Organizations offer help in education for single mothers in Boston

By Liangzi Xu


Many programs in Boston help low-income single mothers get associate or bachelor’s degrees.

One Family Scholar program

The One Family Scholar program, a part of the One Family organization in Waltham, Mass., is dedicated to preventing homelessness and breaking the cycle of family poverty in Massachusetts. It provides financial and other academic advancement support for single parents with low incomes.

The program aims to prevent homelessness by helping single parents achieve academic success, which will allow them to earn a living wage to support their families.   

Candidate eligibility and benefits of the One Family Scholar program. Source: One Family.

“In general, we really want to call our scholars on a monthly basis to encourage them, to support them and help them think through whatever academic or personal challenges that they may have,” said Karsten Cash, a college and career success counselor at One Family. “Most of what I do is outreach to scholars.”

The scholars are able to get a last-dollar tuition scholarship (which covers the amount of tuition after the grant is applied), book and supply fund, and a monthly stipend that varies depending on their academic performance and their involvement in extra-curricular activities. Other than financial support and academic consulting services, the program also advocates for the scholars to help them find jobs and obtain leadership skills.

As of now, 398 scholars have successfully earned their degree with One Family Scholar’s help. Some 90 people enrolled last year.

Student-Parent Program at Endicott College

Endicott College located north of Boston in Beverly, Mass., offers Keys to Degrees, a program for single parents who lack educational and vocational opportunity. It offers college education tailored for single parents and low-income parents, in terms of schedule and living conditions. It educates both parents and children and helps them move from poverty to the middle class.

“I want all students to have the opportunity to go to college, regardless whether they have a child,” Autumn Green, the director of the program, said when asked of the end goal of the single-parent program.

Participants in the program need to meet several criteria to enroll in the program, such as:

  1. Accepted by Endicott College
  2. Single (does not live with a partner)
  3. Eighteen to 24 years old when accepted by the college
  4. With one child living on campus
  5. Children should be in a certain age range (old enough to go to the daycare full time, younger than a teenager)

Typically,  10 students are enrolled in the program, considering the limited housing. Currently, eight students take part. In general, the program will add two students a year, depending on how many students graduate that year.

Flyers for Endicott College student-parent programs. Photo by Liangzi Xu.

The program provides a scholarship called the “single-parent grant” to cover tuition, and they only have to pay $5,000 per year for room, board and other college necessities. The program also offers work-study jobs on campus to help them get income. The community partnership can help single parents look for other resources as well.

Those resources mainly help students focus on their academics. Green said they try to make sure the school becomes the parent’s second priority after their children. Work should rank third, she said, since the parents have made a commitment as a full-time student.

Every student has to work with a one-on-one academic coach—a special feature of the program—unless they get an overall GPA of 3.0 and no grade of C or below. The coach works with students on their time management, task management, and strategies such as organizing their workload. Green said students who work with the coach perform better in their studies.

The Student Baby Sitting program is another special part of the Keys to Degrees program. The kids can go to school while their parents are in class or busy with other commitments. It enables the parents to participate in more extra-curricular activities.

The program also helps students learn living skills. Since the students are mostly young and some of them have never lived away from parents, they lack the skills needed to live independently. The program creates opportunities for older students to mentor younger students. Students share a four-bedroom residence hall suite with another family, so they are able to learn from each other. “Even though they have children, in many senses, they are children,” Green said.

About 70 percent of the students at the program graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years. Green said this percentage is close to the graduate rate of a normal college program, and many Keys to Degrees students even go on to graduate school. The program’s alumni obtain various jobs across the country, including cancer researchers, accountants and teachers.

Jeremiah Program (Boston)

The Jeremiah Program that also aims to break the cycle of poverty works with single mothers by helping them excel in the workforce, readying their children to succeed in school, and reducing generational dependence on public assistance. It cooperates with Endicott College to help single mothers achieve their academic goals.

About Liangzi Xu 4 Articles

Liangzi Xu is a journalism graduate student at Emerson College. She enjoys talking to people about their unique stories. She is also savvy about multimedia and data analysis tools. During her spare time, she is interested in playing jigsaw puzzles, which helps her release pressure. She is looking forward to connecting with people on LinkedIn to share stories. LinkedIn