The number of households headed by a single father has multiplied nine-fold since 1960, reaching 2.6 million in 2011, Pew Research Center reported in 2013.
Only 17 percent of these single dads have at least a bachelor’s degree, which means the income potential of the other 83 percent is limited; and the median adjusted annual income for all single dads averages $40,000, in contrast to $70,000 for married fathers.
The cost of higher education isn’t cheap — annual tuition and required fees average $5,899 a year at public institutions, $28,569 at private nonprofit institutions and $13,766 at private for-profit institutions, according to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Fortunately, if you’re a single dad looking for ways to finance college for yourself or your children, a few strategies can assist you.
One strategy you can use to cut college costs is to take as many courses as possible at a community college. You can then transfer credits to a four-year college, if you plan on attending one. To employ this strategy effectively, make sure you find out ahead of time if your credits will transfer. Most community colleges have an academic adviser who can help you determine this, and Community College Review offers guidelines that will help, too.
Another way to cut costs is taking advantage of distance education opportunities. Many universities now offer free or reduced-rate massive open online courses (MOOCs). You can find a list of available online courses at the MOOC List website.
Another place to cut costs is textbooks. Campus Technology reviews some of the top resources that provide digital textbooks for Android, iOS and laptops.
If your financial situation permits you to put some of your monthly savings into a college fund, a strategy you may find to your advantage is using a 529 plan, which is a tax-advantaged vehicle for investing tuition funds. The SEC’s website provides a guideline to using 529 plans effectively, along with links to resources.
Other savings vehicle options include Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, U.S. Savings Bonds and IRAs. If you receive regular payouts from an annuity or structured settlement, you may wish to sell your future payments for a lump sum of cash now and then invest the money in one of these savings vehicles. J.G. Wentworth features more information about selling your future payments.
A variety of financial aid opportunities are available for single dads. Extensive information about federal grants, scholarships, work-study jobs and loans is available on the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid site. Additional resources and information about scholarships are available from college financial aid offices, public libraries and sites such as FinAid.org. There’s also SimpleTuition.com, which includes information about grants that single fathers are eligible for, pointing out that many aid packages promoted for single mothers are actually available to all single parents.
A new way to finance college is crowdfunding. CrowdCrux reviews some of the top sites that can be used for college and educational costs. Some sites, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, are general crowdfunding sites that enable educational fundraising. Others, such as IncitED, specialize in educational crowdfunding.