A report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research revealed that during the 2011-2012 academic year, 11% of undergraduate students in the U.S. identified as single parents, with women of color making up a large portion of this population. This figure equates to 2.1 million students, which is more than twice the number of single parents in college now than in 1999.
31% of single mothers over 25 held a college degree in 2015, compared to 54% of married women and 40% of women as a whole
Earning a degree presents enough difficulties on its own; raising a child only compounds the stress and financial strain of school. Due to these difficulties, only 31% of single mothers over 25 held a college degree in 2015, compared to 54% of married women and 40% of women as a whole. When surveyed, 40% of single parents enrolled in two-year programs admitted they may drop out because of childcare obligations. These same obligations leave single mothers burdened with greater debt than both married women and women without children. The single parents who drop out of school before earning their degree go on to earn less money over the course of their careers.
In order to alleviate some of the financial burden of going to school while raising children, the federal government, state government, schools, and private organizations offer financial aid opportunities and resources for single parents. This scholarship guide illustrates the diverse options available to single parents going to nursing school.
Finding a Nursing School as a Single Parent
Nursing Schools With Daycare Services
Across the country, more than 1,500 postsecondary schools offer some form of childcare for students with children. Parents in nursing school should check what resources their school offers for single parents. Parents researching schools can consult this list of on-campus daycare services. In addition to daycare, many schools also offer family services such as lactation rooms, breast pumps, family counseling, summer camps for kids, and free on-campus meals for children of students. Some schools even boast on-campus family housing that includes an on-site daycare facility, so that students can drop their kids off before heading to class. Below, prospective nursing students can find a list of six schools with nursing programs that offer some form of support for students with children.
University of Michigan: Parents at the University of Michigan can choose from three different childcare centers on the school's Ann Arbor campus. The school's Flint and Dearborn campuses also offer daycare centers.
University of Florida: The University of Florida boasts three on-campus Baby Gator Child Development Centers that serve children six weeks to five years old.
University of Washington: UW offers four on-campus daycare centers and a subsidized service that provides last-minute care for sick children or emergency situations.
Iowa State University: ISU hosts multiple high-quality, on-campus daycare centers for preschool to school-aged children.
Purdue University Northwest: The school's Lion Cubs Child Care charges students $2.25/hour for their first child and only $1.50 for each additional child.
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities: UM -Twin Cities maintains four on-campus daycare centers. Some offer sliding fee scales or subsidies for low-income parents.
Attending Nursing School Online
Single parents should also consider the advantages of earning their nursing degree online. Earning a degree online costs substantially less money than earning a degree in-person. In addition to more affordable tuition rates, online learners save money on peripheral costs like transportation, campus fees, on-campus accommodations, meals, and parking. Parents who can study from home may also save a significant amount of money on babysitters or daycare services.
Students in online nursing programs also enjoy more flexibility than their on-campus peers. Online learners can complete their coursework at their own convenience; parents can study late at night, early in the morning, or whenever their parenting schedule allows. Some asynchronous courses even allow students to watch lectures and advance through the course at their own pace. Most online nursing programs allow students to complete their practicum and internship components at a nearby clinic or hospital. From start to finish, parents in an online nursing school can remain in their own home or community while still receiving a high-quality education.
Other Tips for Single Parents Going to Nursing School
Whenever Possible, Take Distance Courses
Online or hybrid courses allow parents to spend more time at home, saving money on daycare, transportation, parking, and on-campus meals.
Connect with Other Parents in Your Program
Students should seek out other parents in their cohort, not only for moral support, but also for practical matters like splitting the cost of a babysitter or scheduling group-study sessions.
Explain Your Goals to Your Children
Students should explain to their kids that, while they pursue their degree, life may feel busier than before. Students should describe why they want to work as a nurse and what it means to earn a degree.
How to Pay for Nursing School as a Single Parent
In this section, single parents can learn how to finance nursing school. For more information, students can visit the financial aid page at Nursing.org.
Students exploring sources of financial aid should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), an easy, free application that connects students to federal grants, scholarships, and work-study programs. The FAFSA provides aid for most U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens who demonstrate financial need. Students of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, and financial circumstances should fill out a FAFSA. Even if students fail to qualify for federal aid, other scholarships, such as those conferred through states governments and schools, may require information from FAFSA.
Before filling out their FAFSA, students should collect a few necessary documents, including their Social Security number, driver's license number, Alien Registration number, tax information, and information about other income and cash holdings. To receive the maximum amount of aid, single parents should make sure to report the number of dependents living in their household. If applying as a dependent, students need to provide their parent or guardian's Social Security number and tax information.
The application window for any given year opens on October 1st and closes in late June two years later. Students applying to receive aid for the 2019-2020 academic year may apply between October 1, 2018 and June 30, 2020. However, applying this late disqualifies students from many state awards and grants. To receive the most aid, students should complete their FAFSA as early as possible in the application window. Some scholarships and grants administer limited funds and award money on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Types of Financial Aid Available to Single Parents
Scholarships fall under the category of gift aid, meaning students who receive scholarship money do not need to pay it back. Although many scholarships assist students based on academic merit, many also recognize recipients based on non-academic characteristics, such as ethnicity, religious affiliation, personal circumstances, marital status, and veteran status. Some reward students based on a written essay, an art project, or community service history. Scholarships can come from a variety of sources, including academic departments, corporations, individuals, and local organizations like churches and community centers. Students may receive scholarship money as a one-time award, in annual or quarterly installments, or on a renewable basis.
Like scholarships, grants provide free money for students to put toward their education. Unlike scholarships, grants typically come from the government and focus on students who demonstrate financial need rather than academic merit. The federal government oversees several educational grants, including the Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. State governments and private organizations may also award grants to students with financial need.
Unlike grants and scholarships, students must pay back student loans with interest. Federal loans come from the federal government and offer a few advantages over private loans. Most significantly, federal loans boast lower interest rates than private loans, reducing the overall amount of money students pay back over time. Federal loans may also feature forgiving repayment plans that allow students to delay paying anything until after they graduate. Some students, such as those pursuing careers in teaching, may also qualify for loan forgiveness programs.
Private loans come from banks, credit unions, or other financial lending institutions. Students should only take out private loans as a last resort after pursuing scholarships, grants, and federal loans. Students who take out private loans typically pay higher interest rates than those who take out federal loans, costing them significantly more over time. Private loans also typically feature more stringent repayment plans than federal loans. Some require students to start making payments before they graduate.
Single parents pursuing their nursing degree should look into nursing grants. Nursing grants typically require students to work in a certain field or for a certain employer for a specific period of time after graduation. In exchange, they help pay for a students' education. NURSE Corps, a program offered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), pays for all of a student's nursing school tuition and provides a monthly stipend. Most U.S. citizens enrolled in a professional nursing program can apply. In exchange, participants agree to serve for two years in a health care clinic located in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). HHS designates HPSA areas according to geography, patient population group, and facility type.
Nursing students may also qualify for state-sponsored or professional grants. Like with federal grants, students must complete a FAFSA in order to qualify. Students can contact their state's board of education to learn more about available funding opportunities. Since some nursing schools may participate in different state-sponsored grants than others, students should also check with their school's office of financial aid to determine their options. Professional organizations, such as the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and the Florida Nurses Association, offer grants to students pursuing an education in nursing.
More Ways for Single Parents to Save
Employer Tuition Assistance
Single parents should ask their employers about employer-sponsored tuition assistance. Through these programs, companies help their employees pay for school. In exchange for this assistance, employers may require employees to agree to keep working for a certain period of time after they receive their degree. Others may require that students take certain courses that relate directly to their job.
Employer-sponsored tuition assistance can help alleviate a large portion of students' financial burden. Each year, students can receive up to $5,250 in tax-free benefits from their employer. Single parents can put this money toward their education without paying any taxes on the amount. Some employers may also offer scholarships to their employees. Students should ask about what kind of assistance their employer offers.
Tuition waivers and reductions can also help students cut the cost of their tuition. Students who work in their academic department or a related department as a teaching assistant, lab assistant, or research assistant typically receive a fee waiver in exchange for their work. In some cases, internships and work study programs may also confer tuition waivers or reductions. Some schools also offer tuition waivers or reductions to low-income students, students who work in the public sector, and students who identify as at least one-quarter Native American.
A report in 2017 found that, in many places, center-based childcare costs more than college tuition. In several states, the annual cost of daycare exceeds $25,000. For single parents already struggling to pay for school, this cost may prove too great a financial burden. Some federal organizations provide grants to help childcare centers bring down the cost of care for low-income parents. One such program, the U.S. Department of Education's Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program, provides funds for institutions of higher education to open or sustain affordable campus-based childcare centers that primarily serve low-income students. Students should research whether their school offers on-campus subsidized childcare.
State governments may also provide grants for colleges to create affordable care centers. For instance, the state of Washington operates a child care grant program that provides up to $75,000 of funding per year to four-year institutions in the state, provided the school agrees to match this amount. Individuals can also apply for personal grants through the federal government. These personal grants help people who cannot provide critical resources, such as childcare, for their children. Unfortunately, applying for a personal grant can prove a difficult and time-consuming process. Before applying for personal grants, parents should check whether any government-subsidized day care centers exist in their area.
Tax breaks can provide much-needed financial relief for single parents. Tax credits come in two forms: refundable and nonrefundable. Refundable tax credits means that the payer can collect the entire refund, even if totals more than they owe. Nonrefundable tax credits mean that the credit only reduces the amount of taxes the payer already owes. Single parents may qualify for a few different tax credits. The Child Tax Credit allows parents to receive $1,000 for each child under the age of 17. To receive this credit, taxpayers must meet particular income requirements. The Child and Dependent Care Credit provides up to 30% of up to $3,000 worth of expenses relating to childcare for kids 13 or younger. Expenses can include babysitters, nannies, daycares, and summer camps. Parents with two or more children may report up to $6,000 worth of expenses.
Students attending nursing school as a parent may also receive education tax credits. The Lifetime Learning Credit provides undergraduate and graduate students up to 20% of the first $10,000 of their education expenses. Students can receive a credit worth up to $2,000. Students may collect this credit for as long as they remain in school. Single parents may also receive the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which covers the first $2,000 of school expenses and then covers 25% of the remaining expenses. Although the total refund cannot exceed $2,500, if the credit brings a student's taxes to nothing, the student can collect up to 40% of the remaining amount as a tax refund.
Scholarships for Single Parents Going to Nursing School
The American Indian Nurse Scholarship Award Program
Who Can Apply: The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America awards this scholarship to students in an accredited nursing program who identify as at least a quarter Native American. Enrolled tribal members who demonstrate financial need may apply.
Amount: $1,500 per semester
Tylenol Future Care Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Each year, Tylenol awards 40 scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in nursing, public health, pharmacy, medicine, or health education at an accredited school.
Who Can Apply: Each quarter, the AfterCollege/AACN Fund awards this scholarship to students pursuing a nursing degree at any level. The fund prefers graduate students who plan to serve as nurse educators, students enrolled in an accelerated nursing program, and students pursuing an RN-to-BSN or RN-to-MSN program.
American Association for Men in Nursing Scholarships
Who Can Apply: The AAMN awards two undergraduate scholarships and one graduate scholarship to AAMN members currently enrolled in an accredited nursing program.
The ANSWER Scholarship Endowment
Who Can Apply: Foundation for the Carolinas awards this scholarship to female students raising children and going to nursing school. Applicants must attend or plan to attend a four-year bachelor's program or two-year nursing program in Mecklenburg, North Carolina, or surrounding areas.
Capture the Dream Inc. Single Parent Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Single parents in the Bay Area who demonstrate financial need may apply for this scholarship. The application requires a resume, essay, cover letter, and letter of recommendation.
Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Support Awards
Who Can Apply: Every year, Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation provides financial support to five female parents pursuing their degree. The foundation chooses recipients based on their occupational goals, civic or activistic goals, and the nature of their personal circumstances.
Amount: up to $5,000
Downer Bennett Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Undergraduate single parents at the University of New Mexico may apply for this scholarship. The scholarship also assists other non-traditional students.
Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: Each year, Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund assists resident single parents who plan to pursue their bachelor's degree. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and possess a minimum 2.0 GPA.
Emporia State University Single Parents with Children Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Emporia State University rewards single parents pursuing their undergraduate or graduate degree. Recipients must demonstrate financial need and maintain a 2.75 GPA. Students may renew the scholarship for a total of three years of support.
Amount: $2,000 per year
The Coplan Donahue Single Parents Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Minnesota State University-Mankato awards this scholarship to single parents in an undergraduate or graduate program. Students must write an essay describing themselves, their parenting philosophy, and what they hope to achieve with their education.
The Ford Opportunity Program
Who Can Apply: The Ford Family Foundation recognizes single parents in Oregon or Siskiyou County, California, who plan to pursue their bachelor's degree at an Oregon or California school. In addition to money for tuition, the award also offers leadership development, academic guidance, and emotional counseling.
Amount: 90% of school costs not covered through other means
The Michael S. and Jeffrey C. Hagler Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: Each year, Idaho Community Foundation recognizes single mothers who plan to earn a degree at either Boise State University or College of Western Idaho. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and identify as residents of Idaho. Veterans may receive first priority.
The Bruce and Marjorie Sundlun Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Rhode Island Foundation bestows this scholarship to single parents who live in the state and plan to pursue a college degree. Applicants who have received state aid or have a history of incarceration receive first priority.