How to Earn a Degree as a Single Mom
Being a single mom is tough, and that’s an understatement. Multiple issues are simultaneously at play, from having to find and pay for child care, to perhaps dealing with custody issues with your ex-husband. Add to the equation your desire to graduate and earn a degree, and life’s chaos can be downright exhausting and overwhelming. But fret not; with careful planning, you can still earn a degree even while raising your children and making ends meet. Here’s a quick but comprehensive guide on how you can finish college even as a single mom.
Prioritizing Peace of Mind
According to an analysis by the American Council on Education (ACE), stable housing and day care payments are major expenses that single mom-students find difficulty securing. ACE further notes that, of the said demographic, over 65 percent juggle their time with part-time or full-time jobs.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research also reveals in its March 2013 report that: “Being a parent substantially increases the likelihood of leaving college with no degree, with 53% of parents vs. 31% of nonparents having left with no degree after six years.”
So how can you have enough peace of mind to buy you the right amount of focus for your schooling? Break big difficulties into manageable pieces; in this way, you can solve an otherwise overwhelming problem one small fragment at a time. Here are some practical suggestions:
- Only settle for child care services that are steadfast and reliable. Otherwise, it would be extremely difficult to focus on your studies if your mind is constantly worrying how your kids are doing. After all, it’s only natural for any parent’s top priority to be her children.
- Explore college for single moms, such as the following:
- The Student Parent HELP Center at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities
- Women with Children Program at Wilson College in Pennsylvania
- The Student Parent Center at the University of California—Berkeley
These have significantly reduced the drop-out statistics of single mom-students and have helped them graduate against all odds.
- Try an online approach. While such programs for single mothers can be of tremendous assistance to you, managing time can still be extra challenging in these conventional colleges. After all, however organized you may be as a parent and student, expect to be thrown off course and out of focus when your child harbors an illness just one night before a crucial presentation or your final examinations even.
An online setting provides the perfect college for single mothers. Through a more flexible online program, course completion time is reduced and graduation rates are increased. In a set-up like this, you are cutting back on the precious amount of time, energy and money otherwise spent on daily commute to and from a brick-and-mortar school premises.
If an online approach sounds like the perfect fit for you, there are a good number of online colleges you can choose from. Just make sure to choose one that has been duly accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission or WSCUC. Like their brick-and-mortar counterparts, regionally accredited online colleges strive the same academic excellence and student success, but with added flexibility, availability, and affordability.
- Take Advantage of financial aid for single moms. While student loans will always remain an option, paying these back can prove to be a hassle, adding to your already stress-filled life as a single mom already having a hard time making ends meet. Not only that, single parents who are otherwise eligible to take advantage of welfare money may risk losing this financial aid simply because of school loans.
On the bright side, some organizations and legislators are working to have such regulations changed. Moreover, there are efforts being made from both government and private sectors to reach out to single and underprivileged parents using grants and scholarships.
Now, seeking financial aid from federal grant programs is your best chance of making it through your schooling without the risk of having debt backlogs. Here are some options:
The Federal Pell Grant Program
Any low-income single mom is basically qualified to avail of the Federal Pell Grant. And since the program’s revision back in 2010, getting a degree has never been made so much easier for single moms. You are qualified to receive $5,500 worth of student benefits from the program if you have at least one dependent/child and are earning not more than $40,000.
Simply send in a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to check if you’re qualified to receive aid. Deadline for applications is on June 30. Although you shouldn’t expect the grant amount to cover your college education in full, it’s still more than enough to somehow help you move closer to your goal of earning a degree.
Federal Grants for Military Widows
Now, if you happen to be a single mom and a military widow, then you are eligible to avail of financial aid for your education, either through the GI Bill Tuition Assistance Program or the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance Program. The former, however, can only be granted to you if your husband was able to transfer the Bill to you while he was still living. If not, you still get educational assistance via the latter program, which offers a lower amount than what the GI Bill can provide.
As a final note, if you have already set your mind to an online education, it is imperative that you enroll in one that is duly accredited. Regional accreditation confirms a school’s eligibility for the GI Bill. And do remember that while studying online has its perks, such as time flexibility and convenience, earning a degree has no shortcuts. In other words, be vigilant and steer clear of online “diploma mills” that claim to offer an easier path but with empty credits.