Completing a college degree while raising children is a monumental task, especially for single parents. Around 2.1 million students in the U.S., or 11% of all undergraduates, raised children without a partner in the 2011-2012 school year, according to a 2017 report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Researchers at the institute also found that women of color made up the largest group of single-parent students.
Single parents working toward a degree while raising children face unique challenges, including busier schedules and higher household expenses. These factors affect their rate of college attainment and lifetime earnings. Approximately 31% of single mothers aged 25 and above held a college degree in 2015, compared to 54% of married women and 40% of women overall.
Paying for college presents its own set of difficulties. Students must secure funding through their school or outside sources. Even with financial help, students can easily acquire debt. Single mothers are more likely to graduate with higher levels of debt than their married and childless counterparts. Fortunately, financial aid options can help ease student debt for single parents.
This guide outlines some helpful tips for choosing a program and ways to save money while completing a degree as a single parent. At the end of the page, you can find scholarship opportunities for parents in college.
Finding a Medical Assistant Certification Program as a Single Parent
Medical Assistant Certification Schools With Daycare Services
Students with children can locate on-campus services to help with day-to-day logistics and daycare. In fact, over 1,500 colleges and universities offer some form of childcare for students with children. EducationDepartment.org has compiled an extensive list of colleges, universities, and technical training schools that provide daycare services. Each school features a profile with pertinent contact information, student body statistics, and a list of available majors. Some of these programs offer daycare for children from about 30 months to 12 years old, while others only care for smaller age ranges, such as three to five years old.
Some schools offer additional services, such as mentoring for single parents and free meals for children of students on campus. Other possible amenities include pet care, reserved off-campus housing, sick child services, emergency backup, services, summer enrichment programs for children, and family workshops.
Minnesota West Community and Technical College: Available on the Granite Falls campus, the Puddle Jumpers Learning Center offers full-time childcare for children six weeks to six years of age.
Olney Central College: With space enough for 47 children, the Cozy Corners Care Center at Olney Central takes care of children two to 12 years of age.
Barton County Community College: This comprehensive daycare program takes care of children between the ages of two weeks and 12 years. The center uses group instruction to encourage participation, learning, and individual growth.
Cuyahoga Community College: Benefits Access/Project GO! Provides free childcare assistance to qualifying students. Services include food assistance, daycare, and health care needs.
Orange Coast College: The childcare center at Orange Coast focuses on quality education for children. The staff helps children develop a positive self-image. The center serves children ages six months to five years old.
Pasadena City College: The child development center at PCC cares for children four months to five years old. The center provides daily care, group activities, summer programs, and meals.
Getting a Medical Assistant Certification Degree Online
Single parents who wish to earn a college degree may benefit from enrolling in an online program. Many college and universities offer fully online degrees with no on-campus obligations. Since students can complete coursework from home, single parents can spend more time with their children and avoid paying for expensive childcare services. These programs also offer more flexible schedules than on-campus courses.
Online degrees often cost less than on-campus programs. Many schools offer discounts or in-state rates to distance learners. Online students also save money on transportation, parking fees, on-campus housing, and campus activity fees.
Many online programs require students to apply their skills through a hands-on internship or practicum. However, students can usually fulfill these requirements at a facility close to their home or workplace. Most medical assistant certificate programs require at least 160 hours working under the supervision of an experienced professional.
Other Tips for Single Parents Going to School for Medical Assistant Certification
Choose a Flexible Program: When researching medical assistant certification for single parents, you should seek out online programs with asynchronous course schedules. Asynchronous programs do not include scheduled meetings times or live lectures. In these cases, you can access course content whenever best suits your schedule.
Simplify Childcare: Contact your prospective school directly to find out about nearby childcare services. Even if no services are available on campus, your school may have a list of closeby facilities.
Follow the Money: After you receive your financial aid information for each prospective school, choose the most cost-efficient option that meets your academic goals and supports your career aspirations. Make sure you factor in any scholarships or grants.
How to Pay for a Medical Assistant Certification Degree as a Single Parent
When researching financial aid, you should first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Regardless of your income, age, or academic standing, the FAFSA can help you secure financial assistance such as grants and loans. Medical assistant certification single parents can visit this page for more information on financial aid opportunities.
The FAFSA ensures that you receive due consideration for federal student aid, including federal grants, work-study positions, and loans. Most students can complete the form in less than an hour. In addition to federal consideration, many states and colleges use your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for other forms of financial aid, including funding through colleges or private sources.
To fill out the FAFSA, you need your Social Security number, your parents’ Social Security numbers if you qualify as a dependent, your driver’s license number (if applicable), your alien registration number (if applicable), tax information, and your banking and savings information. For single parents who are unmarried or officially divorced, make sure to mark your marital status as it stands the day you fill out the form, even if you jointly filed as married the previous year.
You must fill out a FAFSA each year you are in school. The FAFSA opens on October 1 the year before you begin courses, and closes in June the following year. Individual states set more strict deadlines, usually several months before you begin courses. To estimate your eligibility for federal aid, use the FAFSA4caster. If you need help completing the FAFSA, consult this detailed, step-by-step outline.
Types of Financial Aid Available to Single Parents
- Scholarships: Scholarships can come from sources such as charities, foundations, colleges, the federal government, state governments, agencies, businesses, or private individuals. These funds help students pay for tuition, fees, and room and board. Some scholarships provide a one-time award, while others renew each semester or school year. Scholarship committees consider applicants based on several different factors, including major, GPA, ethnicity, community service involvement, and life circumstances. Students should conduct exhaustive searches for scholarships that meet their qualifications and experiences. Students do not need to pay back any portion of a scholarship.
- Grants: Unlike scholarships, grants assist students primarily based on financial need. Grants often come from the federal government, state government, colleges and universities, private foundations, and nonprofit organizations. Students can use grants for tuition, books, housing, and other school expenses. Students usually do not have to repay grants. However, recipients may need to repay some or all of the grant money if they violate terms, drop out of school, or receive other external funding.
- Federal Loans: Students must repay all of a student loan, plus any accrued interest. There are four types of federal loans: direct subsidized, direct unsubsidized, direct PLUS, and direct consolidation. Loans from the federal government often have lower interest rates and more flexible repayment schedules than private loans from banks or financial institutions. Most federal student loans do not need a cosigner, and do not consider borrowers’ credit. The federal government determines monthly payments based on the borrower’s income and family size. Subsidized loans do not accrue interest until borrowers graduate.
- Private Loans: After you explore scholarship, grant, and federal loan options, you may consider a private loan. This money can pay for school-related expenses such as electronics, room and board, and transportation. Students typically receive private loans through a bank or other financial institution. These institutions determine the loan amount and interest rate based on each student’s credit profile or cosigner’s credit. Students must apply for a new loan every school year and should enroll in school at least half time. Private loans typically charge higher interest rates and set stricter repayment plans than federal loans.
More Ways for Single Parents to Save
Employer Tuition Assistance
The IRS permits students to receive up to $5,250 in tax-free employer education assistance benefits each year. Employers may provide assistance beyond this amount, but additional funds are subject to taxation. Employee benefits may help pay for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment. However, these funds do not cover elective courses, hobbies, transportation, meals, or housing.
In order to find out if your employment offers tuition assistance or scholarships, contact the HR department. Many employers set minimum GPA requirements and other guidelines. Employers may also require employees to work for their company for a certain length of time after graduation. If you do not fulfill these requirements, you may have to repay your employer.
Single student parents may also qualify for working condition fringe benefits. In these cases, expenses above $5,250 can be tax-free if required by the employer or by law. These benefits include expenses to improve or maintain job-related skills in one’s current position.
For students with further financial need, colleges and universities may offer tuition waivers and reductions. This is money assists student employees such as assistant teachers or research assistants. Students may receive up to $5,250 in tax-free waivers. Students must report the award as taxable income if they use the money for living expenses. Schools may also offer benefits to dependents of employees.
Childcare expenses are one of the most significant hurdles for student parents. In fact, according to a recent study, the cost of center-based childcare exceeds the cost of tuition in many states. Luckily, childcare grants can assist most medical assistant certification student parents.
The Childcare Access Means Parents in School Program encourages schools to establish campus-based childcare services. These services should primarily serve the needs of low-income students with children. The school may also use these funds to support the childcare needs of the local community. Prospective students should search for schools that receive this grant or offer other affordable childcare services. Similarly, the Child Care and Development Fund helps states and tribes provide childcare services to low-income students.
Single parents usually qualify for tax breaks, mostly in the form of credits. Tax credits reduce the amount of income tax you have to pay each year. If you earn a gross income of below $75,000, you may qualify for a child tax credit of up to $1,000 for each child under the age of 17. Single parents who earn a low to moderate income may also take advantage of the earned income tax credit.
Parents who pay for a daycare center, babysitter, summer camp, or another care provider may qualify for the child and dependent care credit. This credit can cover up to 35% of your childcare expenses, or up to $3,000 for a child under 13 or with disabilities. Additionally, your employer may offer an exclusion for child care expenses up to $5,000. If your child attends a college or university, you may be able for additional tax credits.
The American opportunity credit, hope credit, and lifetime learning credit can offer around $2,000 for tuition and related expenses while you or your child attend school. Some stipulations may apply, based on your annual income.
Scholarships for Single Parents Going to College
Altrusa’s Olive Gillespie Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: This scholarship provides funds to women living or attending school in Warren County, Kentucky. Applicants must be sophomores, juniors, or seniors with a minimum GPA of 3.0. The scholarship committee prefers women over 30 years of age who are widowed, divorced, or single parents.
The LouEllen Dabbs Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants must major in business administration or banking, identify as a single parent, and register for a minimum of nine credits. Students should also have a 2.5 GPA or higher and demonstrate financial need.
Amount: up to $750
Brigham Young National Advisory Council
Who Can Apply: Offered by Brigham Young University, this scholarship rewards single parents in good standing at the Marriott School of Business.
Frances M. Dunn Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship assists single mothers in their second, third, or fourth year of college. Applicants should maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA.
Amount: $500 and up
The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be single mothers 17 years of age or older with demonstrated financial need. Candidates must attend a nonprofit accredited institution.
Ellen M. Cherry-Delawder Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Howard Community College provides funding to single parents with dependent children. The school prefers candidates majoring in a business-related field.
Who Can Apply: Specifically for students at the University of New Mexico, this scholarship rewards single parents in an undergraduate program. Applicants should have a competitive GPA and enroll in at least 12 on-campus credits.
Kats and Phillips Single Parents Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship provides assistance to single parents pursuing a law degree, attending a pre-law undergraduate program, or actively planning to attend law school.
The Kentucky Colonel’s Better Life Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Better Life Scholarship covers books, tuition, and other educational expenses for working single parents. Applicants must reside in Kentucky, demonstrate financial need, and attend school full time. Candidates’ children must be under the age of 12.
The Frank Kennedy Vernoy Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Although this scholarship assists all nontraditional students, the scholarship committee prefers single parents. Candidates should have a minimum 3.0 GPA and demonstrate financial need.
Ann and Peter Ziegler Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Central New Mexico Community College grants this scholarship to single parents majoring in the liberal arts. Candidates should enroll in at least nine credit hours and plan to transfer to a four-year institution.
Bruce and Marjorie Sundlun Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Sundlun Scholarship assists low-income single parents living in Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Foundation grants special consideration to parents who receive state assistance or were previously incarcerated.
Steven K. Wright Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship provides funding to single parents with financial need and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Candidates should enroll at least half-time in college.
Marie Ferraro Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Single parents at Buffalo State College may apply for this scholarship. Candidates should declare a major and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher. The scholarship assists both undergraduate and graduate students.
Capture the Dream Single Parent Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This award assists low-income single parents in the San Francisco Bay Area. Candidates must enroll in an undergraduate program at an accredited two-year or four-year institution.