Guide for Single Parents

Individuals completing degrees while trying to parent make up a significant portion of the undergraduate student body in the U.S. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, approximately 2.1 million American students (the equivalent of 11% of all undergrads) raised children while working toward a postsecondary or advanced degree during the 2011-2012 school year.

Approximately 2.1 million American students (the equivalent of 11% of all undergrads) raised children while working toward a postsecondary or advanced degree during the 2011-2012 school year. IWPR

With all of the added responsibilities and financial pressures faced by those juggling personal, professional, and academic responsibilities, it should come as no surprise that only 31% of single moms aged 25 or older hold a degree — as compared to 54% of married moms and 40% of women overall. The same study found that women of color most frequently identify as single parents, making it imperative that schools create programs and funding systems to help these learners get the support they need.

Because single parents face more financial responsibilities, they often graduate college with higher levels of debt than married people or singles without children. Fortunately, many financial aid options exist which cater to single parents trying to get a public health degree. Keep reading to learn about support services, available scholarships, tips for increasing your chance of graduation, and the benefits of completing a public health degree online.

Finding a Public Health Program as a Single Parent

Public Health Schools with Daycare Services

Students with children face the challenges associated with childcare. Childcare can easily cost hundreds of dollars each month, but fortunately a number of colleges and universities now offer options. provides a list of more than 1,500 schools throughout the U.S. that offer some level of childcare for single parents working toward their degrees. Daycare offerings include full- and part-time care, mentoring programs for single parents, free meals for kids while on campus, family housing, and playground areas. The following section highlights some of the schools trying to ensure that parents can attend public health classes while knowing their children receive excellent care.

Clarkson College:

Located in Omaha, Nebraska, Clarkson offers an interdisciplinary community health degree in addition to campus-based childcare at The Family Place.

Delaware State University:

DSU is home to a BS in public health and the Early Childhood Laboratory School for children of students and employees.

Evergreen State College:

Students interested in the legislative side of the field can complete a degree in Epublic health policy while their kids receive instruction at the campus-based Children’s Center.

Fort Hayes State University:

FSHU kids can attend the Tiger Tots Nurtury Center while their parents complete degrees in public health administration.

Loyola University Chicago:

The prestigious LUC provides bachelor’s- and master’s-level programs in public health sciences alongside a preschool for the children of students and employees.

University of Nevada, Reno:

UNR’s School of Community Health Sciences offers numerous public health degrees in addition to programs for children aged six weeks to six years.

Getting a Public Health Degree Online

Many learners thrive during face-to-face meetings with their professors and peers; learners also enjoy the structure that comes from visiting campus multiple times per week. For others, however, online public health degrees offer the flexibility needed to juggle school work alongside caring for children. Lots of online public health degrees operate as asynchronous programs, meaning students do not need to log-in at specific times or listen to live lectures. Rather, they complete assignments at times best fitted to their schedules. Single parents often gravitate to this option not only for the flexibility offered, but also because these programs can significantly cut down on childcare costs.

Online public health students also avoid costs related to parking fees, fuel, public transport, on-campus housing, and meal plans. Some students may feel concern about how to handle any required internships/practicums during their program. Depending on where students complete their hours, some may provide childcare services; otherwise, learners need to arrange short-term care during the semester-long internship.

Other Tips for Single Parents Going to School for Public Health

  • Stay Organized: Staying on top of assignments seems easy enough at the start of the semester, but students often reach midterms feeling disorganized. Create a process at the beginning of the year to ensure both you and your child stay organized.
  • Don’t Overwhelm Yourself: Many single parents work while in school, meaning they constantly feel pulled in multiple directions. Consider whether to take a full course load or a part-time course load.
  • Find Dependable Help: Whether you plan to send your child to on-campus daycare, a private childcare center, or friends and family, finding reliable help proves crucial to your success in college.

How to Pay for a Public Health Degree as a Single Parent

The cost of college continues to rise, and students often feel anxiety about how to pay for it. The following section highlights the ways students can get help paying for their public health degree. For more info on financial aid assistance, check out our resources page.


Millions of degree seekers fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) uses this form to award hundreds of millions of dollars in federal financial aid each year, including grants, work-study funds, and loans. Many colleges and universities also use the information provided on the FAFSA to award institutional scholarships and grants, making it well worth a student’s time to gather the required documents and fill the form out. The FAFSA becomes available on October 1 of each year, and prospective students can submit the form through the online portal or in the mail up through June 30th. Because the ED awards funds on a rolling basis, students hoping to maximize their funding options should apply as soon as possible.

To qualify for funds based on the FAFSA, students must be U.S. citizens or eligible noncitizens, possess a social security number, hold a high school diploma or GED, and enter an approved degree or certificate program.

To qualify for funds based on the FAFSA, students must be U.S. citizens or eligible noncitizens, possess a social security number, hold a high school diploma or GED, and enter an approved degree or certificate program. Students participating in the DACA program and DREAMers cannot receive federal funds; however, TheDream.Us and Golden Door Scholars provide funding options for these learners.

When filling out the FAFSA, degree seekers will use their Social Security and driver’s license numbers, their most recent tax returns, details of any untaxed income (including child support), and information about any cash savings or investments. The majority of single parents fill out the FAFSA independently given their independent tax status, meaning the ED bases award packages on the student’s income rather than their parents.

Types of Financial Aid Available to Single Parents


Scholarships continually top the list of popular financial aid options. As long as the student meets requirements laid out by the awarding body, they can use the money towards educational costs without paying the money back once they graduate. Colleges and universities, state governments, corporations, nonprofits, and private foundations all provide scholarships, but students should start their search early as they tend to require an application.


Grants function in much the same way as scholarships; students who maintain their GPA and stay in the program until completion do not need to repay grants. Colleges and universities, federal and local governments, and private individuals and institutions offer grants. Learners should look for grants awarded specifically to students pursuing public health degrees.

Federal Loans

After exhausting all of the scholarships and grants available to them, many students turn to federal loans, as they offer reasonably low interest rates. The ED offers several loan programs, including unsubsidized and subsidized options. Degree seekers should first opt for the subsidized loans, as the government pays the interest on the loan for as long as the student takes to complete their program.

Private Loans

Banks, credit unions, and state agencies sometimes offer private loans to students looking to cover the costs of an education, but learners should use caution when taking on this type of loan. In addition to lacking federal backing, private loans often use higher, variable interest rates and require a credit check.

More Ways for Single Parents to Save

Employer Tuition Assistance

Many companies now offer employer tuition assistance programs that help offset the costs of higher education. One of the most common options allows companies to provide their employees with up to $5,250 in tax-free funds each year, all of which students can use towards paying for tuition, fees, supplies, books, and materials. Single parents should know that these funds cannot go toward childcare services, travel to school, lodging, meals, or school-related sports.

Before accepting employer tuition, public health degree seekers should check with their company to ensure that they fully understand any expectations attached to receiving the funding. Some employers may require students to complete a specific program in order to receive assistance; others may expect them to stay at the company for a certain time period after graduating.

Single parents working at a higher education institution may also take advantage of tuition benefits, as many schools allow learners to attend the school at either a discounted rate or for free. Students should also determine whether their employer provides any scholarships for which they might qualify. These usually exist for the children of employees, but some companies may make exceptions for single parents.

Childcare Grants

In 2017, ChildCare Aware of America released a study showing that, in many states, the cost of childcare exceeded the cost of college tuition. When considering earlier data showing that single parents often graduate with higher levels of debt than their unmarried or childless counterparts, the cost of childcare emerges as one of the potential reasons these learners take on so much more debt. Attaining a degree as a single parent should not feel impossible because of childcare costs; fortunately, several options cater to parents to lesson the financial burden.

In many states, the cost of childcare exceeded the cost of college tuition. ChildCare Aware of America

In addition to researching schools that offer discounted daycare services on-campus, degree seekers can also look for schools participating in the Child Care Access Means Parents In School Program (CCAMPIS). CCAMPIS allows schools whose students receive $350,000 or more each year in need-based Pell grants to apply for specialized funding. This funding helps establish campus-based childcare centers that cater primarily to low-income single parents and their children.

Aside from CCAMPIS services, single parents should also research other grants made available through state and local governments, nonprofits, and local companies. Some may require students to earn high grades or plan to work in a specific industry, but degree seekers who find a match can save thousands of dollars while also earning a diploma.

Tax Breaks

Single parents of one or more children often qualify for several federal and state-level tax breaks. Single parents recognized as heads of household who make less than $75,000 annually can receive the Child Tax Credit. If they owe less than $1,000 in taxes, any remaining funds get disbursed as a refund. Many single parents also qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit if they possess a low-to-moderate income. Similarly, the Child and Dependent Care Credit pays up to 35% of childcare costs (up to $3,000 annually) for any child under the age of 13.

Single parents with children already in school can apply for the American Opportunity Credit, which allows for up to $2,500 in tuition and related school expenses. Lastly, single parents need to ensure that they file as heads of household. For 2017, the standard deduction for individuals qualifying for this role reached $9,350. Individuals in this classification also tend to pay less in taxes. Eligibility depends on the marital status of the filer and their contributions to the child: to qualify, single parents must have been single on the final day of the year for which they filed taxes, and they must provide more than half of the maintenance funds for each child.

Scholarships for Single Parents Going to College

Olive Gillespie Scholarship

  • Amount: $500

Altrusa awards this scholarship to single moms over the age of 30 who identify as widows or divorcees and attend Western Kentucky University. Applicants must hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

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Downer-Bennett Scholarship

  • Amount: Up to $1,000

Single parents enrolled at the University of New Mexico qualify for this award; they must earn a top GPA and take at least 12 on-campus credits per semester.

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  • Amount: $10,000

Individuals who identify as single fathers and fill out the application online can apply for this award.

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Rodney & Patricia Westveer Scholarship

  • Amount: $1,700

Single female parents at least 30 years of age who earn a GPA of 2.50 or higher can apply for this scholarship at Calvin College.

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Single Parent With Children Scholarship

  • Amount: $2,000

Available to single parents with sole or joint custody who hold a 2.75 GPA or higher. This scholarship requires students to take 12 credits per semester at Emporia State University.

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Mary Jane Young Scholarship

  • Amount: $1,000

Single mothers who started college previously but left to raise a child can apply to this scholarship offered by Minnesota State University at Mankato.

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Dr. Wynetta A. Frazier

  • Amount: $500

The National Hook-Up of Black Women provides this scholarship to African American single moms working towards a degree.

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Mildred Culbert & Fred W. Kelly Nontraditional Student Scholarship

  • Amount: Varies

Single parents pursuing an undergraduate degree and living in Saginaw County qualify for this award. They must write an essay and demonstrate community service involvement and extracurricular activities.

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Stanwood Democrats / Delores Haglund Jones Memorial Scholarship

  • Amount: $1,000

Single parents aged 21 or over who want to complete an undergraduate or graduate degree.

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Women of the South Primary Provider Scholarship

  • Amount: Varies

This scholarship caters to single moms who qualify as heads of household and pursue a degree from Oklahoma City Community College. They must demonstrate financial need.

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TopProducts Single Mother Scholarship

  • Amount: $1,000

Single moms can apply for this scholarship by writing a personal narrative essay about their story, their family, and their educational goals.

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Kentucky Colonels Better Life Scholarship

  • Amount: $2,500

Single parents attending Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College on a full-time basis and working while in school can apply to this scholarship.

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Linda Todd Scholarship

  • Amount: $500 at minimum

Single moms living in the Virginia Beach area who took time away from postsecondary education qualify for this award provided by the American Association of University Women.

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Emerge Scholarship

  • Amount: Up to $5,000

Georgia residents identifying as single mothers can apply for this award if they experienced an educational delay and now want to return to school.

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Jeanette Rankin Scholarship

  • Amount: $2,000

Low-income, single moms aged 35 or older pursuing an associate or bachelor’s degree can apply for this award — provided they supply an essay explaining their educational goals and how they hope to achieve them.

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