By Puna Neumeier

As a first-generation college student who lives in a low-income household, paying for college is a monstrous task.

Loans are hard to get a grip on since my credit score is so low, due to a lack of credit history and a lack of cosigners. Scholarships are an uphill battle. Both of my parents are disabled, and my mother was the only working adult in the household.

Currently both parents have separated, so now income has drastically dropped. Regardless, disability has still impacted finances in both households. So, how does familial disability affect students’ college finances and how can students combat this hardship? According to sapling.com, “When starting the search for grants and scholarships, it is recommended that parents and students review the U.S. Department of Education’s website and complete the FAFSA.”

FAFSA has a scholarship called the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant for families with low expected family contributions. It is recommended by Federal Student Aid that the children of disabled parents apply to FAFSA for this grant. Those who have been approved can earn from $100 to up to $4000a year. This is the only grant offered to the children of disabled parents by Federal Student Aid. Other options for financial aid come from scholarships at the local and state level.

Online, there are various other scholarships for various niches such as paralyzed veteran parents or parents with multiple sclerosis. However, these scholarships for disabled parents are very minimal and are highly competitive.

According to Shiksha Study Abroad, “According to a recent report by National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, only one out of 10 undergraduate aspirants is able to bag a scholarship for a bachelor’s degree.” Very little scholarships go unrewarded. Shiksha Study Abroad also states, “Even with a GPA of 3.5-4.0, only 19% of students are able to qualify for receiving scholarships given by colleges.” Even with such slim chances, I advise anyone going through with these difficulties to continue applying for scholarships and continue to apply for FAFSA.

If you can, schedule an appointment with your financial advisor at your university and ask about possible financial aid specialized for your situation. Everyone is different, there may be an aid package just for you!

If you are not in college yet but plan to attend, consider starting a savings account. Talk to your parents about starting a fundraiser to help you kickstart your college careers. Put on bake sale, garage sale, or even start a Go Fund Me page.

In 2019 alone, online donators have gifted over $9 billion to people of all backgrounds. This year, due to COVID-19, there is an increase in need as well as an increase of help. You may be able to catch the eye of a helping hand. Spread news to your friends and family to see if they can give you some help with the preparations for college. The sooner you start, the better!

College is not cheap, but we are all in this together.

Neumeier is a global journalist who shares the knowledge of her Hawaiian heritage, and is a junior at the University of Missouri.