During the 2019-2020 academic year, there were 4.3 million college students raising children, and the majority of them were single mothers. Nearly half of them also work full-time jobs to support their families and studies and pursue a college degree to open the doors toward better-paying jobs.
But maintaining a full-time job while paying the bills, taking care of the kids and earning good grades in college is a real struggle! The physical and mental toll of juggling personal and professional responsibilities can become the catalyst for dropping out of college.
Fortunately, several colleges offer government assistance, primarily through FAFSA, designed to ease the burden of single parents in college.
Being a single parent while pursuing a college degree doesn’t have to be a lonely struggle! You will find plenty of colleges with the appropriate resources specifically designed for single parents to succeed in college. These resources include government assistance and institutional programs that provide housing, child care and other forms of assistance for single parents.
Why are these resources important for single parents?
Unfortunately, more than half of student parents drop out of college before earning their degree! Even with their better grades and stronger motivation, there are barriers to education that many student parents find too difficult to overcome.
But with timely access to the appropriate resources, these barriers can be overcome and earning a college degree becomes a reality.
The 10 Best Colleges With Single Parent Programs Including Government Assistance
University of Nebraska Omaha
UNO’s collaborative approach to providing student parents with appropriate assistance makes it among the best universities! Student parents are encouraged to file their FAFSA to avail of federal aid, resulting in significant tuition reductions. UNO also has several institutional programs, including:
- Summer camps for children of student parents
- MavCARD program that allows students to save money on transportation, meals and other services
- Hardship Funds for emergencies and other purposes
- A maverick food pantry that provides students in need
- Accommodations, lactation spaces, and depression support
UNO also has its federally-funded Child Care Center Scholarship program for low-income families struggling with the costs of child care.
FAFSA is also the primary form of government assistance offered to student parents at Endicott College. Student parents can also rely on its Single Parent Program that provides resources for their success, including:
- The Parent Scholarship program is open for single parents with children 13 years or below, with the scholarships being awarded for two consecutive semesters.
- The college makes it easy for student parents to access free or affordable child care services offered by Boston-area organizations, such as The Dimock Center, ABCD HeadStart, and Sitters Without Borders. Its partnership with the Jeremiah Project is notable since it goes beyond child care services and into early childhood education, safe and affordable housing, and life skills training.
Student parents can also avail discounted prices on gadgets, participate in single-parent on-campus community events, and participate in a college preparation course.
For single parents, federal aid, such as Pell grants, complement the Single Parent Program administered by Casper College, designed to provide student parents with the tools to succeed in college. Eligible students are provided with financial assistance, emergency assistance, and referrals for campus, community and health needs.
Casper College also provides eligible students with educational and professional guidance and access to its textbook loan program. When combined, these services allow student parents to become more independent, enjoy a better quality of life for their families, and improve their chances at earning their degree.
Casper College also has the Neil and Doris McMurry Single Parents Program that provides financial assistance and academic support for in-need student parents.
Front Range Community College
FRCC’s FAFSA application and approval process follows the standards set by the federal government and offers state financial aid, including the Colorado Merit Aid and the Colorado Work-Study Program.
These are available to student parents in addition to FRCC’s Single Parent Program, a free program for students who are juggling their single-parent responsibilities and studies. The program is available to eligible student parents at the Larimer Campus.
Every student parent is provided with individualized attention to ensure that the support, resources and tools given will have the best impact on their lives. FRCC staff provides useful information about the financial aid options that single parents should take advantage of, including the forms and processes associated with these options.
Students are also provided with personalized academic advising, career counseling and planning, and referrals to support services like housing, child care, and tutoring.
Student parents at Wilson College are encouraged to apply for federal aid, such as the Pell Grant and FSEOG, and the Presbyterian scholarships, state grants and scholarships, and campus employment. Veterans benefits and Troops to Teachers benefits are also offered to eligible students.
Along with the Single Parent Scholar Program, these government assistance programs will result in significant tuition reductions and vital support services for struggling students.
Under the program, single parents and their eligible children can avail themselves of year-round on-campus housing and, thus, allow the former to pursue a bachelor’s degree on a full-time basis without worrying about becoming homeless.
Student parents also benefit from the easy accessibility of on-campus services, resources and events. The benefits also include subsidized child care costs, free meals for children in the on-campus dining hall, and subsidized housing costs.
Eligible single parents don’t have to pay for tuition at MacCormac College! The scholarship program is a need-based program available for Pell-eligible students, meaning student parents must file their FAFSA and cover up to $3,500 per semester. Eligible students must provide proof of their single-parent status and be enrolled full-time.
Applicants must also provide a single-page essay regarding their needs and career plans, and scholars must maintain a 2.5 GPA and earn their degree at the college.
MacCormac College also makes it easier for student parents to earn their degree through online programs, while its convenient location in Chicago makes it easier for on-campus students to come to their classes.
Santa Barbara City College
Student parents will find several financial aid programs that they are qualified for, such as SBCC’s scholarships, the California College Promise Grant, federal aid, including Pell Grants and Cal Grants.
SBCC also has its Single Parents Arriving Ready for College (SPARC) program specifically designed for single parents, a six-week summer bridge program designed for a smooth transition into college life.
Eligible student parents are provided with practical support services, including academic tutoring and child care support, food vouchers for a single meal from Monday to Thursday in on-campus dining facilities, and a weekly activity every Friday.
Student parents also receive a $100 weekly allowance during the six-week program and a supplies-filled backpack. Successful program completion also comes with a $300 book grant for the fall term.
College of Saint Mary
Student parents are provided with practical assistance in navigating the wide range of federal and state aid programs available for all students at the College of Saint Mary. These include the Nebraska Opportunity Grant (NOG), federal grants including Pell grants, loans and work-study schemes, and alternative loans.
The college also makes it easier for single mothers with children between six weeks and ten years to earn their degrees while in on-campus housing.
The Mothers Living & Learning Program provides eligible single mothers with suite-style living accommodations, including free laundry services, child care and development services through the on-campus Spellman Child Development Center, and academic support. Student parents also receive leadership opportunities and living and learning workshops designed to enhance their life skills.
Merit-based and partnership scholarships are offered to eligible students at Marian University, and these can be as high as $15,000 a year and offered to freshman, current and transfer students.
Examples include the Academic Achievement Award, Trustee Scholarship, and Back to School Scholarship, aside from the federal and state aid offered to students in private schools.
Marian University also has its single parent-specific Working Families Grant Program that accepts applications from students with the primary custody of their children and is enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program. Eligible student parents receive financial assistance with tuition, child care, rent and food, emergency assistance, stipend grants, and support services.
Nearly 97% of students at Champlain College receive financial aid from the federal and state government and the institution itself. The Single Parents Scholarship is notable since it’s specifically intended for Pell-eligible single parents in the Single Parents Program, which provides access to resources and support services for academic and life success.
Student parents undergo a focused orientation program, enjoy one-on-one counseling with the Student Resources Director, and get access to emergency funds, too.
The Vermont First Scholarship is also a source of financial assistance for Pell-eligible students. When blended with other forms of financial aid, it can result in a free college education!
The Importance of Returning to School for Single Parents
Single parents cite the opportunities for career advancement, including the increase in earning potential, as the primary reason for pursuing a bachelor’s degree despite the challenges.
This is understandable considering that there are entry-level, high-paying jobs that require a bachelor’s degree, and the difference in weekly wages between an associate and a bachelor’s degree holder can be as high as $367! The Georgetown University Center on Education & the Workforce study revealed that an average worker with a bachelor’s degree could earn $2.8 million throughout a working career.
Individuals with a bachelor’s degree also enjoy a more advantageous position during negotiations for compensation packages and working hours.
There’s also the transferable knowledge and skills obtained only with a college degree. These soft skills include effective communication, critical thinking and analytical skills, and the ability to take constructive criticism, adopt a growth mindset, and solve problems. These skills have high value in the workplace, meaning employers look for them in their applicants and provide a competitive edge in career advancement.
Earning a college degree can also result in dramatic cuts in poverty experiences among single-parent families, thanks partly to the increased earnings. But it goes beyond the monetary benefits of a college degree!
Individuals with college degrees and their families are also more likely to contribute more taxes, engage in more community activities, and be healthier and happier overall. Their college education paved the way for more job opportunities and opened their eyes to the wide range of enrichment programs offered by the public and private sectors.
On the flip side, single parents with college degrees also need fewer public benefits programs and, thus, provide society with substantial savings in public benefits spending. This means even more contributions from single parents who persevered in college despite the odds stacked against them.
Available Assistance Programs for Student Parents from the Government
The government has several programs that offer financial assistance and other support for low-income single parents for their basic needs. These include financial aid for food, child care and housing, and education and healthcare.
Single parents must connect with their university’s financial aid office, local government agencies and nonprofit organizations to get reliable information about these programs.
Check about your eligibility, too, since many programs are geared specifically towards low-income single moms while others are open for single fathers, too.
Educational Grants and Scholarships
While New Mexico’s Opportunity Scholarship Act ensures college-free tuition in its in-state public, community and tribal post-secondary institutions, this isn’t the case in the rest of the country. Single parents struggling with tuition costs and living expenses must find ways to finance their education.
This is where grant and scholarship programs offered by the federal and state government and private organizations prove useful toward tuition reduction!
The US Department of Education doesn’t have federal grants for single parents, but state-sponsored grants and scholarships are directly funneled to post-secondary institutions. You have to contact the financial aid office of your home state to get more information about these programs.
A few examples of government-sponsored grants and scholarships that single parents should look into include:
- California residents attending qualifying schools, including the California State University, University of California, and the California Community Colleges, can apply for the Cal Grant. Fill out the FAFSA form, and your eligibility for one of the three types of Cal Grants – A, B and C – is determined by your answers.
- New York State residents pursuing a bachelor’s degree can look into the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) that provides grants and scholars to eligible individuals. Families with $80,000 or less New York State Net Taxable Income are eligible and awarded between $500 and $5,165 per year in tuition assistance.
- The federal government awards Pell Grants to individuals pursuing undergraduate degrees depending on enrollment (part-time or full-time) and financial need. The amounts usually change annually, with the 2022-2023 award being $6,495 (maximum).
- The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant is directly administered by the participating school’s financial aid office; not all schools, however, participate in the program. The FSEOG award amount varies from $100 to $4,000 per year, with your financial need and fund availability influencing the actual amount awarded.
- TEACH, or the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education is a Grant open to individuals willing to complete a four-year teaching service obligation in exchange for financial assistance. Up to $4,000 per year can be provided for aspiring teachers, but failure to meet the teaching service obligation means converting the grant into a TEACH loan.
- The National SMART Grant is a merit-based grant that can be combined with a Pell Grant, thus, resulting in further tuition reduction. High-achieving third- and fourth-year, and fifth-year students in five-year degree programs in STEM programs are eligible to apply. Students in some non-major liberal arts and foreign language programs may also apply. Up to $4,000 in grants is awarded to eligible students.
Single parents struggling to put a safe and secure roof over their children’s heads will find these government-sponsored programs useful:
- The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program is administered by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Single, low-income mothers enjoy temporary cash and food assistance from the federal government. Since the states determine the overall design of their specific TANF programs, the eligibility requirements and type and amount of assistance vary.
- The Housing Choice Vouchers, a program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), offers low-income families rental housing assistance. The vouchers are applied in privately-owned buildings, while recipients in public housing programs can convert the vouchers into mortgage payments.
- The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is an HHS-administered program that assists low-income families with reducing their energy costs. The Department of Energy has a similar Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) that enables low-income families to improve their homes’ energy performance.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, single parents struggled with food insecurity. When college costs are factored in, it becomes an even bigger issue. When you know where to look, fortunately, you will find several government-sponsored food assistance programs, including:
- The Women, Infants and Children Program is for low-income women with children below five years old or pregnant. The US Department of Agriculture provides supplemental foods, nutrition education, and healthcare referrals.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also a USDA-sponsored program, uses electronic cards that can be used by qualifying low-income to no-income families to purchase food and other essentials from supermarkets and groceries. (This was known as the Food Stamp Program as it used paper stamps instead of electronic cards)
- The National School Lunch Program offers school-aged children either low-cost or free lunch during school days, even during the summer break. (and often breakfast too) for some school-aged kids, even during the summer. Single parents benefit from the program since it’s one less meal to worry about for their children.
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program erects public food pantries and soup kitchens with emergency food supplies. In turn, these organizations distribute the food to eligible low-income people.
Uncovered medical expenses can threaten a family’s financial well-being, more so for single mothers who spend more on their kids’ healthcare than on themselves. Single parents must then get health insurance through the following means:
- Check out Medicaid since many single mothers qualify for it. The state-sponsored low-cost to free health insurance program will cover many injuries and illnesses among the family and, thus, lessen the anxiety over unforeseen medical emergencies. But if you’re not qualified for Medicaid due to income reasons, you may want to consider the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- Ask your current employer about health insurance.
- Look into the online Affordable Care Act Marketplace of your state.
- Seek information from the National Association of Health Underwriters about affordable healthcare insurance. The brokers will do the legwork for you.
Ask the local authorities about the state-based and community-sponsored programs that offer healthcare services to low-income families and single-parent households, too. Check out private organizations that offer low-cost or free healthcare services, too, such as Walgreens Healthcare.
Child Care Assistance
Single parents face the added burden of paying for child care services, whether for a babysitter or a daycare center. Such is the high cost of child care services that it’s among the oft-cited reasons for dropping out! But all hope isn’t lost as the government has several child care-related programs that ease the burden!
- The Child Care Assistance Programs (CCAP) are designed for low-income families with childcare services subsidies. Each state has its eligibility requirements and subsidy amount, so be sure to check with your home state.
- The Head Start program is a federally-sponsored program run by each state. These are free child care programs for children zero to five years old that provide comprehensive health, nutrition and early childhood education services for low-income families.
Single parents should also look into state-funded prekindergarten programs that teach children their ABCs and provide child care services. Look into military child care services programs, too, if you’re active military personnel.
While tax benefits won’t directly result in tuition reduction, these will add to your inflow of cash and decrease your cash outflow! Check out the following tax benefits:
- Dependent exemption
- Child tax credit
- Additional child tax credit
- Earned income tax credit
- Adoption credit
And file as a “head of the household” on your IRS forms, not as a “single” individual. Doing so may mean higher standard deductions.
Effective Tips for Thriving as a College Student/Single Parent
With the abovementioned government-sponsored assistance programs for low-income single parents combined with institutional scholarships and grants, student parents have increased chances of earning their degrees! These effective tips will further boost their chances since they are relevant to their physical and mental health.
- Be on top of your physical and mental health! Your priority is your mind and body because these are your best tools in achieving your goals, not to mention that your children depend on your ability to care for them. Eat healthy foods, sleep at least six hours a night, and exercise moderately. Take break times, even if it’s a 15-minute nap in the middle of the afternoon or a short but brisk walk in the park. Make a conscious effort to set aside “me time,” too.
- Write down your motivation, inspiration and goals. Perhaps write them on paper and put them up on a wall. You can then look at it and be recharged with enthusiasm when you feel like quitting school. Break down your goals, too, such as on a per-semester basis, so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
- Set up a support system. Your trusted family and friends may be willing to help with babysitting, for example, while your professors may understand your situation and provide reasonable accommodations.
- Be more organized, starting with a specific place in your home where you can attend online classes, if any, and focus on your studies. Identify a place where you can store your school supplies and keep them away from your children, if necessary.
- Set a daily schedule based on the schedules of your classes, work shifts and home responsibilities. While unexpected things will happen, you have a daily schedule that will keep you grounded and focused. Plus, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment when you’ve been productive and, thus, you will be more motivated.
- Delegate household tasks to your children based on their age, preference and abilities. You will find that not only will it lighten your load, but it will also teach them about responsibility and teamwork. Learn to say “no” as well when your children ask for your help in tasks that they can do – and it applies to your peers, supervisors and family members, too!
- Use productivity tools in your school, work and home activities. Chore charts are just as useful as class and shift schedules.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do student parents experience lower or higher grades than traditional students?
Many student parents have higher motivation and, thus, strive harder to maintain their grades. In a study, about 33% of student parents earn a 3.5 GPA or higher! In contrast, only 31% of students without children earn a comparable GPA.
Are there advantages to being a student parent?
Yes, of course, there are advantages that student parents report about their current situation! For one thing, many single parents have specific purposes and clear goals when attending college. The most common are becoming more competitive in the job marketplace, earning higher income, and self-fulfillment.
Their greater drive and determination enable them to overcome challenges that the traditional college student without dependents may be unable to.
Many student parents also state that they wanted their children to enjoy opportunities that they didn’t have due to their own parents’ lack of higher education. Being role models that their children can emulate as they forge their way toward a better quality of life through a college education is also part of their motivation.
For another thing, student parents are more likely to have work and life experiences that add greater context to their educational experiences. Their perspectives about life in general and the courses in particular also add a deeper meaning to the educational experiences of their peers.
Are there special scholarships, grants and resources for single parents in college?
Yes, the ten colleges mentioned above are only a few examples. At Mount Holyoke College, the Frances Perkins Program provides 25 single mothers under 25 years old with full-tuition scholarships. The University of California–Berkeley has a Bear Pantry where student parents receive a $30 gift card for food and a two-week food supply.
The Marriott School of Business of Brigham Young University offers scholarships to single parents in undergraduate and graduate programs.
What should you do before choosing a college as a student parent?
- Ask about the financial aid options available, including federal and state aid and institutional and external aid.
- If any, check the resources and support offered for single parents and determine if these services are suitable in your unique circumstances.
- Disclose your status as a single parent to advisors and faculty members. You may be referred to more resources, not to mention that it’s a great way to establish a support system early on.
Can student parents avail themselves of employer tuition assistance programs?
Of course, they can! Many companies offer tuition assistance since it also benefits their profits and progress as an organization. A common option is employers providing eligible employees, including single-parents, with up to %$5,250 in tax-free money every year.
The funds go to tuition and other expenses, but they usually cannot be used for child care services, room and board, and transportation costs.
Ask about possible scholarships provided for single parents and their dependent children, too, from your employer. Just check the terms and conditions before signing on for any tuition assistance program.
- Single parents have numerous challenges that may prevent them from earning their college degrees. These challenges range from financial difficulties to physical burnout and mental breakdowns caused by juggling their work, studies and life responsibilities.
- Fortunately, the government and colleges and universities offer a wide range of student support services and financial aid options for single parents to attain academic success. These include scholarships, grants and work-study schemes, food, housing and child care assistance.
- Take advantage of these student support services and financial aid options because most of these are provided for free!