You can go to college as a Solo Mom with small children!
Making the choice to go to college is not an easy one for Solo Moms, but there are many women like you who are attending. A 2014 Institute for Women’s Policy Research study revealed that 4.8 million college students are raising kids, and 43% of them (about two million) are Solo Moms. But figuring out which school can accommodate your needs might be tricky, especially if you have younger children who require day care. If you’re lucky enough to have family, older children, or a reliable support network to help you, then your options for colleges can be far-reaching.
Although most Solo Moms might not want to consider moving to a new location to start school, it might be a better option (depending on the degree you are choosing) to pursue a local college that can accommodate your child-care needs.
Whichever scenario you are in or considering, here is a list of the best colleges with day-care centers in various parts of the United States that also provide a supportive environment for Solo Moms and their children:
1. Wilson College. Located three hours west of Philadelphia in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, this small, private college surprisingly has a wide range of academic programs with 31 majors and 41 minors, from English and veterinary studies to graphic design and nursing. It has undergraduate and graduate courses, including a Single Parent Scholar Program for full-time students who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree. The program includes on-campus housing year-round to Solo Moms and their children who are between 20 months and 12 years of age. The college also has full-time on-campus day care for children between 20 months and five years of age.
The local area elementary schools and high schools are in short driving distance, and although the school isn’t incredibly ethnically or culturally diverse, if you’re looking for a bucolic educational experience with an active college life, this is it.
2. Purdue University Northwest. Ranked the best university in the country for students with children, this Midwestern school offers students child care on its Northwest campus (there are two campuses—the other is Calumet) for children ages two to five at $2.25 per hour for the first child and $1.50 per hour for each additional child. The university is set in Hammond, Indiana, which is part of the Chicago metropolitan area. You read that correctly! It is an hour from Chicago’s city center. With 70 major academic programs, you can have a midsized-university experience near a diverse metropolis. The university also has 150 two- to three-bedroom apartments off campus for families.
3. University of Florida. If you are interested in the big-school college experience that television shows are made of, the University of Florida is the eighth largest campus university in the United States. Even though athletics are big on this campus, your child(ren) would be cared for in the Baby Gator Child Development Centers, where they have trained educators supporting the cognitive, behavioral, and developmental needs of your child. For children with a diagnosed disability, they work with therapists, special-education teachers, and physicians to make sure their needs are addressed. The center also gives priority to children with special needs. For Solo Moms who are immigrants, the university also has a robust English-Language Learning program with a mission of giving comprehensive support for students. Additionally, Gainesville, Florida, is low on the cost of living index, so you will be able to go food shopping with ease.
4. University of Washington. U-Dub, as it is lovingly called, takes its student parents seriously by having three University of Washington Children’s Centers (and an additional one at its Medical Center for medical students) offering child care. It also offers funds through its Child Care Assistance Program for lower income Solo Moms. The school has a Student Parent Resource Center so that you can connect to other students who understand the challenge of parenting while studying. The university also has lactation stations and child stations located throughout its three campuses in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell, depending on your area of study. This large public university has more than 50,000 students, and its focus is on diversity and sustainability.
5. Chadron State College. If you’re looking for a tiny, low-cost public college, this school in Chadron, Nebraska, is it. A part of the University of Nebraska State College System, it offers a series of degrees in areas such as health education, journalism, and social work. The population of Chadron from the 2010 U.S. census is 5,851 with approximately 3,000 students attending the school. This is a small, rural, agricultural community. The school has nationally accredited, natural and inclusive early childhood program with a day-care center for children between the ages of two and nine. The school also has before-school and after-school programs for school-aged children as well as low-cost campus housing for families with two-bedroom apartments for as little as $507 per month.
6. New Mexico State University (NMSU). Located in Las Cruces, New Mexico, this school is one of five schools in the University of New Mexico system. It provides child care through Myrna’s Children’s Village, which provides care and education including a Head Start program through the NMSU School for Young Children, which in turn provides care for children as young as six weeks old—great for new Solo Moms wanting to tackle the challenge of school while caring for a newborn. The university also has weekend and evening courses for Solo Moms who work and bilingual educational programs. The climate is temperate and the cost of living is low, so if you want a change of scenery and pace, NMSU might be a good choice for you.
7. Berea College. Set in the Appalachian region in Kentucky, this microcollege (only 1,600 students) is a unique institution with a focus on “learning, labor, and service.” All students receive a Tuition Promise Scholarship that covers 100% of tuition costs, which works out to nearly $100,000. The school has a day care on campus that serves as a learning laboratory for students, so a Solo Mom attending this school would also receive free housing in the school’s Ecovillage. This means that you could potentially have little to no debt upon graduating from college. All students work on campus approximately 10 hours per week as part of the educational experience, as the school places an emphasis on community. The school offers 28 bachelor-degree programs to choose from, including African American studies, technology, and applied design. Since it’s a small school, the admissions process is extremely competitive. Apply early!
Even though going back to school will require a lot of planning, it can be done. Reach out to college admissions counselors or chat with other Solo Moms to find out how they did it. Whether you are choosing to go to college for economic reasons or start a new career path to have better work-life balance, investing in yourself is worth it.
Tanisha Christie is an interdisciplinary performing artist and filmmaker. After years of working at the nexus of arts, media, social justice, and healing, she is currently finishing her master of social work (clinical specialization) at Hunter College in New York City. A child of a Solo Mom, she loves to ride her bike to the beach.
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