Wilson College

Posted on June 1, 2016

Student Parent Scholars Program

One of the most distinctive features of Wilson College is its Single Parent Scholars program, designed to give single parents access to higher education that can open the doors to fulfilling, economically self-sufficient lives for themselves and their children. The program helps single parents earn their bachelor’s degrees while providing year-round, on-campus residential housing for them and their children. The program was originally for single mothers and was named the Women with Children program. The Wilson College Board of Trustees voted on Oct. 24, 2015 to rename the program the Wilson College Single Parent Scholar Program and to accept single fathers with children.

Wilson launched the Women with Children in 1996—one of the first programs of its kind in the nation—under the leadership of President Emerita Gwen Jensen, who was a strong proponent of the notion that single mothers would do better in college if they could reside on campus with their children. The Wilson College Student Parent Scholars program is one of fewer than a dozen such residential college programs nationwide.

A recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that 26 percent of all undergraduate students are raising dependent children, including those who are married and single. Single mothers make up 43 percent of the total student-parent population, while single fathers make up 11 percent, according to the study.

While living in residence hall suites with their children, program participants also share common spaces with other program residents, including a kitchen, playroom and computer room. Children are included in their mother’s meal plan at no extra cost and so eat in the dining hall with their mothers. On-campus daycare and after-school care is available for participants (and paid for by the College) so that parents can attend classes and fully participate in campus life—joining clubs, serving on student government and participating in athletics. The Parent Scholars program provides programming activities such as parenting workshops, personal enrichment activities, and family outings to the local roller skating rink.

Program participants have also participated in study abroad programs specifically designed to accommodate parents and their children. Such study-abroad coursework was first offered at the 2008 Montreal Summer Institute, where, in conjunction with McGill University, participants studied women, families and poverty in a Canadian context. Participants spent two weeks in coursework at Wilson’s campus and three weeks in Montreal. A parallel program was created for children with a Child Care Coordinator. In summer 2011, students traveled to Costa Rica for two weeks (and spent two weeks on campus) to study Spanish language and agroecology. Children were engaged in lessons in Spanish, Latin American culture, and the environment. For many participants, international travel and study – with their children – would not have been possible without these opportunities.
The program is open to a maximum of 26 students, based on available space in two residence halls. Students in the program may have up to two children who must be between the ages of 20 months and 12 years while their parent is enrolled in the program, according to Wilson Assistant Dean of Students Katie Kough, who oversees the program.

For further information about this program, please visit Wilson College’s website: www.wilson.edu.