In the current economic downturn, many households are looking for ways to bring in more income and pay their basic needs. This is especially tough for single mothers who are the only breadwinners for their households. Many of these long-suffering single parents are looking to college as a way to increase their earnings and future opportunities for their families. But is it always a good time for single moms to go to college?

The answer is: It depends.

For single moms, the answer to go back to get a college degree will depend on their financial, child care, employment, and emotional situation. College is such a huge commitment in terms of time, money, and energy, and, for some single-parent families, it might just be too much strain currently. For others, right now is as good a time as any to enroll. Here are some guidelines to help you make this important, but difficult, decision:


Can you afford tuition, books, child care, and any other expenses that come with going back to school as a single parent, on top of all your other expenses? Although it’s true that financial aid is available to those who qualify, you will still need to cover your basic living expenses, and part or all of your college expenses, out of your own pocket. This means you have to take a serious look at your budget and decide if your income can cover school plus living expenses.

If you can, it might be the right time for you to go back to school. If you can’t, you might want to convince yourself that you make things stretch or take out additional debt. Resist the temptation. You don’t want to overburden yourself with debt when you should be keeping your head above water.

Child Care

Because you may have classes at night or during other times when you would normally be watching your kids, going back to school will mean finding someone reliable and trustworthy enough to watch your children. This may mean extra expenses unless you’re lucky enough to have someone responsible who is willing to watch your kids for free.

Aside from these concerns, you will also need to take into consideration the toll of your education on your children emotionally. This is as important as, or more important than, any financial concerns. The benefits of your college education have to be weighed against the impacts of this decision on your kids. If you have a child who requires special attention or you can’t find or afford a trustworthy dependable babysitter, this might not be the right time for you to attend college.


Unless you’re lucky enough to not have to work while attending school, you’ll have to balance the demands of college with a work schedule. Single moms who have flexible work schedules-especially those with work-from-home options at work-tend to have an easier time making college fit. Those with more rigid schedules may struggle.

As you consider how compatible your employment is with college, think about your schedule, your supervisor, and your employer’s expectations. Is your supervisor flexible? Do they support you in your goals? Or are they going to penalize you for going back to school? Does your company as a whole support you going back to school? Or do they tend to look down on those who become less available? Seriously ask yourself these questions and be realistic with yourself.


After dealing with school work, work, kids, and bills, you can start to feel pretty drained. College is hard enough for single college students without children, much less single moms with kids to worry about. Whatever strain you already feel in raising, providing for, and nurturing your children will only be added to once you’re back in school.

Evaluate how much you are willing to bear, how much you’re comfortable with, and how much is just too much for you and your family. Going to college is never easy, but it shouldn’t cost you your emotional health or the emotional health of your kids.

So, if you’re a single mom, are you ready to try college? What are the biggest concerns you have? Share in the comments below!

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