According to a 2017 report released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), approximately 2.1 million students in America -- 11% of all undergraduate learners -- worked to complete their degrees while parenting during the 2011-2012 school year. While the number of students who identify as single mothers rose by more than 200% from 1999-2012, these learners still lag behind their counterparts in terms of attaining degrees. Additionally, women of color represent the group most likely to identify as single parents. Many colleges and universities recognize the need to improve access for this population of learners to ensure that they can succeed while attending school.
Due to their busy schedules and multiple responsibilities, single parents face challenges that their childless peers do not experience. These challenges affect both the likelihood of completing a degree and an individual’s future earnings. IWPR found that just 31% of single moms aged 25 and above possessed college degrees in 2015, compared to 54% of married female parents and 40% of women as a whole. Single moms also struggle with the financial ramifications of completing a degree, often graduating with significantly more debt than married students and/or those without children. Fortunately, a number of financial aid options exist to help lighten the burden for this group of learners. Keep reading to learn more about the services provided by schools to single parents pursuing psychology degrees.
Finding a Psychology Program as a Single Parent
Psychology Schools With Daycare Services
As of 2018, more than 1,500 colleges and universities in the U.S. provide some level of daycare services for students juggling school and parenting. Degree seekers looking to learn more about schools that provide childcare can review the comprehensive list hosted at EducationDepartment.org. Schools on this list include community colleges, public and private four-year institutions, vocational schools, teaching hospitals, and trade colleges. In addition to basic daycare services, many schools also provide mentoring for single parents, while others offer free meals for the children of students, specialized housing, and play areas. Prospective learners should check with schools directly to learn more. The following list highlights six schools that offer psychology degrees and on-campus childcare.
Austin Peay State University: Tennessee’s APSU is home to both a department of psychological science and counseling and the Little Govs Child Learning Center.
Getting a Psychology Degree Online
Finding a school with a respected psychology program and childcare facilities may appeal to some students, while others might prefer the flexibility allowed by pursuing a psychology degree online. Daycare services -- whether offered by a college or elsewhere -- typically cost money, and some learners do not have funds to cover these expenses. By completing an online program, degree seekers can spend more time at home with their kids. Aside from cutting costs for child-minding services, online students may also benefit from a less expensive degree path. Because many programs do not require mandatory campus visits, distance learners can avoid paying for things like parking, fuel, campus-based accommodations, and meal plans. However, many psychology programs do require students to complete an internship or practicum as a way to gain hands-on experience. These experiences usually last one semester. Fortunately, distance learners can usually locate an approved internship site near their home. Some students may find an internship location that provides childcare, while others may need to arrange short-term childcare services.
Other Tips for Single Parents Going to School for Psychology
Find Dependable Childcare: Whether it is your partner, parents, or an independent daycare center, finding reliable childcare is crucial. If a childcare provider cancels at the last minute it can throw off an entire day of school.
Surround Yourself with Support: The key to successfully earning a degree as a single parent lies in creating a network of support to encourage, empower, and provide assistance when you need a little extra help.
Exhaust Your Financial Aid Resources: College is expensive, especially for students taking care of more than just themselves. Before committing to any program, make sure to apply for a variety of financial aid including, including funds offered by federal, state, private, and institutional sources.
How to Pay for a Psychology Degree as a Single Parent
Paying for college presents challenges for most students. Thankfully, many options exist to help pay for a psychology degree. Check out this financial aid resource page for helpful tips and links to make the process easier.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form provided by the U.S. Department of Education that allows prospective students, including both distance learners and those planning to attend class on campus, to apply for a variety of federal grants, work-study funds, and loans for college. Many colleges and universities also use the information provided on the FAFSA to award institutional grants and scholarships. The federal government awards funds on a rolling basis, meaning students should turn in their applications as soon as possible once the submission period opens. For the current academic year, students can submit their applications online or through the mail starting on Oct. 1, 2018. The FAFSA deadline for this cycle is June 30, 2019. Because the FAFSA relies on information related to a student’s, or their parents’, tax information to disburse funds, students must fill out a new form every year.
To qualify for federal funding, applicants must be classified as a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the U.S., have a valid social security number, show proof of a high school diploma or GED certificate, demonstrate academic progress considered satisfactory, and enroll in an eligible program. DACA recipients and DREAMers do not qualify for federal funds, but organizations such as The Dream.US and Golden Door Scholars provide funding opportunities for these learners. To fill out the application form, students need several documents, including their tax returns. When single parents fill out this form, they need to ascertain whether they qualify as an independent or dependent student and make sure that they report any funds related to child support.
Types of Financial Aid Available to Single Parents
- Because students need not repay scholarships, the competition for this type of funding tends to be quite high. Scholarships come from many different places; colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, and many private foundations host scholarship programs to help learners. The monetary value of scholarships can range from supplemental awards that help pay for books to a full ride that covers tuition and room and board. Psychology students can also find niche scholarships related to their discipline.
- Much like scholarships, grants do not typically require repayment. Colleges and universities, federal and state governments, nonprofits, and companies all offer grants, with some awards open to all learners and others specifying a variety of qualifying factors. Some grants provide a one-time award, while others can be renewed for the length of a degree program if a student makes satisfactory progress and earns good grades.
- Federal Loans
- After exhausting all scholarship and grant opportunities, many students turn to federal loans to help cover the remaining costs associated with their degrees. The U.S. Department of Education provides loans to both undergraduate and graduate students. Individuals should target subsidized loans before using unsubsidized ones; the federal government pays the interest on subsidized loans as long as an individual is enrolled in school.
- Private Loans
- This type of funding source should be used as a last resort. As discussed by the U.S. Department of Education, private loans often require students to make payments while still in school. They may also use higher and variable interest rates and require an established credit history. Additionally, many private loans require a cosigner and do not offer any deferment or forbearance options if students suffer unexpected financial hardship.
More Ways for Single Parents to Save
Employer Tuition Assistance
In addition to the various funding opportunities mentioned in the previous section, some students may also qualify for employer tuition assistance. Employers participating in this plan provide up to $5,250 in tax-free educational assistance benefits that can be used toward undergraduate or graduate degree programs. Funds provided under this plan must be used for education or education-related expenses, including tuition and fees, books, materials, and supplies. However, costs associated with childcare cannot be covered by these funds. Before agreeing to accept employer tuition assistance, learners should ensure they understand all of the expectations held by their employer. For example, many employers require learners to earn certain grades throughout the program, while others may require an individual to pursue a particular path of study that adds value to the company. Some may also require students to continue working at the company for a certain number of years after graduating. If an employer does not provide tuition assistance, students can ask if this is something the company would consider.
An additional method to qualify for employer assistance for college is to work for a higher education institution. Many schools provide tuition discounts, and some even allow employees (regardless of their position) to enroll in a certain number of classes free of charge.
In a 2017 study by ChildCare Aware of America, researchers found that parents often pay more for center-based childcare than they do for college tuition. Many students struggle to pay the costs of tuition alone, and adding in expensive childcare can make college seem unreachable. Fortunately, a number of federal organizations offer grants to schools and low-income single parents to help cover some of the costs associated with childcare.
The U.S. Department of Education hosts the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS). Through this program, low-income single parents can benefit from discretionary grants that provide campus-based childcare at colleges and universities. These funds, although not available directly to students, go to higher education institutions to help establish childcare programs that serve children from low-income families. An institution of higher education qualifies to receive a grant under this program if the total amount of all federal Pell grant funds awarded to students enrolled at a school during the preceding fiscal year equals or exceeds $350,000. Schools can submit applications annually. Students should check with prospective schools to see if they offer a CCAMPIS program to help offset the cost of childcare.
According to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support report, the U.S. is home to more than 14 million single parents. Under rules established by the IRS, each of these parents qualifies for certain tax breaks.
Single parents who file as heads of households -- rather than as single or married -- usually pay a lower tax rate. To qualify, individuals must be unmarried and provide 50% or more toward the upkeep of their homes and children; only children who live with a parent for at least half the year qualify. Establishing your child as a qualifying dependent also cuts taxes, and expenses related to their support and upkeep can sometimes be written off. To qualify, individuals must be unmarried or separated for at least six months, pay at least 50% of a child’s support, and pass a custodial residency test. Dependent exemptions help offset tax burdens by as much as $1,000 if the parent files as the head of household and makes less than $75,000 annually. If an individual owes less than $1,000 in taxes, the IRS provides the remaining funds as a refund. Parents with children ages 12 or younger can also deduct childcare expenses, provided they have an income and/or enroll in school full time. Applicants must be at least 19 years old.
Scholarships for Single Parents Going to College
Who Can Apply: Provided by the Burlington Business and Professional Women’s Organization, this scholarship exists to help women who identify as single mothers pursue an education.
Amount: Up to $1,000
Who Can Apply: This scholarship targets single mothers attending Westminster College who demonstrate academic merit and plan to earn a graduate degree as a full-time student.
Who Can Apply: Single parents living in Arkansas who plan to use their degree to compete for higher salaries can apply for this award. Individuals apply based on their county of residence.
Who Can Apply: This award supports single parents with children ages 12 or under who live in the state of Vermont and can demonstrate financial need.
Who Can Apply: Women (ages 17 years and older) who have minor children can apply for this award. Applicants must come from a low-income family and be pursuing a vocational certificate, associate degree, their first bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctorate.
Amount: Up to $5,000
Who Can Apply: Low-income single parents residing in Rhode Island can apply for this award. Individuals who previously or currently receive state assistance or were previously incarcerated receive preference for funding.
Who Can Apply: Single mothers residing in Idaho qualify for this scholarship. Applicants must plan to take at least nine credits as an undergraduate or six credits as a graduate student and attend either Boise State University or the College of Western Idaho.
Who Can Apply: Students enrolled at Westminster College can apply to this award. Applicants must be a single parent or raised in a household with a single parent and demonstrate financial need.
Who Can Apply: Brigham Young University’s business school provides a number of scholarships aimed at single parents seeking to advance their skills by earning undergraduate or graduate degrees. Students must have custody of their children and maintain good academic standing. If a student marries while attending school, they can no longer receive funding.
Who Can Apply: Single parents residing in the Bay Area who demonstrate financial need, leadership history, community service, and high academic performance qualify for this award.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship targets single parents who have completed at least 16 college credits but have had their education interrupted for at least one year. Applicants must maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA and be classified as a single head of household.
Who Can Apply: Kentucky residents who identify as single parents and have a child under the age of 12 can apply for this award. Applicants must be working towards an associate degree at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College.
Who Can Apply: Single parents pursuing a career in banking or business administration at Holyoke Community College can apply for this reward. Applicants must be registered for at least nine credits and hold a minimum 2.35 GPA.
Who Can Apply: Full-time students accepted to Buffalo State University at the undergraduate or graduate level can apply for this award. Applicants must be a single parent and have a GPA of 3.25 or higher.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship targets Westminster College students who show financial need; preference is given to single parents. Applicants must be enrolled at least part time and hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher.