Hi Blondee. Most of us find a balance between working part-time for income while in school and taking out student loans. You might be able to find a hospital to employ you during school that has tuition reimbursement. Many hospitals will pay your tuition in exchange for a time commitment after graduation.
Because you are a single mother - there may be programs in your area targeted at helping single parents in school. I'd meet with an advisor at your college and find out about that. For example, at one university I am applying to - an endowment was just established that will provide $100,000 in scholarships
annually to nursing students who are single parents. This is huge! See if you can qualify for Perkin's student loans too - in many instances these loans can be forgiven if you work as a nurse after graduation.
It might be worth it to explore the idea of going for RN initially. Your financial aid will be calculated based upon your income. This would mean that if you work as an LPN while continuing for your RN education, you will have less financial aid due to the LPN income. I switched my plans from pursuing ADN-RN to BSN. I was sure there was no way
I could be in school for the longer time period - but it worked out!!! I changed because of the 3 year waitlist for ADN-RN at my community college.
A comment about what you said about pursuing RN online afterwards. Online LPN-RN programs are few and far between. If you can find one, it's important to remember that just the lecture courses are online. You will still have clinicals in person at hospitals.
Good luck! There are many programs out there. It can be hard to find them, though.