Supporting single parents

On Nov. 3, an article released by USA Today named five universities that offer scholarships for single parents. UW-Eau Claire was listed third.

Bonnie Isaacson is an advisor to nontraditional students and undeclared transfer students. She said nearly $40,000 from the Eau Claire Foundation is distributed to 50 or more nontraditional students each year.

The foundation provides a variety of scholarships to nontraditional students, which are funded through private donors, Isaacson said. The donors then decide what criteria they would like to apply to the scholarships they’ve contributed to.

Isaacson said there is a general application process for the single parent scholarships, and students can access this application from the nontraditional student services website.

Students apply fall semester and are considered for whichever scholarships they are eligible for when the scholarships are awarded in the spring, Isaacson said.

“The single parent scholarships are pretty competitive,” Isaacson said. “We usually get about 40 single parent applicants per cycle that compete for a pool of seven scholarships.”

Mike Gehrke is a senior illustration major and single parent who received the Susan J. Bruce Single Parent Scholarship for the 2011-2012 academic year — an award of $500.

“This was incredibly helpful for me since I studied abroad in Japan during the spring of 2013,” Gehrke said.

The additional money helped Gehrke make all the necessary preparations without worrying as much about the cost, which is one of the more terrifying parts of raising a child, he said.

Gehrke said the most interesting experience he had was the independent study he participated in with a Japanese art teacher from a different university in Nagasaki. He was taught the traditional way to make prints with woodblock carving.

“The hardest part was being away from my son,” Gehrke said. “But I did Skype with him almost every day, and being in a host family that had kids made it a little easier.”

Gehrke said his time abroad in Japan was “an experience of a lifetime,” and he hopes to return after graduating to teach English.

Senior social work major Tina Tryggestad won the $1,000 Patricia H. Anderson scholarship for the 2013-2014 academic year. She is a single parent with a 15-year-old son.

Tryggestad said she heard about the scholarship her sophomore year from Isaacson, who is her advisor.

“(The scholarship) has given me additional access to necessary resources, which has gone toward paying my bills,” Tryggestad said.

She said she thinks single parent scholarships are important because single parents are marginalized in their ability to access education.

Tryggestad said single parents have the same costs as everyone else. But they also have to worry about childcare and all of the added expenses that go along with that.

“It’s wonderful that (single parents) have scholarships to help us out,” Gehrke said. “It doesn’t cover everything, but it helps. That’s all we could ask for.”