Earning a college degree can be difficult when raising a child at the same time. In years past, having a child often meant the end of pursuing higher education. In recent decades, however, more and more adults with children return to college, thanks in part to online education.
According to a 2017 study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, almost five million students across the nation have dependent children. That figure represents about a quarter of all college students, an increase of 30% since 2004. While the number of student parents is rising, they have lower graduation rates than peers without children.
A number of universities recognize the difficulty student parents face and have established programs to provide assistance. Many provide family housing, on-campus childcare, scholarships, and support programs. Some offer these child-friendly resources for free, while others charge reasonable fees.
A small Catholic liberal arts school founded by the Sisters of Mercy, Misericordia offers a very supportive environment for student mothers. The university hosts the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children program, one of only eight of its kind in the nation. It provides free housing in two-bedroom units for single mothers and their children for up to four years. Family facilities at the two on-campus residential units include kitchens, dining rooms, study areas, playrooms, and laundry.
Since 2000, the Bourger program assists mothers and their children with not only an apartment but also an array of academic and family enrichment programming. Academic advising, tutoring, counseling, scheduling, and career services help students set goals and meet them. The program provides some families with a 40% childcare subsidy as well.
Students must pursue their bachelor's full-time to remain eligible. The program accepts single mothers of up to two children, between the ages of two and eight.
A small liberal arts college in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Wilson developed an innovative program for single parents with young children. The Single Parent Scholar (SPS) program allows individual parents to pursue a bachelor's while living on campus with one or two kids. Young families share a dorm, residing in a suite with two bedrooms and a bathroom. Families use the kitchen and lounge space communally. The school accepts children aged 20 months to 12 years.
While parent scholars attend class, Wilson provides childcare at no cost. Children also eat free in the dining hall, but parents must have a dining plan as well as provide lunch for their children while they are in class. Interested students gain admission to Wilson and apply for the SPS program once admitted. There is no application fee. The college limits the SPS program to 26 families.
Wilson also sponsors enrichment activities, parenting workshops, and mentoring opportunities for single parent students. The school's 300-acre campus boasts a farm, green space to explore, and a playground.
College of Saint Mary
Omaha-based College of Saint Mary operates one of the most progressive student-parent support programs in the nation. Mothers Living and Learning provides not only housing and childcare but also its own dedicated group of faculty and support staff. The Nebraska Catholic school created the program to allow single moms with children under the age of six to earn their bachelor's degrees. It boasts its own college course, the successful single mother, and monthly life skills workshops.
Students accepted into the Mothers Living and Learning program move into the college's Madonna Hall, which features private suites, communal living spaces, and a downstairs area with child furniture, books, puzzles, and play space. The Spellman Child Development Center provides childcare during weekdays.
The program also provides students with a mentor who helps them with course scheduling and advising and guides them in their search for a pediatrician, career services, and even legal help. The student-led group Many Opportunities for Mothering Solo (M.O.M.S.) offers support, networking, and camaraderie within Saint Mary.
Few colleges offer a student-parent programs as comprehensive as Endicott's Keys to Degrees. Set on Massachusetts' North Shore, the small private institution created the four-year program to aid and empower students who had children before they could earn a college degree.
Open to mothers or fathers with a single child, Keys to Degree provides a structured support system, offering help and care to the parent as well as the child. Students must be age 18-24 at the time of admission.
Benefits of the program include family housing on Endicott's oceanfront campus year-round, and a meal plan that allows students five meals a week while children eat free. During the school year, Endicott provides childcare while parents attend class or work at an internship. The college assigns each program participant a dedicated mentor, who helps them juggle scheduling, care, and academic issues. Keys to Degrees also sponsors workshops and parenting enrichment opportunities.
St. Catherine's University
|St. Paul, MN||
Set in the twin cities of Minnesota, St. Catherine hosts a unique student support program called Access and Success. The Catholic liberal arts university created the program for all students regardless of their gender, degree level, marital status, ability to pay, or the age of their children. “St. Kate's” also offers family housing in one- or two-bedroom apartments on its campus in Saint Paul. Students pay an all-inclusive fee through their student account and may use these furnished residences year-round.
Access and Success connects students with financial help through the Post-Secondary Child Care Grant, which helps parents with children under the age of twelve afford college. Access and Success also features lists of area childcare providers and after-school options. It sponsors lactating rooms on both the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses and child-friendly study areas. St. Catherine's also maintains a list of students willing to provide on-campus childcare as well as sick or short-term service providers.
Texas Woman's University
Based in the city of Denton, in the metropolitan Dallas-Fort Worth area, Texas Woman's University caters to student parents with a range of services. Known for its programs in nursing, education, and business, the private institution hosts a student-parent club called SPARK (Student Pioneers Also Raising Kids).
SPARK educates its members in the financial, academic, and social opportunities available to parents on campus. Many students find childcare networking through SPARK. Student parents can also enroll their children in TWU's own after-school enrichment program, the Club House. Located right on campus, the program runs in the afternoons during the school year and features arts and crafts, field trips, and games for kids ages 5-12. The Club House's own vehicles pick students up at schools in Denton.
Family housing at TWU consists of unfurnished, two and three-bedroom units on campus. These residences go to single or married parents and their dependents. Parents must enroll in at least 12 credits each semester.
A private liberal arts school for women in western Massachusetts, Smith hosts the Ada Comstock Scholars program for student parents and other adult learners. The program offers housing, options for flexible or reduced course loads, and specialized academic advising and career counseling.
Eligibility extends to women with children, veterans, and students over the age of 24 who already earned at least 48 credits toward a bachelor's degree. Approximately 90% of Comstock scholars receive financial aid.
Ada Comstock Scholars enjoy several housing options, including the Conway House, a complex designed for students with children. Families can choose between two- or three-bedroom options, with a shared common area for playing and relaxing.
Like many colleges and universities, Smith provides childcare through its early childhood education program. The school's Fort Hill childcare center offers daily care to children between two months and five years of age, and Smith-affiliated mothers receive priority admission.
Kent State University
Single parents can find a network of support at Kent State, thanks to the Ohio university's Literacy and Independence for Family Education program. Offered through the school's Center for Adult and Veteran Services (CAVS), the program provides academic help, family support, and other parental resources like workshops. Some students even qualify for scholarships. Participants must enroll on the university's main campus, maintain a 2.0 GPA, and attend classes at least part time.
Parent scholars at Kent State can find family housing on campus or nearby, and CAVS maintains a list of available facilities. Rents run the gamut from income-based two-bedroom plans to $1,600 three-bedroom apartments with utilities included.
The university also compiles childcare options on-campus and in surrounding areas. These include its own early childhood development program, which looks after children aged 18 months to six years, Monday through Friday, until 5:30 p.m. Parents can drop off their kids and know they'll be well cared for, snacks and all, while they attend class.
Middle Tennessee State University
Middle Tennessee State University provides student parents with the two essentials: family housing and on-campus childcare. Based in the small city of Murfreesboro, the public institution offers two-bedroom apartments to students with children among its residential plans. Many parent scholars elect to live in its Womack Lane apartments, which are near the MTSU Child Care Center.
Known for its programs in business, liberal arts, and the performing arts, MTSU offers childcare to students, faculty, and staff through its MTSU Child Care Lab. Open to children aged three to five years, the lab runs whenever classes meet. The university gives priority to children with a connection to the school, but lets unaffiliated kids fill in remaining spots. The current weekly fee for students is $135. Two other childcare options exist on campus.
MTSU also hosts a list of parent resources on its site. These include childcare options, guides to learning and parenting, and links to the state's Department of Human Services.
University of Michigan
|Ann Arbor, MI||
One of the nation's most progressive universities, the University of Michigan offers an array of benefits to scholars with kids. Students can find many of them on the university's handy Students with Children website, which lists a range of family-oriented services. These include healthcare, family support, financial resources, and activities in the Ann Arbor area.
The university offers housing to students with children in its Northwoods Community Apartments and Townhouses. It also provides listings of off-campus alternatives. Michigan's Children's Centers make affordable childcare available to students, faculty, and staff. The school also maintains comprehensive listing of other student-friendly childcare options in Ann Arbor.
For illnesses or other unexpected moments, the university offers its Kids Kare at Home program, which provides inexpensive in-home help by screened and trained caregivers. Parents can have peace of mind their sick child is in good hands while they attend classes. Another option is the university's Family Helpers program pairs student parents with other undergrads, U-M graduates, or local retirees willing to provide childcare to fill in the gaps.
University of Washington
The University of Washington believes so strongly in helping parents earn their education it launched the Student Parent Resource Center (SPRC). The center makes a wealth of information and resources available to UW parents, including details on the university's own quartet of Children's Centers. These facilities provide year-round infant, toddler, and preschool care. Eligible students can apply for UW's Childcare Assistance Program to help reduce the cost of childcare. Students and staff at UW also qualify for a 10% discount at KinderCare Learning Centers and Champions before- and after-school programs.
The SPRC's website has several helpful links. Students can find information on campus-wide lactation and changing stations, support groups for families on campus, and resources such as health and wellness and financial aid options. The university also offers advice and support to parents through its UW Counseling Center. Counselors advise parents on how to handle the strain of school while raising kids.
Family housing at UW consists of two- or three-bedroom apartments for parents with children. UW allows single and married parents and their dependents to live in these residences so long as one parent enrolls on a full-time basis.
University of Florida
Florida's flagship institution, the University of Florida boasts a Baby Gator childcare program as well as on-campus parent-student housing. Among the biggest and best schools in the nation, the Gainesville institution features a guide for students with children on its website. The university maintains a range of services that help Gators with dependents earn their undergraduate or graduate degree.
The University of Florida hosts Baby Gator childcare centers in Lake Alice, Newell Drive, and Diamond Village. Run by trained early childhood educators, these facilities provide childcare and education to children aged six weeks to five years. Childcare begins at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 6 p.ms, with Baby Gator centers providing a nutritious breakfast, lunch, and snack for every child.
The university offers housing to students with families at several locations, including Corry Village, Diamond Village, Maguire Village, Tanglewood Village, and University Village South. Candidates for these apartments must maintain a level of academic progress toward a degree.
Ferris State University
|Big Rapis, MI||
One of the larger public universities in Michigan, Ferris State provides family-friendly services to student-parents through its Students with Children program (SWC). Active since 2009, the program supports parents with campus and community referrals, parenting education workshops, and family activities. The organization also assists students with tutoring, daycare payment advising, job searching, finding food, housing, and utilities, and family enrichment time.
Students in the university's early childhood education program provide on-campus childcare at the school's Early Learning Center. Parents can drop off their children, aged one month to 12 years, Monday through Friday, while they attend class.
Housing at Ferris includes on-campus family apartments near playgrounds, basketball courts, and school bus stops. The West Campus Townhouse apartments feature two- and three-bedroom layouts with access to a community center outfitted with study rooms, a computer lab, and gathering space for events.
The University of Massachusetts
Set in the hills of western Massachusetts, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the largest public university in New England. The university earned plaudits nationally for its family-friendly University Without Walls (UWW) program, which serves non-traditional students, including those with children. The university considers UWW a major, but it is much more than that. An affordable degree-completion program, UWW allows adults and parents to study at a reduced rate, taking classes on campus, off campus, and online. It also provides scholarships and financial assistance.
UMass's family housing complex, North Village, sits a half mile from campus in quiet North Amherst. One- and two-bedroom apartments give student parents and their children more than 500 square feet of living space. Amenities include parking, laundry, bus service, and cable.
Student parents and other university-affiliated families get priority admission to the university's Center for Early Education. Open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, the center provides care to children from 15 months to five years of age.
Arkansas State University
The flagship of the Arkansas State University system, Jonesboro's Arkansas State established a Non-Traditional Students program to assist adults, working professionals, and students with children in the completion of their degree programs.
The program puts students in touch with the many resources and services available to them on the school's Jonesboro campus. The Non-Traditional Student program also published an online resource book filled with information on how to find housing, childcare, work assistance, youth programs, counseling and family therapy, and scholarships, such as the single parent scholarship around the area.
Arkansas State provides housing to students with children at a 191-unit on-campus complex called The Village. Open to any students with dependents, these unfurnished apartments feature appliances and allow pets and students can pay with financial aid once they've met their tuition and fees. On-campus childcare is available at Childhood Services.