College Expenses After a Costly Divorce: What Can Financial Aid Cover?

Uncontested Divorce Mediation

Posted January 16, 2020

chicago divorce mediation

For many families, college plans take a big hit when parents divorce. Separated finances and the cost of the Chicago divorce mediation itself reduce family savings, but also often increase motivation to learn and grow. Not only do divorcing parents have teen futures to think about, but a divorce can also be an inspiration to go back to school and rebuild your career. With money as the only snag, financial aid becomes a matter of great interest.

How much financial aid can you or your children receive, and what of the total college expenses can it cover? Scholarships, grants, and government loans can all make it easier for divorcees to afford education for their teens and themselves as long as you know how to apply for funds and then apply the funds you receive in every way possible.

Here at Split Simple, we are dedicated to helping families succeed financially during and after Chicago divorce mediation. Reduce your divorce expenses with mediation instead of litigation, build a smart financial balance into your divorce agreement, and plan for your future by accessing financial aid for your teens or your own return to college. Let’s take a closer look at the many college expenses that financial aid can be applied to so that post-divorce college is within your reach.


When financial aid is limited, students often pour the majority of their financial aid into covering the costs of tuition, which continue to rise. The cost of simply attending school has always been considerable as tuition is the primary income source for schools. In schools where tuition is a flat rate, students paying for tuition with financial aid try to take as many classes as possible to make the most of their aid. In schools where tuition is class-by-class, many dedicated students try to calculate the most affordable path through their degrees or need to spread their learning time to make it possible to cover other expenses as well. 

On-Campus Housing

The second primary use of tuition is on-campus room and board. Students can choose to live in many ways, on and off campus, but those who rely on financial aid must live in the dorms or in alternate on-campus student housing in order to pay for housing with their aid funds. The challenge, of course, is that often there are not enough dorms for all the attending students so students with financial aid work hard to qualify each year by applying early for their dorm rooms or becoming RAs to secure themselves a spot.

Campus Meal Plans

Campus meals are another financial aid essential and when financial aid falls short, often students short themselves on food to pay for everything else. Those who have managed to cover their tuition and on-campus housing with enough left can invest in a meal plan. On-campus meal plans are often the most efficient way for students to afford an entire semester of food because they are crafted with semester-long nutrition in mind, but bought all together at the beginning of the semester can be a serious expense. Students must be able to buy their meal plans with financial aid to afford to visit the dining halls for every meal. Unlike the food-court-like burger stops, the dining halls serve healthy buffet styles so that students on a budget can eat their fill and maintain good nutrition throughout the semester instead of living on ramen noodles.


After living expenses, textbooks are by far the most expensive cost of college, with many books costing $200 to $500 each even in digital form. Without financial aid, many students would not be able to afford the textbooks they need even after paying for tuition for the classes that require the books. Another serious challenge is that bookstores are not always prepared to help students access their financial aid when they pick up the books in the bookstore. Financial aid is easier to access with online ordering, but there are logistical problems with online-only ordering. It’s important for schools to have a flexible way for students to access financial aid for books and split their purchases between personal and financial aid funds.

Class Materials

Once the books are purchased, college students still need to get their other materials together. Many professors are very specific about the materials they expect to be used in class, whether or not students already have these materials available. Some classes require an exact size or type of notebook, pens, and even folders of specific colors. As degree programs progress, these lists get more specific when classes begin to require the type of materials that students will eventually use in their real careers. These expenses can stack up and students that rely entirely on financial aid need to be able to use these funds to either buy their class materials in the bookstore or get reimbursement after buying them in specialty stores.

Transportation and Parking Fees

Anything left is likely to be used on transportation and parking. Anyone who’s spent time on a college campus knows that transportation is no joke. Campuses are large and parking is practically non-existant nearest the buildings where students spend most of their time. There may be paid parking options for those who must park close and outlying parking lots for long-term vehicle storage. Some campuses provide free busses, but sometimes students must buy a bus pass or parking pass in addition to all other expenses. This means that schools must provide a way for students to pay for their parking passes, but passes, and day-to-day paid parking with their aid funds as well.

Study Abroad Expenses

Finally, some students save all of their financial aid to dedicate to their study abroad programs. Study abroad works very differently from school to school, both domestic schools and foreign schools abroad.

– Living Expenses

Students studying abroad often cannot work while they are out of the country meaning that they will need to rely entirely on financial aid funds and savings to pay for living expenses, along with anything else they do while out of the country.

– Other School’s Tuition

Tuition for studying abroad is sometimes covered by the original school’s tuition, but not always. Sometimes, the school abroad require additional tuition to host the American students. This means that those funds need to be available in a unique way to pay a foreign school as well as the original US school expenses.

Contact a Divorce Mediation Expert in Chicago Today

Going through Chicago divorce mediation doesn’t have to mean leaving your career dreams behind or compromising on your children’s education. With Split Simple, you can divorce strategically so that your finances are still in good shape and with smart application of financial aid, you can significantly reduce the financial impact of college for your children or yourself on the family budget. Contact Split Simple today for a more personal consultation on smart divorce and post-divorce finances.

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Chicago, IL 60601