Being a single parent can make it difficult to attend college and take care of your family. Statistics show that more than 2 million college students consider themselves single parents, and the rate of single-parent enrollment in college has doubled within the last two decades. African-American and Native American women endure the most challenges as the two groups with the highest rate of single parenthood within college. Unfortunately, single mothers lag behind their married counterparts when it comes to obtaining a degree. A little over 30% of single mothers have a college degree, compared to 54% of married women.

An MBA for single parents can be a difficult undertaking; college financing remains the biggest obstacle for this group — 63% of single mothers attending college live at or below the poverty line, and nearly 90% have low incomes. Income issues make it difficult for single mothers to attend college, and when they do, they need more financial aid than the average student and must figure childcare costs into their college expenses. Luckily, there are various financial aid options for single-parent students that factor income and childcare costs in their award amount. The following guide provides information regarding scholarship and other aid opportunities for MBA student parents.

Business Schools With Childcare Services

Many schools provide childcare services for their students. Currently, California provides childcare at 84% of their community colleges, and New York and Maryland offer childcare services at nearly 90% of their community colleges. In addition, some schools also offer mentorship programs for single parents and free meals for children on campus. With on-campus childcare, students drop their children off when they get to campus and pick them up when they’re finished with classes, and some childcare programs offer extended hours for parents taking evening classes. Parents need to submit income information and put down a deposit to reserve a space for their child. The following list highlights universities with MBA programs that also offer childcare services to parents.

Getting an MBA Degree Online

After considering the cost and time commitments for a traditional on-campus program, many MBA student parents decide to pursue an online degree instead. Online programs allow students to work at their own pace individually or in cohorts. Students interact through online forums and video conferencing provided by a learning management system such as Blackboard. As long as the student has a computer and internet access, they can participate in the class. In an online program, students don’t worry about commuting, housing accommodations, buying food, and other on-campus expenses — though there is usually an additional technology fee for online courses. Completing internships while enrolled in an online class is easy thanks to program advisers that work with students to secure placements.

Other Tips for Single Parents Going to MBA School

Take Advantage of University Services

Universities want to help you as best they can, and many offer additional services such as counseling and mentoring to help you achieve your academic and personal goals.

Reach out to Other Single Parents

Try to connect with other parents on campus to build a support system. You can even create a group for single parents to mingle with each other.

Research Online Programs

Online programs vary, and many schools offer comprehensive programs held to the same standards as their on-campus counterparts. Research your options.

This section covers the financial options for MBA student parents. The government awards financial aid packages to students in need. Sometimes, these packages cover the entire cost of tuition with extra money for other expenses.

The FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form that students must complete in order to be eligible for federal or state-sponsored financial aid for college. The FAFSA is available on October 1, and students have until June 30 to send it in — though it’s recommended that students fill out the form as soon as possible to receive the best possible financial aid package. Keep in mind that each state has its own deadlines, so students should refer to their financial aid office to verify those dates. The FAFSA is available online or can be printed and mailed, and students will need several important documents that detail their financial information in order to complete the form. FAFSA created an IRS data retrieval tool to help applicants transfer their tax return information over, and students will also be asked for records of untaxed income, such as child support and other benefits. Information regarding checking and savings accounts, investments, and a Social Security number will also need to be provided.

Anyone can receive financial aid so long as they are a U.S. citizen or legal alien attending an accredited institution. Based on income and other provided financial information, the FASA will determine if the student is eligible for grants, loans, and scholarships.

Types of Financial Aid Available to Single Parents

  • Scholarships

    Schools award scholarships based on merit, meaning the student must exhibit exceptional academic standards to receive one. Students can also receive scholarships based on other factors such as cultural background, gender, and major. This type of aid does not have to be paid back.

  • Grants

    The FAFSA awards grants such as federal Pell Grants, TEACH grants, and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG). Like scholarships, the FAFSA considers grants as gift aid, because they do not have to be paid back. Each grant comes with its own stipulations and eligibility requirements.

  • Federal Loans

    When students take out a loan, they borrow money from an institution and promise to pay it back with interest. The federal government distributes direct subsidized loans, direct unsubsidized loans, direct PLUS loans, and direct consolidation loans. Subsidized loans are awarded to students with financial need, but anyone can receive an unsubsidized loan, regardless of their financial status. MBA student parents should look into PLUS loans made exclusively for graduate students.

  • Private Loans

    When federal loans, scholarships, and grants can’t cover the cost of tuition and other college-related expenses, students can apply for private loans through lenders. Banks offer special loans to college students, and these loans usually require a cosigner. Interest rates tend to be higher on private loans, and repayment plans are not usually as flexible.

Employer Tuition Assistance

Some employers pay for tuition reimbursement or grant tuition waivers and scholarships, and this money does not get taxed. The IRS allows employers to distribute $5,250 to employees with education-related expenses. This is a yearly limit that students cannot combine with reimbursement programs from other employers. However, the employer can put stipulations on the reimbursement. Common requirements include a passing grade (usually “C” or better) and a major that relates to the employer’s industry. Employers need students to verify enrollment, so requests for tuition bills and receipts are common. Once employees join the reimbursement program, they must agree to work at the company for a certain number of years after they receive their degree. Businesses aren’t the only ones offering tuition assistance; many colleges and universities provide employees with tuition waivers, which reduce or eliminate tuition costs, and they often extend this waiver to the employee’s spouse and children.

Childcare Grants

Finding affordable childcare is one of the biggest problems single parents face, and attending college only exacerbates the problem by making it difficult for parents to coordinate work, school, and familial commitments. A recent study conducted by Child Care Aware of America revealed that parents can spend close to $10,000 per year on center-based care and close to $8,000 on home-based care; costs fluctuate depending on the age of the child, with infants having the highest care costs. To help ameliorate these costs and make college more attainable for parents, the federal government started the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS), which funds on-campus childcare programs for low-income students. Colleges and universities must apply for a grant to establish a CCAMPIS program at their school. The government awards grants every four years and requires institutions to submit an annual performance report. The financial aid office of a college or university will know if it participates in the CCAMPIS program and will help parents enroll in the program as needed.

Tax Breaks

Other tax regulations reimburse parents for childcare costs, such as tax credits, which reduce the amount of money you owe the government. The Child and Dependent Care Credit covers at least 20% of childcare expenses for single and married parents. Parents making less than $15,000 per year receive coverage for 35% of their expenses. To obtain the credit, applicant’s must have a child under 13 and a care provider. Typically, applicants receive between $2,000 and $6,000, which goes toward any owed income tax. The Child Tax Credit offers financial relief to parents of children under 17 years old; taxpayers get up to $1,400 for each child.

Single parents should also look into the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). A student enrolled at a higher education institution part-time or full-time can receive up to a 40% refund for a portion of their educational expenses. The Hope Scholarship Tax Credit reimburses taxpayers up to $2,500 for educational expenses, and they can receive up to $1,000 in refunds. The Lifetime Learning Credit covers up to $2,000 worth of school expenses for undergraduate or graduate students. For most of these tax credits, the IRS requires students to be enrolled at least part time at an eligible educational institution.