Scholarships and Grants for Student Parents

According to the National Institute of Health, nearly half of all single mothers without a college degree live at or below the poverty line. Mothers with at least a two year certificate or bachelor’s degree face almost no risk of living in poverty. Clearly, mothers and moms should pursue their dream of higher education, and thanks to private and public scholarships this is possible.

The types of scholarships available to moms and mothers vary from awards aimed at women who are victims of spousal abuse to single moms living in poverty, to mothers from specific regions of the country. There seems to be a scholarship offer for every kind of mom on the planet. Many non-profit organizations exist to match moms with college scholarship offers, and plenty of universities and colleges offer scholarships designed for mothers.

Moms don’t have to apply for scholarships aimed at moms; so called “non-traditional” scholarships are meant to attract people outside of the standard college demographic to go back to school. Non-traditional scholarships are perfect vehicles for mom to use to get funding to go back to college. Since traditional scholarships, like the kind applied for by high school students, don’t necessarily restrict the awards by age, there’s nothing stopping moms for applying for all sorts of scholarships they may overlook because they’re not technically mom scholarships.

Now that a bachelor’s degree or two-year associate’s degree is becoming necessary for many entry-level jobs, moms are going back to school in huge numbers. Part of the reason for the rush back to school is the large number of scholarships and sources of college funding available to mothers.

Here’s a list of representative scholarships and college grants aimed at moms and mothers. You’ll notice that some scholarships are handed out to citizens of certain states or towns, while others may only apply to single moms or mothers from certain ethnic backgrounds. The trick is to contact your local colleges and universities and ask about any mom-specific scholarships, and do some Internet searching to find scholarship offers for moms and mothers.

Financial Aid at Your University

Your pregnancy and the birth of your child will change how you need to file for financial aid.  If you filed for Free Application or Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before you knew you were pregnant, you need to revisit the Financial Aid Office and let them know about your pregnancy immediately.

Government Grants

Academic Competitiveness Grant: Academic Competitiveness Grant: The federal government also offers students with the opportunity to obtain needed college funds through the Academic Competitiveness Grant, or ACG. This grant may be used in conjunction with Pell Grants. Unlike Pell Grants, however, the ACG is performance-based. It is designed for those who are enrolled in the first or second year of their college education. Application is open to all students who submit a Free Application for Financial Student Aid.

Federal Pell Grant:  Pell Grants are available to all college students who can demonstrate financial need, including single mothers and pregnant mothers. This is a need-based program offered through the federal government, so it is best suited for low-income individuals. The Federal Pell Grant can be extremely useful to finance study material cost and the tuition fees of university. Reward amounts may be as high as $5,000 per semester for those who qualify. Applications can be conducted online by completing the Free Application for Financial Student Aid at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Students should research application deadlines to ensure that funds are received for the upcoming semester as needed.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)This is another grant offered by the federal government. It is a need-based grant like Pell Grants, and it is designed to be used as a supplemental financing option in conjunction with Pell Grants. As with the previous two federal grants, interested candidates can complete the Free Application for Financial Student Aid to be considered for this program.

Private Foundations

Women’s Opportunity Awards: Soroptomist International has the Women’s Opportunity Awards are given to women who serve as the primary head of their household, so basically single moms. Depending on the woman’s financial need and the cost of tuition at her chosen school, this award could pay for a mom’s entire college education.

R.O.S.E. Scholarship: The letters in the R.O.S.E. Scholarship stand for Regaining One’s Self Esteem, and the R.O.S.E. Scholarship is awarded to women who are survivors of domestic violence and abuse. This award gives financial assistance to survivors of abuse planning to attend any four-year college in the New England area. In order to be eligible for a R.O.S.E. Scholarship, women must have already attended one full year of undergraduate studies at a college in New England, and is interviewed by the scholarship committee to establish need. The R.O.S.E. fund does much more than pay scholarships; the fund also helps women pay for reconstructive surgery after incidences of abuse and even find work and lodging after leaving an abusive relationship. Though not aimed specifically at moms, many mothers qualify for financial aid money from the R.O.S.E. Foundation.

Jeanette Rankin FoundationJeannette Rankin Foundation hands out scholarships to women age 35 or older who show an interest in higher education. During that time, 500 plus women have earned awards to attend the college of their choice through Jeanette Rankin scholarships. These offers are for women pursuing a four-year degree. The Foundation hands out about 15 scholarships a year, with the amount of the award dependent on financial need. No, Jeanette Rankin Foundation scholarships are not targeted at moms, but if you’re a mom 35 or older, you qualify to apply for a scholarship from the Jeanette Rankin Foundation.

The Sister Fund: The Sister Fund is a private group that depends on donations from philanthropists to provide “financial support” and “give a voice to women working for justice from a religious framework,” according to the website. The Sister Fund’s scholarships for moms are called “Healers of Our Time” scholarships, and the awards are given to women who present progressive religious values. Applications for Healers of Our Time scholarships depend mostly on essays and letters of recommendation, allowing women an opportunity to prove their willingness “to work for the betterment of our world socially, economically, politically, and spiritually.” The amount of the award depends on financial need and the cost of tuition at the institution the winner chooses to attend.

The Margaret McNamara Memorial FundThe Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund gives 20 scholarships each year to 20 women around the world who want to return to earn a college degree. The Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund is sponsored and run by the World Bank, and awards educational grants to women from North America as well as some developing countries around the world. To earn these awards, a woman has to plan to pursue graduate studies that benefit women and children’s health worldwide. That means the main criteria is an essay and phone interview to establish a woman’s commitment to improving the lives of underprivileged women and children. These awards are worth $12,000 a year toward college costs, and are renewable for four years.

SWE Scholarship: Women who are enrolled in a program focused on computer science, engineering or engineering technology may consider applying for an SWE scholarship. There are several different scholarships and grants awarded each summer to prospective students who are either sophomore, junior, senior, or grad students in an accredited program. The financial support options include endowed scholarships, corporate-sponsored scholarships, and grants. Interested candidates can learn more about the scholarships and grants available to women by visiting here.

Emerge Scholarship Program: The Emerge Scholarship program has been helping women pay for a college education since 2001. The program is designed to help women who have already had significant real-life experiences such as stay-at-home mothers, women who are considering switching careers, those who graduated from high school years ago and did not have the opportunity to attend or finish college earlier in life, or who otherwise are non-traditional students. These scholarships are generally not awarded to those who already have received financial aid, and funds can only be applied toward tuition and fees rather than supplementing living-related expenses. More information can be learned about the program by visiting

Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund: This scholarship program is available for single parents living in over 70 counties in the state of Arkansas. The program is designed to help lower-income single parents find the financial assistance they need to attend college and find a better job to support their families after graduation.  You can learn more about this program and apply for a scholarship by visiting

Patsy Takemoto Mink Scholarship for Low-Income Women: This scholarship program was founded in 2003 by Congresswoman Patsy Takemoto Mink. Throughout her career, Congresswoman Mink has worked to promote education and support resources available for low-income women and their children. Her foundation provides financial assistance to low-income women enrolled in a higher education program or a specialized training program.  The number of awards and the amount of the awards will vary from year to year. In 2012, five scholarships in the amount of $2,000 each will be awarded. If you are interested in learning more about this program, you can visit

Sister Thea Bowman Foundation: The Sister Thea Bowman Foundation is an example of a group dedicated to a specific cause; providing funds for single African-American mothers to attend the College of St. Mary. That college, located in Omaha, Nebraska, works closely with the Sister Thea Bowman Foundation to hand out plenty of scholarships to young black single moms who want to better themselves. You can find similar organizations at colleges all over the country.

Scholarships For Moms: Scholarships for Moms is a scholarship program that is available to single or married women who are mothers or who are pregnant. Essentially, any college student or prospective college student who is a mother may apply.  The program will award up to $10,000 in money to be used for higher education costs to the recipient of the scholarship. More information about the program can be found at. The scholarship application can also be completed online at this website.

P.E.O. Sisterhood: P.E.O. Sisterhood has been providing women with the financial assistance they need to attend college and improve their lives. Scholarships are mostly awarded to mothers. In addition to scholarships, the organization also helps mothers fund their college education through grants and loans. In total, this organization has provided over 77,000 women with financial assistance, and this assistance has totaled over $200 million dollars over the past 150 years. More information about the financial assistance available to mothers through this program can be found at www.peointernational.org.

Women’s Independence Scholarship Program (otherwise known as WISP): WISP is designed to help women obtain the money they need to attend college and earn a higher education degree. The program is suited for survivors of domestic abuse from an intimate partner such as a spouse or a boyfriend. The program prefers to award scholarship funds to those enrolled state community colleges, state colleges or universities, and technical or vocational schools. Those enrolled in other programs may also apply. The application for the WISP fund as well as more information about this program may be found online at www.wispinc.org.

United Negro College Fund: The UNCF is designed to help African Americans, including mothers and expectant mothers of African American descent, obtain funds needed to attend college and work toward a higher education degree.  Some scholarships are sponsored by specific corporations including Intel, Google, and others. More information about the different scholarship programs available can be found on the UNCF website at www.uncf.org.

American Association of University Women: AAUW offers scholarships, grants, financial awards, and fellowship opportunities to women across the country. The organization aims to promote equal education for all women, so it is a great resource for funding higher education endeavors made by women with children or who are currently pregnant. Information about scholarship and other financial awards can be found online at www.aauw.org.

Talbots Women’s Scholarship Fund: Talbots Women’s Scholarship Fund is provided annually through Talbots Charitable Foundation. Only the first 1,000 applications are considered each year. Of these 1,000 applicants, five scholarships will be awarded in the amount of $10,000 and fifty scholarships will be awarded in the amount of $1,000.  These scholarships are designed for non-traditional female students. Only applicants who graduated high school or earned a GED at least ten years prior to the application date are considered. More information about this program can be found online here.

Hispanic Scholarship Fund: The HSF awards up to $15,000 in free scholarships for Hispanics attending or who plan to attend, two or four year colleges and universities. The average award is $2,500 for those attending 4 year universities and $1,500 for two year community colleges.

Denny’s Single Parent Student Scholarship: Denny’s Single Parent Scholarship gives $500 to $1500 to single parent students. Applicants must be of Hispanic origin, have a 3.0 or above GPA and must demonstrate financial need.  You can apply here.

Lifetime Adoption Foundation: They offer educational scholarships in deep appreciation to birth mothers who have chosen adoption for their children. They have enabled others to experience the joy of becoming parents and created futures, not only for those families, but also for their children, for a lifetime.

State-Specific Scholarships

In many cases, state-specific scholarships for single mothers are actually offered through a college or university system in the state. To find out what’s available in your state, contact both your state higher education agency and the financial aid office of the school you’d like to attend to find out what scholarships or grants are offered to single moms.

A few examples of state and school financial aid programs for single parents include: