According to the U.S. Census Bureau, single mothers with college degrees can increase their income level by as much as 78 percent as compared to their peers with high school diplomas.

With this in mind, WSU employees and alumni Jennifer Hoffman, Heather Martin and Mollee Sheehan collaborated in 2012 to submit a special project proposal to the WSU Foundation to support single student parents. The WSU Foundation awarded $15,000—its largest grant to date—to develop the Families First Scholarship, designed to provide rent subsidies for single parent students.

Further securing the future of the scholarship, the Families First scholarship received a $30,000 grant from the Bentson Foundation (www.bentsonfoundation.org) of Wayzata, Minn.

“These scholarships will provide educational opportunities for students who likely were facing a choice between supporting their families and attending school,” said Ted Fredrickson, Special Projects Committee chair. “The intent of this scholarship program is to provide a supportive environment for single parents to further their education through the sharing of a common community, the provision of developmental opportunities, and linking students to university and community resources.”

In fall 2014 the WSU Foundation awarded the first ever Families First scholarships to three WSU student parents. The scholarship program aims to help student parents like Meagan Britain of Byron, who lost her house to a fire a little over a year ago. “Sometimes you don’t realize how important things are until you don’t have them anymore,” said Britain.

For Britain, who graduated in December with a degree in music education, returning to school to finish her degree represented better opportunities for her future and that of her young son as well.

“It’s amazing that Winona State University cares about nontraditional students in this way,” she said. “It’s a great relief, having help with the big responsibility of housing costs.”

For students who want to reply, please visit the Winona Campus Resources website.

For more information, contact the WSU Communications Office at 507-457-5024.

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Nicole Cullinan