The number of student parents who have enrolled in college has doubled over the past decade. And of those 4.3 million students with children, over 3.5 million of them are single parents. Single parents, more than any other group of college students, face some of the toughest hurdles to earning their degree.
Over 88 percent of student parents work full-time, yet their incomes are at or below the poverty level.
From the high cost of child care to lack of time to devote to their studies while juggling a full-time job, many of these factors contribute to the high dropout rate among single parents attending college.
While these individuals are often more motivated to earn their degree and get better grades than some of their peers, it’s the lack of time and resources that cause many student parents to drop out.
Single parents deserve to have an equal footing in their pursuit of the degree. However, many of these students are unaware of some of the programs that are available to help them stay in school and graduate college with a degree that helps them achieve their goals.
To help level the playing field, here are several tips and resources for single parents who need help to stay in college and earn their degree.
Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) Program
A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that of the 4.3 million parents attending college, 52 percent dropout of college before they can earn their degree. One of the chief contributing factors to these high dropout rates is the lack of affordable child care available to single parents in college.
To combat this problem, the U.S. Department of Education created the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program. The program is designed to provide colleges with funding for on-campus child care services to help low-income students.
This grant is available to colleges and universities with $350,000 or more in Federal Pell Grants awarded to students who are enrolled in their institution. Students who receive financial aid in the form of a Pell Grant are eligible to participate in this program. Their federal student aid can also be used to help them pay for child care.
If you’re a parent considering enrolling in a college or university, check with your school’s admissions department to see if they offer a CCAMPIS program and if you may be eligible to participate.
State and Federal Financial Aid
Financial aid is available to students enrolled in either a traditional or online degree program. To find out how much aid you qualify for, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA must be completed each fiscal year that you request financial aid from your institution of higher learning.
Your FAFSA will help you discover your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the amount you anticipate you’ll be able to contribute to your college education. The less you are able to contribute, the more federal aid you’ll be eligible to receive.
One form of federal student aid that is available to single parents and low-income students is the Federal Pell Grant. Grants, unlike student loans, do not have to be repaid. The Pell Grant is typically awarded to students pursuing a bachelor’s degree who have a high degree of financial need.
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is another type of grant awarded to students who have extreme financial need. Unlike the Federal Pell Grant, the FSEOG is awarded directly to students by their academic institution. Depending on your need, you can receive between $100 and $4,000 per school year if your school participates in this grant program.
Additional Grants and Scholarships for Single Parents Attending College
In addition to state and federal financial aid, single parents may be eligible for a number of scholarships and grants. Below are some of the scholarships and grants available to single mothers and/or single fathers attending college. Please visit each of these sites for more detailed information on eligibility requirements and scholarship deadlines.
- Helping Hands for Single Moms – Helping Hands for Single Moms works to help single mothers in college by offering them financial assistance and scholarships, as well as auto repair, dental care, tax preparation, and more. The organization enlists the aid of the community to help craft a “Scholarship Plus” package that works with the unique needs of each single mother pursuing her degree. Eligibility requirements include a 3.0 GPA, employment history, and an interview.
- The Patsy Mink Foundation – Named for Patsy Takemoto Mink, an American civil liberties attorney and the first woman of color elected to Congress, the Foundation offers five $5,000 education support awards to help low-income women continue their education.
- Live Your Dream Award – Sponsored by Soroptimist, this scholarship program offers three levels of cash awards up to $16,000 to single mothers with minor children. Recipients can apply these funds toward the cost of tuition, supplies, and child care.
- Custody X Change Giving Fund Single Parent Scholarships – An essay-based scholarship, Custody X Change offers one financial award per semester to a single parent who has primary custody of a minor child. There are three entry periods, and essay topics change with every new entry period.
Organizations That Provide Resources for Single Parents in College
Apart from scholarships, grants, and financial aid available to single parents attending college, there are a variety of organizations that provide support to single parents, helping them stay focused and earn a degree:
- The National Center for Student Parent Programs – Devoted to advocating for single parents in college, this organization runs several programs that provide assistance. One of these programs, Keys to Degrees, offers support and services, including affordable housing near campus or on-campus (wraparound support program), food security provisions, case management, and mentoring programs.
- Single Mom Grocery Program – Sponsored by Single Moms Planet, this program helps single mothers provide food for their families. Additionally, the Single Moms Planet organization offers support to under-resourced families with children throughout the U.S. In addition to their grocery program, Single Moms Planet also offers financial literacy and entrepreneurship training, mentorship, and family counseling.
Balancing a full-time job, caring for a child as a single parent, and working on a degree is no easy task. In the past decade, online degree programs have made remote learning a more convenient option for students, particularly those with children. Online learning programs lessen the need for parent students to have to be away from home or arrange for child care. While it’s always helpful to have a spouse, friend, or loved one keep your child occupied while you’re attending class online or doing schoolwork, it reduces the commute and time physically away from your child.
Choosing a reputable online degree program can help you carve out a new and more rewarding career path without sacrificing the quality of education. Although National University has a traditional campus located in San Diego, we also have an established online program that allows students to earn their degree in a remote learning environment.
Download our Financial Aid Guide to learn more about your options. If you’re considering enrolling, speak with one of our expert advisors. They can help you discover what state and federal financial aid packages may be available to you and help make enrolling as easy as possible.