Getting a degree for two

How Andrea Carpenter has managed to juggle college, work and a child

There’s no question that going to college as a single parent can be challenging. Whether you are a single mom or a single dad, managing both your job and your kids is no easy task. When you add college to the mix it may seem downright impossible.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, nearly 2.1 million college students are single mothers. 19% of these single mothers are attending public or private four-year colleges.

Social work junior Andrea Carpenter is a part of the 19% of single moms attending a public university. In 2007, Carpenter found out she was pregnant with her daughter Rileigh.

“I hid my pregnancy for six months afraid of what my family would think.” She said. Fortunately, now Carpenter’s family are some of her biggest supporters along with her boyfriend Mike, in helping her raise Rileigh.

Even with her family’s support, paying for college, bills and essentials has been one of the hardest parts of being a single mom in school. “When I first started at Ferris, I worked at a drug rehab recovery center in Marne commuting to work from Big Rapids for three 12-hour shifts a week. Then I got a job at Grand Oaks Nursing Center in Baldwin working as a CNA,” said Carpenter. “My income is not the best, but I survive, and my bills get paid even if less things are for me and more are for my daughter.”

Carpenter explained that living off campus has also saved her a large sum of money.

“At first, I was placed on a waiting list for my apartment, so I stayed with my parents for a few weeks until I got my apartment off campus. On campus living was too expensive and I was not going to be moving out after each year or semester.”

As Carpenter’s daughter has grown older and more self-sufficient it has become a lot easier for her to stay in school.

“In the beginning it was a struggle most days trying to get sleep, employment, and homework and I didn’t really have any friends I associated with besides co-workers.” Now that Carpenter’s daughter is also in school they share homework and study time together.

Being a single mom has caused Carpenter to miss out on normal teen and young adult activities, but she is overall grateful for what she has been able to do. One of these accomplishments being attending college.

“I want to be able to better our lives and create more job opportunities for myself. I want to show my daughter that no matter what you can always fulfill accomplishments.”

Carpenter advises single moms to hang in there for the long, exhausting, and bumpy road. The walk across the stage in the end will be worth it all.