Returning to nursing school as a parent poses unique challenges that childless students do not face. Coordinating daycare arrangements, making time to complete coursework, and financially supporting your children while in school comprise just a few of the challenges student parents may experience.
For single parents, earning a college degree can increase in difficulty compared to two-parent households. A 2017 report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) found that 2.1 million American students, or 11% of all undergraduates, raised children without a partner during the 2011-2012 academic year. The same report indicated the majority of single parents are women of color.
Parenting without a partner tends to be financially challenging and can make graduating from college particularly challenging. According to the IWPR report, 31% of single mothers aged 25 and older held a college degree, compared to 54% of married women and 40% of women overall in 2015. Single mothers also graduated with higher levels of debt than married women or single women without children.
Although single parents in nursing school face these and other obstacles, a variety of financial aid options can help ease any student debt accrued. Below is a list of scholarships for single parents going to nursing school.
Finding a Nursing School as a Single Parent
Nursing Schools With Daycare Services
Finding childcare proves challenging for many American parents, as many areas can face capacity shortages, and parents must put their children on waiting lists in hopes of acceptance to a program.
Luckily, more than 1,500 universities and colleges offer students with children a form of on-campus childcare. Universities may also offer free or discounted meals for children of enrolled students, mentoring and counseling services for parents, and support groups for student parents.
A list of schools with nursing programs that offer these childcare programs and activities to students with children appears below.
Boise State University: BSU’s Children’s Center provides childcare to children of part- and full-time students and offers two full meals, a snack, and nap time to enrolled children.
California State University – Los Angeles: Cal State LA offers a variety of resources for students with children, including a childcare center, parenting classes, educational resources, and a parent advisory committee.
Central Arizona College: CAC offers a Reggio-inspired early learning center serving children aged 12 month to five years at two of Central’s five campuses across central Arizona. CAC students with children receive priority enrollment.
Montana State University – Bozeman: MSU students with children can access an early education program and daycare on campus, as well as explore nearby off-campus options through MSU’s website.
University of Pennsylvania: Penn offers student parents a family resource center and three different childcare center options. The university also maintains a list of all childcare centers near campus.
Wichita State University: Student parents benefit from WSU’s childcare and early childhood development services, available from children six weeks to six years of age.
Attending Nursing School Online
Students with children benefit from online education in a variety of ways, including the added flexibility and affordability of online study. When you enroll in an online program, coursework and class attendance is often on a flexible schedule and accessible from your own home. Depending on the age of your children, this can decrease your need for daycare services because you can study after your kids go to bed at night or before they wake up in the morning.
Online schools also tend to be less expensive than brick-and-mortar colleges because online education eliminates costly parking, residence, and dining costs. Required internships and practicums are often completed in your local community or at your current place of employment, saving additional transportation costs. Sometimes a program helps arrange the internship/practicum component, while other programs require you to organize the details of your internship or practicum.
Other Tips for Single Parents Going to Nursing School
- Ask for Help: Take advantage of any resources for student parents offered by the university. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your family and friends for help.
- Find Scholarships: Many scholarships exist to support single parents earning a college degree and ease your financial burden.
- Practice Self-Care: Going back to school as a parent takes hard work, but avoid burning yourself out. Take time for yourself to recharge on a regular basis.
How to Pay for Nursing School as a Single Parent
Many students find paying for nursing school the most stressful part of the application process. Thankfully, single parents qualify for a variety of financial aid opportunities.
A crucial part of paying for nursing school as a single parent includes filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines what types of federal aid students qualify for, including grants, student loans, and work study. Federal financial aid can cover education expenses such as tuition, books, childcare, and housing. You can easily fill out the FAFSA online. The FAFA becomes available on October 1 annually, but you should apply for financial aid as early as possible each year. Some types of federal aid have limited funds and run out each year.
All college students benefit from filling out the FAFSA. Even if you think you make too much money to qualify or the form seems daunting, you might be surprised. Some private distributors of financial aid use the FAFSA to determine if you qualify for private financial aid, such as scholarships. Many colleges and states require students complete the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for state and school-specific financial aid.
You need a variety of documents when filling out the FAFSA, including your Social Security number, or an alien registration number if you do not hold U.S. citizenship. You also need your driver’s license number (if applicable), federal tax information, and records of untaxed income and assets. If your parents claim you as a dependent, their Social Security numbers and federal tax information are also required.
Types of Financial Aid Available to Single Parents
- Scholarships: Scholarships do not require repayment and are essentially free money. To receive a scholarship, students typically qualify based on merit rather than financial need. Eligibility criteria for scholarships frequently include your cumulative high school or undergraduate GPA and membership in honor societies or private clubs. Some scholarships exist specifically to support single parents. Colleges, corporations, and private foundations all offer scholarships. Some scholarships require students maintain a certain GPA to continue receiving the funds.
- Grants: Similar to scholarships, recipients do not need to repay their award. Unlike scholarships, grant recipients must demonstrate financial need. Some grants also ask students to demonstrate merit in addition to financial need. Single parents can find grants designed specifically to help them afford college through their state of residence, colleges, private organizations, and the federal government. The federal government distributes more grants than any other organization, including Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Academic Competitiveness Grants.
- Federal loans: Most students take out federal loans, which they must begin repaying several months after graduation. Benefits offered by federal loans which are unavailable through private loans include low interest, fixed rate interest, deferment options, loan cancellation options, and income-based repayment plans. Federal loans may be direct subsidized, direct unsubsidized, direct PLUS, and federal Perkins, all of which may have different repayment and interest options available.
- Private loans: Private loans can help pay for school once all other options for financial aid are exhausted. Private lenders, like banks and credit unions, make private student loans. Each private lender sets its own loan terms, which can mean a higher interest rate and an absence of income-based repayment plans, loan cancellation, and deferment options.
Nursing grants can help pay you for school. Students typically receive nursing grants when they demonstrate financial need. Generally, nurses pursuing work in areas with great need for nursing staff receive grants. Like scholarships, grants do not require repayment. Most nursing grants require students to commit to working at a particular employer for a certain amount of time after they graduate. Many states run their own nursing grant programs. By filling out the FAFSA, you automatically receive consideration for all state and federal grant programs.
The federal government provides nursing grants through its NURSE Corps program. In exchange for financial aid towards tuition and other educational costs, nursing students agree to work at a facility with a critical shortage of nurses after graduation, also known as a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). Shortages can exist in the areas of geography, population groups, or facilities.
To be eligible for admission to the program, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; free from federal judgement liens and existing service commitments; and not overdue on federal debts. You also must be enrolled in a professional nursing degree program at an accredited U.S. school. NURSE Corps distributes funding with a preference for applicants with financial need.
More Ways for Single Parents to Save
Employer Tuition Assistance
A variety of employer tuition reimbursement programs may help student parents pay for education. Employers often support employees going to school for degrees related to their current positions, which may lead to promotions and a more educated workforce overall.
Students can receive a maximum of $5,250 tax-free employer education assistance benefits each year. Sometimes, your employer can provide more than $5,250 if the payment is considered a working condition fringe benefit. Working condition benefits requires that the education submitted for consideration is required by the employer or by law to keep your present salary, status, or job or that the education maintains or improves skills needed for your job. Each course in a degree program must be evaluated individually to see if it qualifies as a working condition benefit. Students can use employer education assistance funds and fringe benefits for an undergraduate or graduate degree, including tuition, fees, supplies, and books.
Sometimes, as a condition of providing education assistance funds, employers require that you earn a minimum GPA or remain employed with them for a certain amount of time after completing your education. Employers also sometimes sponsor scholarships for employees and their dependents. College and university employees are in a great position to receive educational assistance, as the colleges and universities often provide tuition waivers or reductions for employees pursuing undergraduate or graduate education at their place of employment.
Single parents should also inquire about childcare grants to increase the affordability of college. A recent study by Child Care Aware of America (CCAoA) found that the cost of childcare often exceeds the cost of college tuition in many states. In fact, for many low-income families, childcare constitutes their biggest expense. This financial burden may increase for single parents, who by definition have a lower income than two-parent households. CCAoA indicated that single parents spend on average 27% of their income toward center-based infant care.
To address the financial hardship of paying for childcare, some state and federal organizations provide low-income single parents with childcare grants to help with the costs of childcare while parents attend classes. Each state receives a set amount of money from the federal government set aside for making childcare more accessible to parent students. These childcare assistance or subsidy programs look different in every state and may require families meet certain eligibility requirements and pay application fees. Find specific state resources here.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Child Care Access Means Parents In School (CCAMPIS) program helps support or create on-campus childcare programs in schools primarily serving low-income students. Colleges apply for grants through CCAMPIS and can use the funding either to directly provide childcare services or contract services through a third party. Funds may also go to support before- and after-school care. If you attend a school participating in the CCAMPIS program, you may be able to receive discounted childcare.
Another way to make your college education more affordable includes looking into the various tax breaks available to single parents. If you meet income restriction requirements designated by the IRS, you can take advantage of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The Child Tax Credit gives you a $1,000 tax credit per child, just for having children at all, but the credit amount lowers for single parents who make $75,000 or more annually. If you owe less tax than the Child Tax Credit, you receive a refund. To qualify, the child must be your dependent, 16 or younger, and receive more than half of their support from your income.
Low and moderate income working families qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. The amount you get for the Earned Income Credit varies depending on your income and the number of children in your household, with a larger credit proportional to the number of children in your household. If your credit is bigger than what you owe, you get a refund of the balance. Single parents can also reduce their taxable income by claiming a dependent exemption for each child.
The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit allows you to deduct up to 35% of your child care expenses, depending on your income. To qualify, you must either be a full-time student or have an income. If your employer makes contributions to your childcare costs, that portion must be subtracted from the total expense.
Scholarships for Single Parents Going to Nursing School
The Mary Blake Single Parent Nursing Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants must submit a winning essay and be a U.S. citizen, single parent, and accepted to or enrolled in an accredited nursing program. Students must hold a minimum 2.7 GPA.
Top Products Single Mother Scholarship
Who Can Apply: TopProducts.com offers a scholarship to single mothers with at least one child under 18. Applicants must be U.S. citizens enrolled in or accepted at a two- or four-year institution.
The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This award goes to college students attending an accredited school. Applicants must be low-income women, age 17 or older, with children under 18 years of age.
Amount: Up to $5,000
Capture the Dream Single Parent Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Capture the Dream Inc. awards this scholarship to support undergraduate study of low-income, single parent residents in the San Francisco Bay Area. Applicants must submit an essay explaining why they should win.
Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship fund distributes thousands of scholarships each year to low-income Arkansas residents with at least one dependent child. Applicants must hold a minimum 2.5 GPA and attend an ASPSF approved school. Other criteria may apply, depending on which county you live in.
The Kentucky Colonels Better Life Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be Kentucky residents and single, working parents with children age 12 and under.
Who Can Apply: Scholarships4Dads gives out a $10,000 scholarship four times a year. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents 18 or older. They also need to be parents or expectant parents and enrolled or planning to enroll in college within three months of the award.
Bruce and Marjorie Sundlun Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Rhode Island Foundation offers this scholarship to state residents who are low-income single parents. Applicants who receive or previously received state aid or who previously were incarcerated get preference.
Women of the South Primary Provider Scholarship
Who Can Apply: WOS award this scholarship to women who serve as the primary providers in their households. Applicants must live in the Oklahoma City metro area, hold a minimum 2.5 GPA, and demonstrate financial need.
Amount: Covers tuition, fees, and books
Mildred Culbert Kelly and Fred W. Kelly Non-Traditional Student Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship goes to nontraditional students (defined as a student who has been out of school for two more consecutive semesters) in Saginaw county. Applicants must prove financial need, submit an essay, and demonstrate leadership, community, and citizenship excellence.
Live Your Dream Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Soroptimist offers this scholarship to women financially supporting themselves and their dependents. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and live in one Soroptimist International of the Americas’ member countries/territories.
Amount: Up to $16,000
Assistance League of the Triangle Area Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Assistance League scholarship helps working single parents pay for college. Applicants must be residents of the Triangle area and attend college in North Carolina.
Amount: $1,000 to $10,000
The Crane Fund for Widows and Children
Who Can Apply: The Crane Fund awards scholarships to widows and dependents of former Crane employees.
Helping Hands for Single Moms
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be low-income single mothers enrolled in college who live in Phoenix or the surrounding area. Students must hold a cumulative minimum 2.8 GPA, have at least one child under the age of 11 living with them, and cannot live with a domestic partner.
Amount: $270 per month, plus other benefits
Women’s Independence Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be survivors of domestic violence who demonstrate critical financial need. They must also provide evidence of seeking help from a nonprofit anti-domestic violence group.