Pursuing a degree can prove difficult for any student, but learners with children face unique challenges that can considerably affect their odds of success. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), single mothers earn fewer degrees, complete programs at lower rates, and leave with more debt than married mothers and women without children.
As such, parents should look for colleges that give extra help to students with children. These institutions offer support programs, resources, and amenities that assist parents and their children. To help in that search, the following ranking highlights some of the schools that best support this population.
The methodology used to create this list looks at many factors, including the number and quality of resources designed specifically for parent scholars. Major considerations include access to family housing, financial aid, and support programs for students with children. The schools that perform best in these areas rank the highest.
Top Colleges for Students With Children
Misericordia University — located in Dallas, Pennsylvania — oversees the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program. Founded in 2000, this program removes obstacles for single mothers pursuing higher education. The program provides two-bedroom housing for 12 months a year for up to four years. Single mothers with up to two children ages 2-8 can apply for the program.
At Misericordia, single mother students receive access to goal planning, academic support, career assistance, and counseling services. They also get priority placement for work-study and internship opportunities, along with a 40% childcare subsidy (if eligible). The program also offers access to extracurricular activities, including various camps, lessons, family events, and fun learning programs.
At Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the Single Parent Scholar Program supports caregivers with up to two children as they pursue a full-time bachelor's degree. The program provides a grant for two-bedroom campus housing for parents and their children, along with subsidized childcare during class times (day or evening) and free meals for children in the dining hall.
Wilson's 300-acre campus offers plenty of activity space for families, including a farm, an equestrian facility, a playground, and a creek. The college also offers various parent development activities, including parenting workshops and trips to Hershey Park. Children must be at least 20 months old at the time of enrollment and no older than 10 years old by graduation.
Since the mid 1990s, Endicott College — based in Beverly, Massachusetts — has provided the Keys to Degrees program for single parents between the ages of 18 and 24. This program offers financial support, housing, and childcare assistance while learners pursue a four-year degree.
Parent scholars can receive scholarships and grants, year-round room and board, childcare and babysitting service subsidies, and up to a total of $12,500 in aid for tuition and fees if they qualify.
During the four-year program, single parents can access various family support services, such as mentorships, workshops, and enrichment opportunities. They can also stay in on-campus housing at no additional cost during summer and winter school breaks, taking classes if they want to. Furthermore, their children get free meals and are enrolled in various early childhood education programs.
College of Saint Mary
Since 2000, the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska, has offered the Mothers Living & Learning program for single mother students with children between the ages of six weeks and 10 years. This program grants access to apartment-style living spaces, babysitting services, free meals for children, leadership opportunities, and specialized training and workshops for parents while they pursue their degree.
Learners also gain access to the school's one-credit Single Parent Success program, which helps caregivers find schools, doctors, and legal services for their children. It also provides information on child benefit programs and support services. At CSM, single parents can also access subsidized childcare through the Spellman Child Development Center.
St. Catherine University
Based in Marshall, Minnesota, St. Catherine University serves learners who lack access to basic needs like food, housing, transportation, medical care, and childcare through the Access and Success program. For student parents, St. Kate's provides access to childcare facilities and programs, childcare grants, national childcare resources, and lactation and study rooms across campus.
Parent scholars with children under the age of 12 also enjoy access to financial aid grants, life skills and money-management programs, and housing facilities, along with food support programs and parenting resources. Children of St. Kate's students can attend after-school programs, study rooms, a Montessori school, and an early learning program.
Baldwin Wallace University
Founded in 1990, the Single Parents Reaching Out for Unlimited Tomorrows (SPROUT) program at Baldwin Wallace University — based in Berea, Ohio — provides residential, financial, and developmental support for mothers between the ages of 18 and 23. Parent scholars and their children receive access to year-round housing on campus, subsidized childcare, specialized financial aid, and assistance with various support programs.
To qualify for the program, single mother students must maintain full-time status and a minimum GPA of 2.5. They also need to complete a minimum number of required work-study and summer internship hours and participate in various programs and special events, all while staying on target to graduate within four years. Learners also benefit from mentorship and parenting programs at BW.
Texas Woman's University
The largest university in the country designed primarily for women, Texas Woman's University offers many services to students, including the student-parent club Student Pioneers Also Raising Kids (SPARK). This group provides information about the various financial, academic, and social assistance programs available through the school.
SPARK also oversees networking and group activities. To qualify, members must maintain good academic standing with a minimum GPA of 2.0, complete two volunteer hours each semester, and attend one meeting each month. The children of TWU students can access the School Age Children's Enrichment Program, participating in a variety of projects, field trips, and arts and crafts.
University of Massachusetts
The University of Massachusetts Amherst oversees the University Without Walls (UWW) program, which provides flexible educational opportunities for various students, including those with children. Learners can complete their bachelor's degree in many popular disciplines, including business and nursing. By way of this program, students can better balance work, school, and parenthood through flexible study formats, including field-based and online learning.
UMass Amherst students can reduce their expenses by limiting travel and room and board costs through online learning. They can also access reduced tuition rates through the UWW program. The school provides scholarships specifically for parent scholars, along with traditional financial aid programs.
University of Iowa
|Iowa City, Iowa||
The University of Iowa was founded in 1847 and now ranks as one of the best colleges for students with children. The school provides many support resources and services for students with children, including on-campus subsidized childcare and camps. UI also offers more than 75 on-campus lactation rooms, backup childcare options, and parent scholar support groups.
Additionally, UI partners with more than 10 private childcare centers near campus. Parent scholars can also access funding for childcare and other essentials, and UI administrators can help set up flexible work-study and internship schedules. For new parents, the university provides many resources online, including information and contacts for setting up healthcare, parental leave, and parent well-being services.
Eastern Michigan University
Founded as a teachers college in 1849, Eastern Michigan University provides several support resources for parent scholars. In 2011, the university developed the Keys to Degrees Program, which helps learners find accommodations, childcare, parenting workshops, and mentorship opportunities on campus. EMU also offers other forms of aid through the Women's Resource Center.
Through the center, parents can enroll their children in early learning programs at the on-campus Children's Institute. They can also access information about campus lactation centers and childcare network services, in addition to financial aid, academic, and career development resources.
University of Washington
The University of Washington has developed many programs and resources for parents. The school features a childcare assistance program that provides parents with financial aid and assistance with enrollment in early learning centers available on campus and nearby. UW also provides a discount on childcare services at its on-campus learning centers.
Additionally, UW offers childcare and parenting resources to assist parent scholars in many other ways, providing information about off-site childcare, backup childcare, and children learning programs. Students can also access information on lactation stations, sister campus programs, and additional parenting resources through UW's website. The university provides access to family housing for full-time parent scholars and their dependents.
Arkansas State University
Since opening in 1900, Arkansas State University has been a student-friendly institution by supporting learners with children. For these students, A-State provides assistance for childcare, children's programs, accommodations, work assistance, and health and wellness programs.
A-State also connects learners with scholarships, including a single-parent scholarship for Arkansas residents. The university's parent scholars can access housing in the Village and the Circle — apartments that accept financial aid for room and board. The school offers childcare services at several early education facilities, both on and off campus.
Since opening in 1871, Smith College has grown into one of the largest women's colleges in the country. To support parent scholars, this Northampton, Massachusetts, school offers various programs and resources, including the Ada Comstock Scholars Program. Available to mothers with dependents, the program provides access to more flexible course loads, career services, and academic advising.
Smith also provides childcare resources, including the on-campus Center for Early Childhood Education and various after-school programs. The college also provides parent scholars with financial aid, meal plans, and family activities, along with access to on-campus housing — like the apartment-style Conway House — designed for students with children
A school for women founded in 1852, Mills College ranks as one of the best colleges for students with children. Parent scholars can enroll their children in the Mills College Children's School, which opened in 1926. They can also access scholarships and financial aid to cover tuition and fees. Based in Oakland, California, the school also provides an on-campus food pantry, health and wellness services, and specialized academic support for parents.
Learners with dependents can access specialized housing, including the on-campus Underwood Apartments and a parenting lounge. Mills also operates the Student-Parent Support Program, which offers access to meal grants, reimbursements for classroom materials, and emergency funds.
Ferris State University
|Big Rapids, Michigan||
Founded in 2009, the Students with Children program at Ferris State University supports student parents by providing resources, services, and activities. Participants can access mentorship opportunities, referral programs, and parenting training workshops. They can also receive financial aid, find affordable housing and childcare, and use employment services.
FSU — located in Big Rapids, Michigan — offers on-campus housing, dining services, and extracurricular groups and activities for working parents. While their parents are in class, children can attend the Early Learning Center, which first opened in 1987 and provides meals, social networks, and learning opportunities.
What Percentage of College Students Have Children?
According to IWPR, 22% of all undergraduate students — or approximately 3.8 million learners — have children. Close to 70% of these students are mothers, while 30% are fathers. Although the number of parents enrolled in college has grown since 2004, parent scholar enrollment decreased by about 15% between 2011 and 2016.
Among parent scholars, more than 40% attend community colleges, while 17% attend public four-year schools and 13% attend private nonprofit four-year schools. Students with children also tend to be older learners. The median age for parent degree-seekers is 32 years.
Do Colleges Have Family Housing?
Most colleges and universities offer housing for students, including dorms, apartments, and group housing. Some schools offer housing specifically for students with children. Colleges with family housing often set aside apartment-style accommodations for parent scholars and their children.
While specifics vary for each school, family housing typically features private bedrooms, along with shared living rooms, lounges, and kitchens. In some cases, families might gain access to a private lounge space. Some schools provide on-campus lounge spaces that families and children can use to relax throughout the day.
Can You Use Student Loans for Childcare?
The ability to use student loans and other financial aid for childcare depends entirely on each school and funding source. Some funding can be applied only to tuition-related fees, while other forms of financial aid provide students with more flexibility.
At many of the best colleges for students with children, parent scholars can apply for financial aid specifically designed for childcare programs. Some schools also offer subsidized childcare, providing students with access to discounted rates and priority attendance. To qualify, students may need to attend school full time.
What Are the Best Programs for Working Mothers?
The best programs for working mothers depend on each individual student and their unique circumstances. While looking for programs, mothers may prioritize convenience and accessibility. For example, they may consider programs that are easier to complete online, such as business-related and information technology programs.
Professionally, the best programs for working mothers depend on their specific location and aspirations. Mothers may look for fields that accommodate their parenting schedules and feature limited travel and remote work opportunities.
What Are the Best Programs for Working Fathers?
Each working father has unique circumstances, which can impact which programs are best. Desirable programs may feature accommodating schedules and easy access, such as fully online or accelerated programs in information technology and business.
Working fathers should also look into programs that can lead to flexible and accommodating careers in their local area. The best professions for working fathers may feature standard work days, limited travel, and strong family benefits.