways to accomplish this is to become educated. Let's take a look at education as the springboard to your financial future.

Why Attend School?

Most jobs that will allow you to reach middle class are jobs that require some kind of education beyond high school. I'm not saying that you have to get a PhD, a Master's, a Bachelor's or even an Associate's degree. In fact, sometimes those degrees don't really put you ahead of the curve. Depending on your choice of study, the amount of money you pour into the education and the jobs available upon graduation, an advanced degree may not return the salary you'll need to pay back borrowed funds.

Instead, what I'm suggesting is to pursue education in either traditional or non-traditional ways. Traditional degree programs like an Associates or Bachelor's could work for you. On the other hand, trade schools, apprenticeships, internships, management programs and on-the-job-training (OJT) could also help you get ahead in your career of choice. The kicker here is choice: pursuing education in a field that you find interesting will almost always help you stay interested in the career path as you move forward.

How to Attend School

As a single parent, you may be thinking, "This all makes sense, but how can I make it work financially?" Obviously, you're right to consider the financial aspect of obtaining an education. Almost every program you'll look into will cost time and money, and both can be hard to come by as a single mom or dad.

Thankfully, financial aid is often available for traditional schools and trade schools. If you're unfamiliar with financial aid, you might wish to speak to the financial aid office at your school of choice or fill out a FAFSA online. We won't go over financial aid in depth because there's a lot to it, but I do want to say that aid can often cover the majority of schooling expenses through grants or loans.

How to Make Job-Based Education Work for You

However, if you are looking at more of a job-based education program like an apprenticeship, internship or OJT, financial aid may be limited. To make these types of programs work for you, government assistance might help you more. I know, I know; we've already covered government assistance programs in our last post in the series. But that was about getting you on solid ground, not getting ahead, so it's worth revisiting briefly.

For these types of education programs, it's important to note that you might qualify for more assistance from the government since your situation will be changing. For example, let's say you didn't qualify for housing assistance the first time you applied because you were working 40 hours per week at your minimum wage job. Well, if you decide to take on an unpaid apprenticeship, DSS might reconsider your request and grant you housing assistance. In any case, if your situation changes, it's worth checking in with DSS to see if you can make your employment dreams come true.

Whatever you decide in your education, the path will not be easy. On the other hand, landing a job that can support you and your children will be an accomplishment you'll both remember for a lifetime. So chase those education dreams; soon you'll be on your way to financial freedom.

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Anonymous's picture

femmefrugality wrote:

Wed, 05/30/2012 - 15:34 Comment #: 1

You can also get government assistance to pay for child care if that's a concern for your while you're in the classroom. In some states, they'll even let you use that money to pay a family member if you're not comfortable with leaving them at a daycare facility.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Wed, 05/30/2012 - 18:36 Comment #: 2

FF, very true! Childcare assistance is a great tool to use while in school. I didn't know that it could be used to pay family members -- thanks for the great tip!

Anonymous's picture

AverageJoe wrote:

Thu, 05/31/2012 - 00:07 Comment #: 3

Great tips. I always recommended my single clients ask about resources at a school when they're considering applying. Often there are surprising things (childcare, financial aid, transportation options, etc.) that you wouldn't know exist if you don't ask.

Anonymous's picture

Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter wrote:

Thu, 05/31/2012 - 14:06 Comment #: 4

In Canada where I live there are lots of different subsidy programs that people in this situation can take advantage of. I totally agree with you that education is the key to breaking free from poverty. I almost thing is should be a human right. Something everyone should have access too.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Thu, 05/31/2012 - 14:37 Comment #: 5

Average Joe, great tip -- checking in with the school could also lead to some great free or cheap services. I forgot that childcare was free at my college for those who qualified. Students were often care providers, too (under the supervision of a teacher), so kids benefitted from extra care providers who were learning about the latest education techniques.

Miss T, Canada seems to have the best in subsidies -- your country really takes care of its citizens! Education is definitely a great way to get ahead, and free or cheaper access would be great. College prices are getting really high here in the States.

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