While paying for school in this day and age can be challenging for any demographic group, single mothers are in a class of their own when it comes to grant support for higher education. Single mothers are among the groups most affected by the downturn of the economy in the last decade, with unemployment rates at 7.6%, which is higher than the national average.

Further causing financial strain is that the collective income of single mothers has been reduced by 6%. Many students who are single mothers are dually burdened with school and work demands, unable to afford childcare costs and hold a full-time job while attending college classes.

This is where need-based grants for single moms come in, to help adult and returning students who are single mothers from low-income households to overcome the financial challenges of pursuing a college education. Grants are available from a variety of federal, corporate, and nonprofit funding sources, and do not have to repaid.

If you are single mother, you may qualify for a number of different grant types, depending on your circumstances. The amount of funding you can receive from need-based grants or scholarships for single moms can vary considerably, ranging from as little as $100 to full tuition coverage. Depending on the sources of the free grants for single moms, award amounts may also change from year to year. Additionally, some colleges and universities offer separate tuition discounts for single mothers.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for school grants for single moms, you will need to verify that you are a single parent by demonstrating head-of-household status with at least one dependent under the age of 18 on your most recent federal tax return. You will likely also need to document your income and financial need by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), particularly if you are applying for a government-funded scholarship or grant.

Though specific requirements vary according to program, your federal tax-filing status can be used as a general guide for this process: if you are divorced, or not married but living in a state that recognizes common-law partnerships, a good rule of thumb is to submit the same filing status and income information on both your tax return and grant application.

Private grants for single mothers typically prioritize applicants with the greatest financial need. Some grants may simply include single mothers in their range of eligible applicants, among other requirements, such as being over a certain age, being a returning student, or planning to pursue a degree in an in-demand field. Although many of the following examples are called “scholarships,” they function as need-based college grants for single moms as well as scholarships for single moms, which are both gifted funds based on financial need.


List of Grants for Single Moms

Ann and Peter Ziegler Scholarship

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  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: Varies

Funded by the CNM Foundation, this is one of the grants for single moms students can consider. It is a scholarship available to liberal arts majors who are single mothers at Central New Mexico Community College and who plan to transfer to a four-year program upon completion of their two-year degree.

Burlington Business and Professional Women's Organization Science and Technology Scholarship

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  • Amount: $500-1,000
  • Deadline: June 30, 2017

One of many programs funded by the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC), this scholarship was developed to assist women in advancing their careers in science and technology fields. Awards are granted to recipients who reside in select Vermont counties and are female, single heads-of-household college students.

Deanna Forbush Endowed Scholarship

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  • Amount: $600
  • Deadline: January 30, annually

Created in 2007 and offered by Utah’s Westminster School, the Forbush Endowed Scholarship is awarded to two single mothers each year. To qualify for one of these grants for single mothers, applicants must be full-time students with a strong academic record and who plan to attend graduate school.

Dr. Dean and Helen S. Christensen Endowed Scholarship

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  • Amount: $1,800
  • Deadline: January 30, annually

Established in 1995 at Utah’s Westminster College, this scholarship is awarded to female undergraduate nursing students who are also single parents. Additionally, the applicant must maintain at least a 2.50 GPA and full-time enrollment to qualify for the award.

Education Support Award

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  • Amount: Up to $5,000
  • Deadline: Varies

In 2017, the Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation will award five grants to low-income mothers pursuing a skills training program, vocational or associate degree, or first bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree.

Frances M. Dunn Memorial Scholarship

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  • Amount: Up to $500
  • Deadline: Varies

Established by the children of Frances Dunn in the name of furthering leadership in religious education, the Dunn Memorial Scholarship is awarded to a non-traditional single mother in an independent studies program at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Recipients of one of these grants for single mothers must be non-freshman students in their sophomore, junior, or senior year of study, and must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA.

Katherine A. Ellis Scholarship

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  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: January 30, annually

Established in 2015, the Ellis Scholarship is awarded to female students who are enrolled full time in an accounting program at Westminster College in Utah; preference is given to single mothers who demonstrate financial need.

Michael S. and Jeffrey C. Hagler Scholarship Fund

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  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: April 1, annually

Funded by the Idaho Community Foundation, the Hagler Scholarship is awarded to a single mother and non-traditional student who is planning to enroll in a degree or certificate program at Boise State University or College of Western Idaho. Preference may be given to veterans.


Soroptimist International of Washington, DC - Women's Opportunity Award

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  • Amount: $2,000
  • Deadline: November 15, 2017

With a mission to improve the lives of women and girls, Soroptimist offers a cash award that aims to support education or training attainment by gifting it to women who want to make a positive change to the community and world. They also focus on women who are working to better their lives through further education and training.

The ANSWER Scholarship Endowment

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  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: March 3, 2017

Offered by the Foundation for the Carolinas, the ANSWER endowment is offered to female students who are at least 25 years of age and are raising at least one child in grades K-12. Eligible applicants must be planning to pursue a first-time, four-year degree or a two-year nursing or healthcare degree at a not-for-profit college or university in Mecklenburg or surrounding counties.

Tony and Ann Merritt Single Mother Scholarship

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  • Amount: $1,350
  • Deadline: January 30, annually

Westminster College in Utah offers the Merritt Single Mother Scholarship to female students who are single parents or who were raised in a household with a single parent, and who demonstrate financial need. Applicants may be enrolled in part-time or full-time study. *Eligibility is also open to male students who meet the above requirements.


General Grants for Single Parents

Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund

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  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: Varies

The ASPSF provides financial assistance through grants for single mothers or fathers, focusing on economically challenged single parents in Arkansas who are pursuing a college or training program to help improve their income. Eligibility is extended to Arkansas residents, as well as those living in Bowie, Texas (within Miller County, AR.)

Bernice Murray Scholarship

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  • Amount: $2,000
  • Deadline: June 1, 2017

The Bernice Murray Scholarship is one of the scholarships for single mothers available to Vermont residents who are planning to attend an undergraduate or graduate program for more than six credit hours. The recipient must be a high school senior or older and a single parent of at least one child under age 12.

Bruce and Marjorie Sundlun Scholarship

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  • Amount: Around $1,500
  • Deadline: May 12, 2017

The Rhode Island Foundation funds the Sundlun Scholarship, which is awarded to low-income residents of Rhode Island who are single parents seeking a college education. Preference is given to applicants who previously received state aid or were previously incarcerated.

BYU Marriott School Single Parent Scholarship

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  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: March 1, 2017

BYU’s Marriott School Single Parent Scholarship is open to single mothers and fathers with custody of dependent children who are admitted into a Marriott School program. Once married, applicants are no longer eligible for this award.

Capture the Dream, Inc. Single Parent Scholarship

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  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: June 30, 2017

The Capture the Dream scholarship is designed to increase higher learning opportunities and access for minorities and single parents. This is one of the many scholarships for single moms awarded to low-income single parents who will enroll in a two- or four-year college program in the fall term. Applicants must be Bay Area residents.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

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  • Amount: between $100 and $4,000 per year
  • Deadline: Varies

The Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant is a federal grant awarded to low-income undergraduate students with “exceptional need” for educational financial assistance (i.e. those with the lowest Expected Family Contributions, or EFCs, and who are also Federal Pell Grant recipients.)

Kentucky Colonel's Better Life Scholarship

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  • Amount: $2,500
  • Deadline: March 1, 2017

Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College offers scholarships for single mothers through the Better Life Scholarship, which is given to at least one student at each of the college’s 16 Kentucky-area districts. Applicants must be a single, working parent with at least one dependent under age 12 and enrolled full time in an associate degree program.

LouEllen Dabbs Scholarship

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  • Amount: $750
  • Deadline: March 22, 2017

Holyoke Community College Foundation sponsors the LouEllen Dabbs Scholarship, which is awarded to students in business, banking and finance programs at Massachusetts’ Holyoke Community College, and who are also single parents. Applicants must be enrolled in at least nine credits within such a program and have a GPA of at least 2.35 to qualify.

Park Foundation Scholarship

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  • Amount: $2,000
  • Deadline: Varies

This grant, offered by New York’s Tompkins Cortland Community College, awards two full-time students each year, one single male and one single female, who are head of their respective households with dependents. Applicants must be a custodial parent and demonstrate financial need.


The High Cost of Childcare

Paying for childcare while pursuing a degree is a common hardship for students with children, driving up the need for scholarships for single mothers. However, many are unaware of just how significant a cost this can be. While traditional, full-time college students obtaining a degree already face high price tags for tuition and fees, college students who are also single mothers must allocate additional funds for childcare expenses on top of those required for their education. And, like college, there is no affordable substitute for cutting corners when it comes to such an investment.

Unfortunately, childcare costs are not expected to diminish anytime soon: recent studies show that especially in urban areas across the U.S., childcare costs are climbing. In Washington, D.C., the cost of center-based care for two children is a whopping 161% of a single parent’s income. While some single moms can rely on friends and family members for free or low-cost childcare, this is not possible for everyone and may not be sustainable even for those who do have their own childcare support system outside of a center or other public facility. Even at a much lower rate, childcare remains unaffordable in places like South Dakota, where single parents can still expect to spend nearly a quarter of their income on center-based childcare costs for one child.

Much attention has been paid to the exorbitant costs of attending college in this day and age, but a recent study suggests that childcare outspends even this investment: in 33 states, infant childcare is more expensive than college tuition. Generally, minimum-wage earners must spend two-thirds of their income to afford full-time childcare in the U.S. In four states — Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, and Wisconsin — full-time childcare is more expensive than the median monthly rent.

The Reward for Investing in Education

While single mothers may face more challenges than the average college student, they are eligible for the same perks post-graduation, not the least of which is the potential for a higher income. College graduates earn significantly more than those without a college degree. In 2013, the pay gap between four-year college graduates and non-college graduates reached a record high, with college-educated workers earning an average of 98% more per hour than those without a degree. As early as the 1980s, this same statistic measured only 64%.

Not only do college-educated students hold an earnings advantage in the workforce over those with only a high school diploma, they can also expect to have access to more high-paying jobs in the first place. The unemployment rate for 25 to 34-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree was just 3% in 2014.

The path toward advanced, higher-paying career opportunities is higher education. While four-year degree holders typically see the most “bang for the buck” or return on investment when it comes to undergraduate employment and earnings, both associate and bachelor’s degrees can open up a variety of career opportunities, including those that pay a higher wage. Over a 40-year career, a bachelor’s degree holder can expect to earn 66% more than a typical high school graduate; a graduate of an associate program or two-year degree earns roughly 24% more than their high school-educated counterparts over a lifetime.

In this post-recession economy, and with a growing number of grants and scholarships for single moms available, the rewards of earning a college degree far outweigh the pitfalls for single parents on the road toward furthering their station in life for themselves and their families.