According to a report issued by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2017, 11% of undergraduate students during the 2010-11 school year were raising children without a partner. The enrollment of single women in college increased by more than 3% over the previous 12 years, and of this group, women of color were most commonly single parents. Moreover, four out of 10 two-year degree students said they were likely to withdraw from school due to outside obligations, including parenting, working, and dealing with finances.
In 2015, 31% of single mothers age 25 and older held college degrees, whereas 54% of married women and 40% of all women held college degrees. Single mothers with college degrees have more opportunities to increase their incomes, improve their health, and benefit their communities. Children of single mothers with college degrees are also more likely to pursue postsecondary studies.
Scholarships, grants, and tax breaks are available through federal financial aid programs to assist single-parent students with their unique economic and personal pressures. State agencies and individual schools also hold programs catering to single-parent students, including those in nursing school.
More than 1,500 colleges and universities around the country offer childcare and other support services for students with children. On-campus daycare, parenting classes, support groups, lactation rooms, and counseling services are available through university childcare programs or student support services, or are offered in conjunction with local community programs. Many of these programs are free, or offered at discounted rates for students. Nursing students can often take advantage of childcare at the hospitals where they complete clinical hours or other program requirements.
These resources help create a supportive community for parents, children, and families on campus, along with providing childcare and financial assistance.
Oakland University: The Lowry Center for Early Childhood Education at Oakland University in Richmond, Michigan, offers toddler, preschool, and pre-kindergarten programs for faculty, staff, and students with children.
Fort Hays State University: The Tiger Tots program at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, is available to student parents and others who qualify for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). CACFP lowers fees and allocates meals to families in need.
Florida International University: The Children’s Creative Learning Center at Florida International University has a student food pantry, childcare for children ages two to five, and parent resources, such as grief counseling.
San Jose State University: San Jose State University in San Jose, California, offers childcare through the Associated Students Child Development Center, with half of the facility’s openings allocated to low-income student families.
Emporia State University: Located in Emporia, Kansas, Emporia State University provides financial assistance for childcare through the financial aid office, as well as sliding-scale medical services to dependents of students at local healthcare providers.
Towson University: Towson University in Towson, Maryland, has a university childcare center open to the families of current students. Programs work with children ages two to four.
Online RN-to-BSN programs provide flexible coursework to students, allowing them to work on their degree from home at their own pace. For students with children, this is particularly appealing, because it allows them to attend school without having to find and pay for childcare. By eliminating or lessening expenses for childcare, parking, commuting, and accommodations for families, single parents in nursing school can alleviate some economic pressures by pursuing an online degree.
Attending nursing school as a parent is often complicated by practicum, internship, and clinical hour requirements. To earn an RN-to-BSN degree, you may need to complete hours with patients in a healthcare setting, depending on your state requirements. Parent students who have these requirements must find childcare options. Many schools and hospitals have daycare services and financial assistance available for single-parent students in need.
Financial aid options for nursing students with children include federal agency support and private scholarship and grant options. By exploring the opportunities available, single parents in nursing school can move toward completing a degree with as little debt as possible.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available to all U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens enrolled in college, career school, or graduate school. Students who submit a FAFSA become eligible for federal financial aid, including unsubsidized and subsidized loans, grants, scholarships, and work study. Many states and colleges also use the FAFSA to assess economic need. Students may submit their FAFSA anytime from October to July for the upcoming academic year, but states and colleges may have their own specific deadlines as well.
FAFSA applicants must usually provide their Social Security and driver’s license number, or an alien registration number, if applicable. They must also include comprehensive financial information. The FAFSA requires federal or foreign tax documents, as well as details about untaxed income, bank accounts, investments, and business holdings. Dependent students must also provide their parents’ information. Single-parent students should include details about custodial status and agreements; child support payments; and aid, welfare, or agency support, if applicable.
Financial aid officers at colleges, universities, and career schools can assist students with the application process and answer any questions that may arise. When students submit a FAFSA, they send it directly to their potential or current schools. Students applying online may choose up to 10 schools, but paper submissions only include up to four schools.
Scholarships: There are several types of scholarships, based on need, performance, college, or career. Need-based scholarships consider financial and economic factors, while performance-based scholarships are awarded based on exceptional academic, athletic, or talent-specific accomplishments. Many colleges offer scholarships through funds that have been contributed by alumni or in honor of a former student. These scholarships, in addition to many community, local, and other private scholarships, are awarded to students studying a specific subject. Scholarship awards are not subject to repayment, and recipients are often eligible for renewal.
Grants: Students receive grants based exclusively on financial need. The FAFSA determines federal grant eligibility. Undergraduate students who have not completed a bachelor’s degree may qualify to receive a Pell Grant based on their expected economic contribution, enrollment status, and program. State governments, colleges, and private and nonprofit organizations also award grants to students who demonstrate financial need. Repayment of grants is not necessary unless a recipient neglects to fulfill its requirements. At that point, partial or full repayment is required.
Federal Loans: Direct federal loans are either subsidized or unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are need-based, and the government pays interest while the student is enrolled at least half time in an academic program. Unsubsidized loans are not based on financial need and begin accruing interest as soon as funds are distributed. Graduate students are not eligible for direct subsidized loans, but they can receive unsubsidized loans at a lower fixed interest rate. Students can also qualify for PLUS loans for additional educational expenses.
Private Loans: Unlike federal loans that are offered through the U.S. Department of Education, private loans come from banks and other private lenders. Private loans may require a co-signer or an established credit history, and they are not subsidized. Students who take out private loans often must repay while they are still in school, but some institutions offer loans that delay payment until after graduation. Private loans usually have higher interest rates than federal loans, and their rates are often variable. Private loans can also have additional fees, conditions, and penalties attached.
Grants for single parents in nursing programs are not subject to repayment and are awarded based on need. Nursing grants often offer nursing students financial assistance in exchange for an amount of time working with a specific agency or employer. There are numerous grants for nurses and other healthcare workers available, including those offered through the NURSE Corps program. NURSE Corps provides loan repayment or scholarships to nurses and nursing students in exchange for at least a two-year work commitment in a health professional shortage area (HPSA). HPSAs are geographic areas, population groups, or specific facilities that need medical health professionals, and they include many tribal health centers, prisons, and mental health facilities. NURSE Corps participants can pay off up to 60% of their nursing debt with a two-year commitment, and if they sign on for an additional year, they become eligible to reduce another 25% of their debt. NURSE Corps participants also receive competitive pay and benefits.
Nursing students can also qualify for state grants that aim to close similar gaps in the healthcare field. Nurses and nursing students can check with state nursing associations, like the Washington State Nurses Association, for grant and scholarship opportunities.
Single parents may qualify for education expense assistance through their employer. Employer-sponsored tuition assistance programs provide employees incentive to pursue a degree or take coursework related to their position. Employers benefit from tuition assistance programs as much as employees do, since their employees become more qualified and better trained with additional education. Employees can apply employer contributions to tuition, fees, textbooks, supplies, and educational equipment expenses. Costs related to commuting, travel, and accommodation are not covered. Employers may make their contributions contingent upon grades, or a commitment from the employee to stay with the company for a certain amount of time. Employers can contribute up to $5,250 tax-free per year to a single employee. Employees with more than one employer are only eligible for $5,250 total tuition assistance each year.
Employer tuition assistance does not apply to employees’ spouses, dependents, or other family members, but some employers offer scholarship programs for these individuals. Scholarships do not require services or obligations from the recipient and are applicable to tuition and fees. Any scholarship funds applied to housing or living expenses are considered income.
Universities and colleges often offer tuition-waiver or tuition-reduction programs to employees. Employees are often eligible for partial or full-tuition assistance, and their dependents could also take advantage of some tuition reduction opportunities.
According to a 2017 study, the cost of childcare in some states exceeds that of college tuition. Across the country, an average of 27% of a single parent’s income goes toward childcare. In the least affordable state for childcare, Massachusetts, almost 71% of a single parent’s median income goes toward childcare. The pressures of providing and paying for childcare may impact a students’ academic performance and ability to complete a course or degree.
Grants for single-parent students help ease some of the pressures. Federal grants, like the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), assist students who demonstrate financial hardship. Additional grant opportunities from the Health Resources and Services Administration are available to students enrolled in specific degrees or studying certain topics. Nursing students have several grant options that seek to support and strengthen nursing education in the United States. Students may also receive support from the Child Care Access Means Parents In School (CCAMPIS) program through the U.S. Department of Education. CCAMPS is designed to assist low-income parents with childcare and before- or after-school programs.
In addition to federal programs, state and local organizations offer grants to single-parent students. Temporary or sustained support for living assistance can significantly help students with children as they pursue a nursing degree.
Single parents and students with children are eligible for tax credits that can ease the financial strain of paying for an education. All parents whose children are under 17 are eligible for the Child Tax Credit as long as their children are declared dependents and meet citizenship requirements as defined by the Internal Revenue Service. Parents may use the Child and Dependent Care Credit for childcare if their children are under the age of 13. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is another option that is intended to boost worker incomes by allowing taxpayers with children to claim additional credits.
All students, including single-parent students, can apply for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The AOTC allows for up to $2,500 in credits for tuition and educational expenses during each year of a student’s undergraduate career. The AOTC is applicable for up to four years by students who are enrolled at least half time at eligible institutions. To qualify for the AOTC, taxpayers must pursue a degree. Single-parent students can also qualify for the Lifelong Learning Credit (LLC), which applies up to $2,000 in tuition and related expenses each year. There is no limit to the number of years a student can use the LLC, and recipients do not need to be pursuing a degree.
Students should assess rules and regulations about which tax credits apply in conjunction with others. Check IRS regulations or find a tax professional to make sure you apply credits properly.
NURSE Corps Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: The NURSE Corps Scholarship Program provides financial assistance to nursing students at all levels of study in exchange for working in an eligible critical shortage facility after degree completion. Students receive relief from tuitions, fees, and other educational expenses, plus a monthly stipend.
Washington State Nurses Foundation Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Undergraduate and graduate nursing students in the state of Washington can apply for the Washington State Nurses Foundation Scholarship. Washington residents or students enrolled in a Washington nursing program may apply.
Amount: minimum $1,000
Mary Blake Single Parent Nursing Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Open to individuals accepted or enrolled in an online or an on-campus nursing program, the Mary Blake Single Parent Nursing Scholarship provides support to single-parent nursing students with a 2.7 GPA or higher, an ACT score of 28 or above, or an SAT score of at least 1250. Students must submit an essay and online application.
Ford Opportunity Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Offered by the Ford Foundation, the Ford Opportunity Scholarship provides up to 90% of education expense support to single parents. Applicants must have custody of their children and reside in Oregon or Siskiyou County, California. They must plan to enroll in a program in Oregon or California. Up to 50 students receive the award each year, and it is renewable for up to four years.
Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: Open to residents of Arkansas and Bowie County, Texas, the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund offers support to single-parent students who do not already hold a bachelor’s degree. Recipients must have a high school diploma or GED, be attending an approved institution, and be working toward a degree that will help them earn a living wage.
Dr. Dean K. and Helen S. Christensen Endowed Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Single-parent nursing students enrolled at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, may apply for the Dr. Dean K. and Helen S. Christensen scholarship if they are enrolled full-time and maintain a GPA of 2.5 or above.
Capture The Dream Single Parent Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Capture The Dream Foundation offers scholarships for low-income, single-parent students enrolled in two- or four-year programs. Scholarship funds are applied to undergraduate education.
The ANSWER Scholarship Endowment Program
Who Can Apply: Offered through the Foundation for the Carolinas, the ANSWER Scholarship is available to nontraditional female students age 25 or older who are enrolled in four-year undergraduate degrees of their choice, or two-year programs in nursing and health-related fields. Applicants must prove that they are primary caregivers to at least one school-age child, reside in one of the participating counties in the Carolinas, and attend a public institution.
The Michael S. and Jeffrey C. Hagler Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Open to single mothers residing in the state of Idaho, the Michael S. and Jeffrey C. Hagler Scholarship provides financial support to nontraditional students enrolled in a degree or certificate program at Boise State University or the College of Western Idaho. Students must be enrolled in at least nine undergraduate and six graduate credit hours.
The Kentucky Colonels Better Life Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Kentucky Colonels Better Life Scholarship offers financial support to single-parent students with children under the age of 12. Applicants must enroll in a Kentucky Community and Technical College System school. The scholarship is renewable for one additional year if the student maintains full-time status and demonstrates academic success.
The Downer-Bennett Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Nontraditional, single-parent students attending the University of New Mexico are eligible for the Downer Bennett Scholarship. Students with competitive GPAs and at least 12 hours of academic credit are automatically considered based on their FAFSA.
Woman’s Independence Scholarship Program (WISP)
Who Can Apply: Female survivors of domestic abuse can apply for aid through WISP if they have been separated from their abuser for more than one year, but not more than seven. Recipients can attend any accredited institution.
Coplan Donohue Single-Parent Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The University of Minnesota-Mankato’s Coplan Donohue Single Parent Scholarship is available to nontraditional, single-parent students who hold primary custody of their children. Applicants must enroll in an undergraduate or graduate program full time, and hold good academic standing.
Association for NonTraditional Students In Higher Education (ANTSHE) Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Nontraditional students enrolled in a four-year undergraduate program at an accredited institution can apply for the ANTSHE scholarship if they are parents, single parents, veterans, minorities, or low income, or if they meet other program criteria.