Attending College as a Student-Parent

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A college degree can help people advance or start their career. For parents, however, beginning or returning to school comes with unique challenges. Student-parents must juggle childcare with coursework. They carry greater financial responsibilities than peers without children. Often, student-parents must work extra jobs to support themselves and their children while earning their degree.

This guide lists some common college-provided resources for student-parents. It also offers tips for student-parents to help make their transition to college smoother.

What Makes a College Student-Parent Friendly?



Student-parents’ different situations often present different needs. Many colleges offer diverse resources for student-parents so all can find help. Student-parent friendly schools often feature the resources and programs listed below.

Women and Children Support Programs

Some colleges offer specific support programs for student-mothers and their children. Such programs might include an office to help mothers find childcare, housing, and medical care. Programs may offer financial aid that takes student-parents’ living expenses into consideration, without attached work requirements.

Students should ask prospective schools’ financial aid offices about the availability of such financial support. Degree-seekers should also check school websites for a resource and referral office.

Family Friendly Housing

Many student-parents struggle to find affordable housing near campus for themselves, their children, and possibly their partner. Fortunately, some colleges offer family friendly housing. At these schools, student-parents and their families enjoy sufficient space, privacy, and independence. Family friendly housing lets student-parents actively participate in their school’s community.

The Campus Family Housing Database identifies colleges offering family friendly housing. Students can search the comprehensive database by state.

Child Development Programs and Facilities

Some colleges offer inexpensive or free on-campus childcare facilities. College childcare facilities can make a huge difference for student-parents facing heavy financial and time constraints. On-campus childcare centers also allow student-parents to build community and access other resources.

Student-parents should identify themselves early in the application process to discover what childcare facilities prospective schools offer. Degree-seekers should search schools’ websites for information on childcare programs and contact those programs directly.

Parent/Family Support Services

Some colleges offer additional support services to make their campuses as family friendly as possible. These services might include a designated student-parent center that hosts events like play groups or clothing swaps. Other services could include community-building resources for student-parents, such as online discussion forums or organized social events.

Students should check colleges’ websites to see what other resources for student-parents they offer.

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Preparing to Go Back to School



Pursuing a degree while parenting poses many challenges. With advance planning and awareness of resources for student-parents, degree-seekers with children can achieve their goals. This section covers several factors that student-parents should consider when preparing to return to school.

Choose a School or Program that Fits Your Needs

Student-parents must consider how a school or program fits into their lives. An online program’s flexibility and convenience benefits student-parents. Childcare is less of an obstacle for distance learners. They can complete coursework from home in the evenings while their children sleep.
Students planning to attend school in-person should look into college childcare and family friendly housing.

Programs offering flexible schedules make going to school easier for student-parents. Traditional class times often conflict with work or childcare.

Get an Advisor
Advisors serve as advocates for students and help them map out their entire college journey. An advisor who understands specific student-parent challenges can help connect degree-seekers to valuable resources for student-parents. These include resources both on and off campus, such as financial aid, medical care, and college childcare.

Colleges often assign students an advisor based on the student’s major. However, students may request a different advisor, from either inside or outside of their program.

Apply for Financial Assistance

Many scholarships exist specifically to help student-parents cover tuition, childcare, and living expenses. Financial assistance makes life much easier for student-parents who would otherwise need to balance coursework with a full-time job.

Students can search for relevant scholarships online, including the Working Parent College Scholarship Award and the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund. Please note that example scholarships may be closed or past their deadline for the current application cycle. All students should also apply for federal student aid by completing the FAFSA.

Finding Childcare Support



Student-parents benefit from various childcare service options while earning their degree. Many schools offer their own college childcare and early childhood education programs on campus. This section covers different childcare support options available to student-parents, and how to find them.


  • College Campus Care Programs

    Some colleges offer campus care programs, where degree-seekers’ children can learn and play in a safe environment. Campus care staff typically work as early childhood educators. Many programs serve as research and volunteer sites for university students and faculty. This allows schools to provide services to student-parents at a very low cost. Examples include the University of Florida’s Baby Gator program and The University of New Mexico Children’s Campus.

    Students should check a college’s website or ask their advisor to see if the school offers such a program.


  • Local Babysitter Programs

    College students without children often seek part-time or occasional babysitting jobs. On-campus bulletin boards and colleges’ online job boards often advertise many local babysitting services.

    Some schools facilitate the search for local babysitters. St. Catherine University features a directory of student babysitters in its designated child-friendly study room. Student-parents can contact potential babysitters, interview them, and agree on a fair rate.


  • Childcare Access Means Parents in Schools

    The federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS) helps colleges provide childcare services to Pell-grant-eligible, low-income student-parents. The services might include on-campus childcare or subsidies to pay for childcare elsewhere. Some program grants include parenting coaching and require students to meet certain academic requirements. Degree-seekers should see their college’s website for information on applying for CCAMPIS grants.


  • Childcare Resource and Referral Services

    Colleges without their own childcare services might refer student-parents to other subsidized childcare resources. Referrals help student-parents find reliable, vetted childcare providers in their community.

    Eatern Illinois University’s Child Care Resource and Referral office lets student-parents call a toll-free number to reach a childcare specialist. The specialist provides information on childcare options and financial assistance. Review prospective schools’ websites for such a referral office and contact them directly.


Resources for the Single-Parent


  • Single Parent Alliance & Resource Center SPARC offers tools and resources for single parents and their children, including classes, workshops, and social events. Students can benefit from building new skills and joining a community of other single parents.
  • Single Mothers by Choice SMC offers support and community to its members via an online forum, a blog, a newsletter, and events. Female-identifying single student-parents, or those considering becoming mothers without a partner, can benefit from meeting others in their position.
  • Single Mother Guide This resource provides information on financial assistance available for single mothers, including college grants, food stamps, and Medicaid. Students can search for types and amounts of assistance available in their state.
  • Rental Assistance for Single Mothers This site offers a directory of grants that help single mothers with major expenses, such as rent. Such financial assistance makes pursuing a degree affordable for students with children.
  • Helping Hands for Single Moms This organization provides educational and financial assistance to single mothers attending college in Dallas or Phoenix. Students can benefit from resources including scholarships, legal counsel, tutoring, and emergency funds.
  • Single Dad This site offers resources for single fathers, including advice on parenting, legal issues, and dating. Students can benefit from an online social network connecting them to a community of other single fathers.

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