The 20 Best Colleges for Single Parents

For many single parents, earning a college degree may seem like an insurmountable feat. Over a quarter of all undergraduate students in the U.S. are raising children while attending college; single mothers make up 43% of the student-parent population, while single fathers comprise 11%. Tuition can be expensive for any student, but for single parents, additional costs like child care and living expenses also factor into the price of higher education. But without a degree, single parents may struggle to find a fulfilling career that can support a family.

Fortunately, many schools have created programs that bring college help for single mothers by offering benefits like year-round family housing, child care, and academic support. Financial support is also crucial for single parents in college, which is why a growing number of grants and scholarships, vocational programs, and debt-reduction programs exist for low-income single parents to invest in their education. These 20 colleges have been especially accommodating in welcoming single parent families to campus.


Wilson College Chambersburg, PA

  • Number of scholarships awarded: 13 academic scholarships; five endowments to fund childcare for single parent students
  • Tuition cost: $23,745
  • Single parent programs: This school offers year-round, family-friendly, on-campus housing with childcare for students with children 20 months and older through the Single Parent Scholar Program. This also includes its own group activities, including family park trips; Wilson's 300-acre campus farm is home to the Wilson College Child Care Center.

Saint Paul's College Saint Paul, MN

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Two specifically for single parents
  • Tuition cost: $181.94 - $280.94 per credit hour
  • Single parent programs: Parents with children between two months and nine years old can participate in the Single Parent Support System Program, which provides tutorial assistance, faculty mentoring, and counseling services; the college also offers child care through the campus Child Development Center.

St. Catherine University Saint Paul, MN

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Varies
  • Tuition cost: $564 per credit (for RN to BSN nursing program for adult bachelor's students)
  • Single parent programs: St. Catherine's Access and Success Program assists student parents in finding local child care, food banks, housing, transportation, and mentoring, as well as locating specialty scholarship opportunities. The campus offers its own Early Childhood Center and Montessori program, babysitters, lactation rooms, and child-friendly study spaces with playrooms attached.

Texas Woman's University Denton, TX

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Three specifically for single parents
  • Tuition cost: $6,948
  • Single parent programs: The school is partnered with the Student Parents Also Raising Kids organization, which is designed to support non-traditional students as they earn a degree. This is just one of several programs to help single mothers, and is one of the only colleges that have daycare on campus. Students may network to create daycare partnerships within the SPARK organization.

Endicott College Beverly, MA

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Five specifically for single parents
  • Tuition cost: $30,612
  • Single parent programs: This school offers the four-year Keys to Degrees program, which provides academic, financial, and individual support to parents to help them find a balance between school and non-academic responsibilities. Students can live on campus year round and bring their children to on-campus study spaces.

Ferris State University Big Rapids, MI

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Varies
  • Tuition cost: $11,628
  • Single parent programs: Thanks to a grant from Endicott College in 2012, Ferris State University is able to offer programs to help single mothers with its own Keys to Degrees program. Through financial aid, educational events, and activities designed especially for families, students are able to participate in cultural and community activities while completing their degree.

Misericordia University Dallas, PA

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Varies
  • Tuition cost: $29,840
  • Single parent programs: As one of the colleges with family housing, this school offers one of only eight Women with Children college programs in the nation, providing single mothers who are students at Misericordia the opportunity to live in on-campus housing with their children year round, as well as to take advantage of on-campus childcare and family-oriented enrichment activities.

Mills College Oakland, CA

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Varies
  • Tuition cost: $44,322
  • Single parent programs: This school offers college help for single mothers by providing family housing on campus, as well as an emergency loan program that single parents may draw from as funds allow per term. Children of student-parents also enjoy priority enrollment in Mills' on-campus Children's School.

Smith College Northampton, MA

  • Number of scholarships awarded: The Ada Comstock Scholars Program
  • Tuition cost: $46,288
  • Single parent programs: Smith offers the Ada Comstock Scholars Program, which is designed to assist nontraditional college students in earning a degree. Recipients who are full- or part-time female students age 24 or older can enjoy reduced course loads, diverse housing options, and special academic advising.

Champlain College Burlington, VT

  • Number of scholarships awarded: The Single Parents Scholarship
  • Tuition cost: $39,718
  • Single parent programs: Champlain offers programs to help single mothers, including the comprehensive Single Parents Program, including workshops, resources, and services exclusively for single parents. The Single Parent Scholarship offers a "full ride" to qualified single parent students who are Vermont residents.

Brigham Young University Provo, UT

  • Number of scholarships awarded: The Single Parent Scholarship
  • Tuition cost: $276 per credit
  • Single parent programs: BYU is very welcoming of families of all kinds, providing support through the Non-Traditional Student program, which includes on-campus student housing opportunities and a scholarship through the Maurine R. and Joseph A. Humphris Fund for Single Parents.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst Amherst, MA

  • Number of scholarships awarded: The Custody X Change Single Parent Scholarship
  • Tuition cost: $14,171
  • Single parent programs: UMass-Amherst offers University Without Walls, a study option that makes it easy for single parents to find flexible classes. The university also awards two scholarships per year to qualifying students who are single parents through Custody X Change.

College of Saint Mary Omaha, NE

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Varies
  • Tuition cost: $28,964
  • Single parent programs: CSM is one of the colleges with family housing, offering the Mothers Living and Learning program, a residential housing option for single mothers and children. Each mother can bring up to two of her children to live on campus, and there are support options for the entire family, including large playrooms, community kitchens, and 24-hour security.

Berea College Berea, KY

  • Number of scholarships awarded: The Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Scholarship for single mothers
  • Tuition cost: $24,870
  • Single parent programs: Berea College's single parent student initiative includes free housing in the on-campus Ecovillage for students who are single parents and meet campus work-study requirements. The Ecovillage also provides childcare, transportation, parenting classes, and counseling services to single parents on campus.

Mount Holyoke College South Hadley, MA

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Varies
  • Tuition cost: $43,886
  • Single parent programs: The Frances Perkins Program at Mount Holyoke provides college help for single mothers, particularly women who are aged 25 and older, as well as female students of any age who are also caring for dependent children. Recipients receive financial aid, flexible study scheduling options, and community-building activities with other single mothers on campus.

Baldwin Wallace University Berea, OH

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Varies
  • Tuition cost: $29,908
  • Single parent programs: BWU's SPROUT program provides residential housing options for single parents and their children, offering year-round campus housing in a group living environment. The school also offers assisted child care and personal development programs. SPROUT parents may also qualify for special financial aid.

University of Iowa Iowa City, IA

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Varies
  • Tuition cost: $8,104
  • Single parent programs: The University of Iowa campus is family friendly, offering extensive resources, including campus housing, childcare, and career counseling to students who are also new parents. Of particular interest to mothers is Iowa's easy access to more than 30 different lactation rooms on campus, complete with scheduling options and even hospital-grade pumps.

Minnesota State University Mankato, MN

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Four specifically for single parents
  • Tuition cost: $7,836
  • Single parent programs: In addition to four unique scholarships reserved for single parents at MSU, single mothers who previously dropped out of school can find a second chance through the Mary Jane Scholarship for Re-Entry Women, which is exclusive to parents who have delayed their education due to family issues.

Eastern Michigan University Ypsilanti, MI

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Varies
  • Tuition cost: $10,417
  • Single parent programs: Students who are single parents at EMU may be eligible for the Keys to Degrees Program, which is one of the college programs for single mothers that provides a supportive single-parent community. It includes a babysitting cooperative and emotional and academic support within the campus living environment, helping to offset child care and counseling costs.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Eau Claire, WI

  • Number of scholarships awarded: Six specifically for single parents
  • Tuition cost: $8,822
  • Single parent programs: The university supports the education efforts of single parents through numerous dedicated scholarships, collectively awarding thousands of dollars each year to qualifying students. Many are renewable for multiple consecutive terms.

Paying for College as a Single Parent

While paying for college can be challenging, there are a variety of college programs for single mothers, including financial aid options to help offset the costs of earning a degree. Single parents pursuing higher education are often faced with a greater need for financial aid than traditional students, with childcare, housing, and additional living expenses factoring into their school considerations. Grants, or gifted awards that do not have to be repaid, are available through federal, state, and private funding and are especially sought-after by single parents. They can also help to reduce student debt and minimize the necessity for risky student loans overall.

As a single parent, you may be eligible for a number of different types of specialized financial aid. Depending on your individual circumstances and the types of aid available through your school of choice, awards can range from a small stipend to a full scholarship. The terms and conditions of the award may also change from year to year. Additionally, some colleges and universities offer one dedicated single-parent scholarship, while others offer numerous aid opportunities with more general eligibility requirements that simply include single parents among all non-traditional student types. The following are just some of the many grants and scholarships available to single parents:

  • Capture the Dream Scholarship: This scholarship, specifically for minorities and single parents, is awarded to low-income Bay Area residents who are single parents enrolled in a two- or four-year college program. The deadline is June 30 for this $1,000 award.
  • Kentucky Colonel's Better Life Scholarship: Each year, at least one single-parent student at each of the 16 districts under Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College is awarded $2,500 to assist them in completing an associate degree through full-time study. The deadline for this scholarship is March 1.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant: This federal grant is awarded to undergraduate students of low-income status with "exceptional need, " or the lowest Expected Family Contributions (EFCs) who are also Federal Pell Grant recipients. Deadlines vary; awards range from $100-$4,000 per year.
  • BYU Marriott School Single Parent Scholarship: BYU's Marriott business school awards this scholarship to current students who are single mothers and fathers with custody of dependent children. The deadline is March 1 for this scholarship, in varying amounts.
  • Park Foundation Scholarship: New York's Tompkins Cortland Community College awards the Park Scholarship to one single male and one single female full-time student each year; each must be head of their respective households with dependent children. The deadline varies for this $2,000 award.

To determine the best colleges for single parents, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school's commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the top 20 colleges for single parents. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school's ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category's ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.

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