After three years of success, The Women’s Fund of Essex County announced it renewed funding for its scholarship program, called The Support for Single Mother’s Fund at North Shore Community College. The program provides $75,000 to The North Shore Community College Foundation over three years.
Open to single mothers in good academic standing, the fund offers emergency financial support to ensure these students can continue to attend classes. Eligible education-related expenses include textbooks, rent, cell phone, food, clothing for children, insurance payments, internet fees, transportation, urgent car repairs, day care and utility bills.
In the first three years of the program the Support for Single Mothers Fund awarded $77,500 via 88 grants to 73 single mother students. The average median grant was $725. To be eligible, students must be in good academic standing and maintain a GPA of 2.0 or better. The women who were awarded grants through this program maintained an average cumulative GPA of 3.06. Moreover, 24 grant recipients graduated with Associate Degrees or Certificates, and an additional 21 students were continuing with their education.
This type of program is unusual in the scholarship game, where nearly 100 percent of available funds are designed for recent high school graduates planning to immediately attend college. The Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce’s Businesswomen’s Committee is one. That program, the “Carolyn M. O’Connor Scholarship,” has given scholarships each year since 1986. This year it will award one $1,500 scholarship. Application deadline is December 31. As Support for Single Mothers Fund, the Carolyn O’Connor Scholarship allows for education-related expenses (for computers or transportation, for instance) that are often critical for single mothers seeking to pick back up on educational advancement.
Stephen Creamer, Interim VP Student Affairs at North Shore Community College said the Support for Single Mothers Fund program has a 75 percent retention rate for grant recipients compared to 63 percent for the general student population. “These are amazing outcomes,” he said, adding, “We are grateful to The Women’s Fund of Essex County and the leadership it provides by helping some of our most economically disadvantaged students stay in school and keep the focus on their studies.”
Elaine Quinn, President of The Women’s Fund Advisory Board said, “The Women’s Fund is committed to increasing the number of single mothers earning a living wage in Essex County. We understand that education is a pathway to greater economic security. The Support for Single Mother’s Fund is among the many grants we make that help ensure women get the support they need to create their own economic opportunity and success.”
Students who were awarded grants expressed their gratitude for the program. “I’m very grateful for the assistance you have provided. I will now be able to better focus on my schoolwork. The assistance reduced the feelings of depression I was experiencing because of my worry about not having transportation and or money for rent. Thank you so much and God Bless!!!!” Anna I.
Another grantee, Lauren F., a single mother of three, arrived as a new student at NSCC in the Fall of 2018. “As a single mom, coming back to school was a huge risk, but I could not have done it at a better school than North Shore Community College. Not only are the academics great, but the Support for Single Mother’s Fund made it so I will be able to graduate next fall.
“Without the financial assistance at some of my hardest times, I would not have been able to complete school,” Lauren said. She will graduate and transfer in December 2021 to Southern New Hampshire University to majoring in Counseling. She maintains a 3.5 GPA.
Massachusetts’s community colleges account for 50 percent of undergraduate credit enrollments and represent 43 percent of the students in the Massachusetts public higher education system. Quinn noted, “Women are having a harder economic time during COVID-19. Job loss, home schooling their children, and doing their own remote learning has exacerbated an already difficult situation for many. The Women’s Fund is thrilled to be able to continue to provide grant dollars for the Support for Single Mother’s Fund. We thank our partners at NSCC and all of our generous donors who have made this program possible.”