Guide for Counselor Students With Children

A report issued by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2017 found that 2.1 million, or 11%, of undergraduate students in the U.S. during the 2010-2011 academic year were single parents. Women of color were most likely to raise children without a partner, and single parents were less likely to complete their college degrees than married students. In 2015, 31% of single mothers 25 years and older held college degrees compared to 54% of married mothers and 40% of women overall.

The time and economic pressures single parents endure helps explain their lower degree completion rate. These factors also adversely impact their academic performance and the length of time it takes to graduate. Single parents are likely to hold a higher level of debt as a result of postsecondary study, and a majority of single parents work during their time as a college or university student. Single parents pursue degrees at online, for-profit institutions at three times the rate of women without children, but at a greater level of unmet economic need. These factors contribute to why many two-year degree seekers are likely or very likely to drop out of school due to their parental obligations.

Financial aid opportunities for single parents can help mitigate economic pressures. There are scholarships available to single-parent students as well as grants and tax breaks that can ease the financial burdens of postsecondary study. Many schools also offer daycare services to students.

Finding a Counselor Program as a Single Parent

Counselor Schools With Daycare Services

Colleges and universities around the country offer childcare services for students with children. Schools may provide daycare through a child development or family resource center, as part of the student service programs on campus, or in conjunction with local city or county agencies. Depending on the school, students with infants, toddlers, and school-aged youths are often eligible to have their children on campus while they attend classes or extracurricular activities. These services are free or offered at a reduced rate for students who meet specific documentation and enrollment requirements.

With more than 1,500 on-campus childcare options available, students with children can also take advantage of services available to parents. Tutoring, parenting support groups, lactation rooms, and parent-child activities give students a chance to develop their parenting skills, find academic and personal support, and attend classes with greater ease and convenience. Students often develop groups of their own, forming a community of parents on campus.

Montana State University: The Office of Student Engagement at Montana State University offers childcare and preschool facilities at the Bozeman campus. Children of faculty, staff, and students between the ages of two-and-a-half years and kindergarten are eligible.

University of Utah: The Center for Child Care and Family Resources at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City is home to daycare, healthcare, and financial assistance for faculty, staff, and students.

University of Wisconsin-Madison: The Office of Child Care and Family Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Madison provides on-campus childcare services, financial assistance, parent-support facilities, and parent and family events.

University of Kansas: The Hilltop Childcare Development Center at the University of Kansas’ main campus in Lawrence offers tuition subsidies for students at the University. Childcare is available for infants, toddlers, and school-aged children.

University of Florida: Students with children enrolled at the University of Florida have access to lactation rooms and childcare through the Alachua County Childcare Centers, as well as the school’s Baby Gator Child Development Centers.

Virginia Commonwealth University: Virginia Commonwealth University’s Child Development Center provides childcare to faculty, staff, and students at a discounted rate.

Getting a Counselor Degree Online

Online counseling degrees provide a flexible, convenient option for students who are single parents. Students can take coursework on a part-time schedule that best fits with the time pressures of parenting and with their job or career schedules. By completing coursework and other degree requirements from home, students with children do not have to worry about finding and paying for childcare. Students with children also have fewer transportation costs, such as commuting and parking, and do not need to worry about finding accommodations for families or children on campus.

Counseling programs often require students to complete practicums or internships. During these periods, students with children may need to find childcare. Contact your school to learn more about your eligibility for financial assistance through grant and scholarship programs to subsidize childcare expenses.

Other Tips for Single Parents Going to School for Counselor

  • Find Local Support: Single parents should reach out to friends and family to help them as they complete their degree. Students with children may also look to community centers and nonprofit agencies for assistance and support while they earn a counseling degree.
  • Develop A Routine: Single-parent students in counseling programs should establish a routine that works for them and their children. By establishing clear boundaries and an effective time management schedule, students with children can best meet the demands of their degree.
  • Talk To Your Children: Single parents should talk to their children about going to school. By explaining to children what a degree requires, your goals, and even your individual classes, parents can include their children in the academic process.

How to Pay for a Counselor Degree as a Single Parent

To pay for a counseling degree as a single parent, students need to explore possible financial aid options. By taking advantage of federal loans, grants, and scholarships; local aid and funding; and private resources, students can keep their debt in control.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is open to all college, career and technical school, and graduate school applicants. By submitting a FAFSA, students are automatically eligible for federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans, grants, scholarships, and work study. Many states and individual schools also use the FAFSA to assess financial need. All students should submit a FAFSA.

Students can submit a FAFSA each year for the following academic year, but there are different deadlines for FAFSA programs within the year. You should submit your FAFSA application as early as possible to ensure you are considered for all potential funding opportunities. If you have questions, financial aid officers at college and universities provide assistance and guidance on the application process.

Students must submit a FAFSA online and include their personal and financial information. Students need their Social Security number; their parents’ Social Security numbers (if they are dependents); driver’s license information; federal tax history for themselves and parents (as appropriate); untaxed income declarations; and information on cash, bank accounts, and investments. Eligible non-citizens will need to submit alien registration and foreign tax information. Single parents should note custodial status, child-support payments, estimated income contributions, and any welfare or governmental assistance they receive.

Types of Financial Aid Available to Single Parents

Scholarships: Scholarships are awarded through federal, state, and local agencies; by individual schools, colleges, and departments; or by private entities, companies, and organizations. Guidelines and requirements for scholarships vary significantly. Some scholarships are awarded based on financial need while others are athletic, academic, or talent based. Many scholarships are career- or subject-specific as well. Scholarship awards are not subject to repayment and are often renewable by the recipient for more than one academic year.

Grants: Grants are awarded based on financial need as identified through a student’s FAFSA. Undergraduates are eligible for broadly awarded federal grants like the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, while others -- such as the The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grant -- require students to take specific courses and pursue a career in a high-need field. Colleges and private entities may also offer grants according to specific criteria. Grants are not repaid unless the recipient has not met one of the requirements, their financial need has changed, or they have changed enrollment status.

Federal Loans: Federal loans offered through the Direct Federal Loan program are subsidized or unsubsidized. Undergraduates can receive a need-based subsidized loan that the government pays interest on as long as they are enrolled at least half time in an academic program. Graduate students are not eligible for subsidized loans, but both undergraduate and post-undergraduate students can accept unsubsidized loans. Unsubsidized loans are not need based and begin accruing interest as soon as money is distributed. Graduate and professional students are also eligible for PLUS loans to cover additional expenses. All students can pursue federal loan consolidation as well.

Private Loans: Students can get private loans through banks and other lenders. Private loans are not subsidized and begin to accrue interest immediately. They may require immediate repayment as well, but some lending institutions defer payments until after a student graduates. Interest rates for private loans are usually higher than those attached to federal loans and may have additional fees and conditions. Students often need an established credit history or a cosigner to take out a private loan. Private loans are not subject to federal loan consolidation.

More Ways for Single Parents to Save

Employer Tuition Assistance

Tuition assistance programs offered to employees provide economic support for workers who continue on to a degree program or coursework in an area related to their current position. Employer-sponsored tuition assistance provides incentive to employees while offering employers an opportunity to train their workers. To receive tuition assistance, employees may need to maintain a certain grade or grade point average. They may also have to agree to stay on with their employer for a specific period of time after their degree or coursework is completed.

Employers can contribute up to $5,250 in tax-free support to each student as part of a tuition assistance program. Employees with more than one employer can only accept a total of $5,250 in assistance each year. Tuition assistance funds are applied to tuition, fees, supplies, textbooks, or other equipment directly related to education. Travel, commuting, and accommodation expenses are not eligible and are considered income if covered by an employer.

Tuition assistance only applies to employees, but some employers offer scholarships to their employees’ dependents. There are no obligations or service requirements placed on employee dependents in exchange for scholarship funds, and awards are only applicable to tuition and fees.

Some colleges and universities offer tuition-waiver and tuition-reduction programs as well. Employees can also take courses or complete a degree using one of these options. Dependents of employees are able to take advantage of some tuition reduction opportunities.

Child Care Grants

A 2017 study found that childcare expenses exceeded the cost of college tuition in many states. On average, 27% of the median income a single parent earns goes to childcare. This directly reduces the number of single mothers in postsecondary programs.

To help ease childcare and other expenses, single-parent students can apply for federal, state, and local grants. Federal Pell Grants and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program provide need-based funding for single-parent students. Students with children can check for eligibility for Academic Competitive or National SMART Grants. These programs provide support for students who study math and science specifically. Subject-specific or college-specific grants for single-parent students and tuition assistance programs are found in many states. For example, New York offers tuition assistance for students attending schools in the state.

College students with children often benefit from the Child Care Access Means Parents In School (CCAMPIS) program. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, CCAMPIS establishes and supports on-campus childcare resources for low-income postsecondary students. Funds from the program are used to establish childcare on college campus, to contract out childcare, or for after- and before-school activities.

Tax Breaks

Parents are eligible for several tax credits each year, which may mitigate some of the costs of pursuing a degree. All parents can take a credit of up to $1,000 with the Child Tax Credit. The Child Tax Credit applies if a child is claimed as a dependent and meets the requirements outlined by the IRS. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) also give parents an opportunity to receive additional credits based on family size.

Parents can make use of the Child and Dependent Care Credit, which awards up to $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more in credit annually. This credit applies to work income designated to childcare. Students with children may also claim up to $2,500 in tax credits for tuition and education related expenses as part of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). Students can claim the AOTC for up to four years and enroll in a program. With the Lifelong Learning Credit (LLC), students are eligible for up to $2,000 in credit for educational expenses. To claim the LLC, students do not need to pursue a specific degree. There is no limit to the number of years a student can take the LLC.

Students with children should check on income limits for each tax credit. They should also use IRS guidelines or consult a tax professional to apply their tax credits properly. Using some credits in conjunction with others is often not possible.

Scholarships for Single Parents Going to College

Ford Opportunity Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Ford Opportunity Scholarship covers up to 90% of unmet college expenses for single-parent students who have custody of their children and intend to complete an undergraduate degree in Oregon or California. Applicants must reside in Oregon or Siskiyou County, California. Each year, up to 50 students receive an award that is renewable for up to four years.
Amount: Varies

Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: The Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund offers support to single parents who do not already hold a bachelor’s degree as they pursue post-secondary education. To apply, students must reside in Arkansas or Bowie County, Texas; meet the fund’s definition of single parent; have a high school diploma or GED; and attend or plan to attend an approved school.
Amount: Varies

Capture The Dream Single Parent Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Single-parent students in the San Francisco Bay Area are eligible for the Capture The Dream Single Parent Scholarship if they meet low-income requirements and are enrolled in a two- or four-year program. Funds are applied to undergraduate education only.
Amount: $1,000

The ANSWER Scholarship Endowment Program
Who Can Apply: The Foundation For The Carolinas provides financial support through the ANSWER Scholarship Endowment program to residents of participating counties in the Carolinas seeking a four-year undergraduate or two-year health-related degree. Applicants need to provide proof that they are the primary caregiver of a school-age child, 25 years or older, a nontraditional student, and attending a public institution.
Amount: Varies

The Michael S. and Jeffrey C. Hagler Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Nontraditional, single mothers enrolled in degree or certificate programs at Boise State University or the College of Western Idaho can apply for the Michael S. and Jeffrey C. Hagler Scholarship if they live in Idaho and are enrolled in at least nine undergraduate or six graduate credit hours. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and submit two letters of recommendation from non-family members.
Amount: Varies

The Kentucky Colonels Better Life Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Single-parent students enrolled in a program at one of the schools in the Kentucky Community and Technical College system can apply for the Kentucky Colonels Better Life Scholarship. Applicants must have a child under the age of 12 and demonstrate financial need that has not been met by other funding sources. The award is renewable for a second year if the recipient continues as a full-time student and maintains academic progress.
Amount: $2,500

The Downer-Bennett Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students enrolled at the University of New Mexico who have a competitive GPA and have completed at least 12 credit hours are automatically considered for the Downer-Bennett Scholarship when they submit a FAFSA. The award is given to nontraditional, single-parent students.
Amount: Varies

Women’s Independence Scholarship Program (WISP)
Who Can Apply: Women survivors of domestic abuse who have been apart from their partners for at least one year, but no more than seven, can apply for financial assistance through WISP. WISP supports full- or part-time students pursuing any degree at an accredited institution.
Amount: Varies

Mary Jane Young Scholarship For Women Re-Entry
Who Can Apply: The Mary Jane Young Scholarship is available to female students with children returning to pursue a degree. Single students must have custody of one or more children and enroll in an undergraduate or graduate program at the University of Minnesota-Mankato full time.
Amount: $1,000

Coplan Donohue Single Parent Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Undergraduate or graduate nontraditional, single-parent students enrolled at the University of Minnesota-Mankato can apply for the Coplan Donohue Single Parent Scholarship. Applicants must have primary custody of their children and good academic standing with the University.
Amount: $1,000

Association for Non-Traditional Students In Higher Education (ANTSHE) Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Nontraditional students enrolled in any four-year undergraduate degree at an accredited school can apply for the ANTSHE scholarship. Students who are at least 23 years old, low income, a single parent, a veteran, or a minority can apply.
Amount: Varies

College of Dupage Foundation’s Single Parent Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The College of Dupage Foundation provides scholarship funds for single-parent students enrolled in at least six credit hours per semester with a GPA of 2.0 or above. Applicants must live in the College of Dupage’s district and enroll in a certificate, degree, or transfer program.
Amount: $1,000

Patsy Mink Education Support Award Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Women 17 years and older with minor children enrolled at a nonprofit institution can apply for the Patsy Mink Education Support Award Scholarship. Applicants must enroll in a two- or four-year, graduate, or professional degree. They must also qualify as low-income.
Amount: Up to $5,000

Altrusa’s Olive Gillespie Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: Widowed or divorced mothers over the age of 30 are given first consideration for the Altrusa’s Olive Gillespie Scholarship at Western Kentucky University. Applicants must maintain sophomore, junior, or senior status and have a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Amount: $500