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Finances, College and the Single Parent

Written by New Ventures Maine | Published on February 10, 2017
Smiling teenage son with mother

By Dottie Perham-Whittier, LA CA$H Co-Chair

When my son, Mack, was born in October of 1999, people told me he’d be 18 before I knew it. Looking at my 8 lb. 2 oz. bundle of joy, I thought people were crazy to say that. However, time has flown by! He will be 18 and graduates from high school in 2018. Mack wants to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and dollar signs continue to flash before my eyes! I’ll be meeting with the Aspirations Coordinator at Lewiston High School very soon to try to understand how college can be possible in a way that’s truly financially feasible.

I was divorced in 2014 and my ex-husband sadly passed away in 2015. All our household finances are my responsibility now, and I want to be well versed in understanding how he can apply for grants and loans, as well as work to meet expenses. I have 17-year-old who is enthusiastically ready to live the culinary dream, and I want to support that dream!

Financial Planning for College

I recently read an encouraging article in the November 2016 America’s Promise newsletter entitled, Three Myths About Financial Aid that Keep Students from Applying.”  That headline caught my attention because the feeling of “where to start” seems daunting.  I’ve wondered, will he get any assistance, will he be in debt “forever,” and are their substantial financial options really available?

The myths highlighted in the article are:

  1. Most students aren’t eligible for financial aid.
  2. Not enough aid is available.
  3. Only the students who really need the money apply.

 Reading the article helped me breathe a little easier. The familiar quote “It takes a village” rings true on the college front, as my son will need to tap into multiple resources to make his college goal a reality. This article reassured me that there are many funding sources available!  I’m proud to say I started a NextGen college investing plan for my son years ago; however, additional funding streams will be needed.

I was surprised—and pleased— to read that “in 2014, about 1.4 million students missed out on billions of dollars simply because they didn’t apply.”  I also learned that the key component is to complete a Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) form.    Maine high schools often offer workshops about FAFSA – so that will also be on my list to do.  I’ll also be reviewing the “Form Your Future” web site that gives further insight into the FAFSA.

Financial Planning for the Future

The old saying “knowledge is power” resonates with me.  I want to be “in the know” about finances and college planning.  I believe reviewing all this information with my son will provide a good opportunity to explore what his financial future will look like.  Hitting the world at 18 with new, and perhaps scary responsibilities, is certainly worthy of many conversations with either a parent(s) or trusted adult.

Join me on this journey, and check out these resources. Who knows what lies ahead for our children, and don’t forget, adults can go to college, too!