Returning to College as Single Mom

Lamar University campus with tree and logo

Moms and dads, going back to school may not be as impossible as you think.

Deborah Hedstrom, a 41-year-old widow, decided she had mourned her husband’s death long enough and enrolled in a class at Eastern Oregon State College. Ben Avery, a Vietnam veteran raising his 5- and 2-year-old children alone, became a University of Wisconsin-Stout student studying art education. Andrea, a German mother of two, qualified for a Pell Grant to finance college while operating a day care in her home.

Each of these people took baby steps that made a giant difference in their lives. College seems like an impossible hurdle for many single parents. But going back to school can offer more income, provide a better chance for advancement and present a life-altering experience.

For me it was all three. When my children were 9, 7, and 6 years old, I made the decision to return to college. As a teacher, my only avenue for greater income was to obtain a higher-level degree. But moving three children to another city, locating day care, selecting a place to live and coming up with the finances became over- whelming leaps of faith.

So I took one step at a time. We found a furnished apartment near a shuttle bus route that stopped at the children’s day care, then took me to the University of Texas in Austin, where I attended classes. After I graduated and we made our trek home, my children put a poster on the back of our station wagon the read: “Hurray, hurray. We’re happy as can be. Mom just finished at UT.”

In his booklet, “What an Adult Should Consider Before Enrolling in School,” John Griffin of the Chief Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education Department of Consumer Affairs suggests several things to do before you enroll:
1. Make sure you clearly understand the total cost of the program.
2. Read the enrollment agreement and catalog carefully.
3. Obtain as much written information as you can, including catalogs.
4. Find out if the school’s credits transfer to other institutions.
5. Rely only on what is in writing.

If you can’t go to college at this time, take heart. Ken Sagan, now 47, is called the “Millennium Man” at Penn State. After 30 years of raising two biological children and three adopted ones and making a home for seven foreign exchange students, Ken is graduating. He says, “I’ve attained my goal. The wait was worth it.”

It can be worth it for you, too.

Gail Showalter lives in Nederland, Texas
This article herein is exclusively the property of the author and is not to be used without written permission from the author.

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