Single mothers are constantly dreaming of going back to college. A college education means they can find a better paying job and stop living from paycheck to paycheck. Single mothers, like most families with someone who wants to further their education, look at the actual cost of going back to college first before registering for classes, and the sheer amount of money needed can scare them away.
FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a government program that allows students to apply for loans and grants to help offset the total cost of getting a college education.
FAFSA and EFC Basics and How to Apply for Federal Aid
FAFSA is the best way for single mothers to obtain the aid they need to attend college. There are a variety of different loan and grant programs that single mothers can take advantage of to maximize these financial benefits.
The EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution. This calculation is used to determine how much your family can be expected to pay for college and how much federal aid the single mother should receive. A number of different factors are taken into consideration when making this calculation, including both taxed and non-taxed income, assets, number of people living in the household and federal benefits received by the family.
Applying for financial aid for college is a much simpler process than it used to be. Single moms can use the online system set up by the federal government to begin an application. If the applicant has submitted all relevant information to the system, a FAFSA decision on if and how much aid to give will be generated within a matter of minutes. Many single mom applicants don’t even have to leave the website to know if they’ve been approved or not.
Documents Needed to Apply for Financial Aid
Some of the basic documents needed to apply for financial aid include:
- Income documents like paystubs and tax returns.
- Financial assistance information for those who participate in programs like TANF, SNAP and food stamps.
- Contact information for the school that you’ll be attending.
- Proof of citizenship and your social security number.
The online application process takes about 15 minutes to complete. Those who do not receive a confirmation of approval or denial will likely receive a decision via email or regular mail within a matter of days.
Understanding Your EFC Number
Your EFC number is the amount of money that the federal government believes your family can contribute to your education. This number directly affects the amount of aid you’ll receive after completing your FAFSA application.
There are a number of things that the government takes into account to determine your EFC number. Some of these include family assets, income, bank account balances and more. If you have a high EFC number, your financial aid will be considerably reduced. The lower the EFC number is the more aid will be contributed to your college education.
Reducing the EFC Number to Increase Financial Aid
While it is illegal to omit or purposely hide any information in order to reduce the EFC number, it is possible to make some adjustments to certain aspects of your life to change your financial situation.
First, single mothers can open savings accounts in another family member’s name instead of their own. The government heavily scrutinizes bank account balances when the FAFSA application is filled out. Secondly, paying off debt is another way to reduce your monetary assets.
If you plan on applying for FAFSA, you should reduce your bank account balances using these two methods at least one month prior to filling out the application online.
What Happens When I Receive My EFC Number?
Single mothers, like everyone else, are unable to change the determination that was made by the FAFSA system. Once you’ve received your EFC number, that number stays with you until you reapply again for the following year.
Greatly reducing the EFC before you even know the outcome is very important. Always make copies of bank statements, asset ownership information and income information before and after you make changes to ensure everything has been verified before you begin the application process.
How Single Mothers Can Drastically Decrease their Out-of-Pocket Expenses for College
Next to buying a home and caring for a family, college is one of the most expensive things a single mother can pay for.
It is very important that single mothers maximize their chances for reducing these expenses. Applying for aid and student loans doesn’t stop with the EFC number and the FAFSA system. There are a variety of grants, scholarships and private loans that are available to single mothers if the EFC number is too high and college is still unaffordable.
While applying for FAFSA, single mothers can look for scholarships that were created just for them. These types of scholarships are great financial resources because they are dedicated solely for single mothers and often focus on basic, everyday needs that mothers always look for.
In addition, scholarships will help pay for books, computers, software, food, on-campus family housing and more.
Understanding the EFC number is essential knowing whether or not you’ll be approved for financial aid and how much you’ll receive. Single mothers should contact a financial aid specialist if they have any questions about the calculation or what documents are needed to complete the application.