Champlain College's Single Parents Scholarship Program Has Been Changing Lives for 30 Years

Gretchen Morse, Sallie Soule and Former Vt. Gov. Madeleine Kunin helped found the Single Parents Program at Champlain College in 1987.

Champlain College's Single Parents Program (SPP), which has helped more than 650 students graduate since 1987, will mark its 30th anniversary on Thursday, Oct. 5 in the Champlain Room at the Center for Communication and Creative Media.

Among those celebrating three decades of scholarship support at the event will be former Vt. Gov. Madeleine Kunin and Gretchen Morse, former executive director of the United Way of Chittenden County, and Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services during the Kunin administration.

With the help of Kunin, who was Vermont's Governor from 1985-1991, Morse and Sallie Soule, former head of the Vermont Department of Employment and Training, co-founded the program and provided funding to develop the new scholarship program at Champlain College working with Robert Skiff, Champlain's president from 1977-1992, and the Board of Trustees.

On Thursday, Kunin and Morse will reflect on the continuing need to support single parent scholars and the value of education to change lives and communities.

"Since its inception, the Single Parents Program has provided vital support to students through financial scholarships, career counseling, peer-to-peer advising, financial literacy and lifestyle seminars and events designed to build a supportive community," said Champlain President Donald J. Laackman.

"Together we will celebrate the transformative power of a Champlain College education and the multi-dimensional support for our Single Parent scholars that has led to an impressive 88 percent graduation rate and sets the stage for success academically, financially and personally," noted Robert Caldwell, Vice President of Institutional Advancement for Champlain College. "We expect to see many long-time supporters, alumni of the program, mentors, support staff and faculty advocates who have supported these students over the years."

The Single Parents Program, open to both women and men, is designed to help income-eligible single parents attend school full-time, and get a career-focused education. Its services range from meeting daily needs to dealing with unforeseen emergencies. There are currently 29 Single Parent Program students enrolled at Champlain this fall and it is open to both traditional and online students.

Early in his tenure, Champlain's former president, Dr. David F. Finney, increased funding for the Single Parents Scholarship with the intent to meet full tuition for single parents who are financially-eligible undergraduate students who are legal Vermont residents. Successful applicants for the scholarship add those scholarship funds to their other federal and Vermont state grants to cover the cost of tuition.

Carol Moran-Brown, who retired this summer after some 40 years at Champlain College in the Student Life Division, was there when the program started in 1987 with 30 students. It is the College's oldest scholarship program, and it is only one of 11 such programs she knows of across the country.

"The Champlain College Single Parents Program changed so many lives over the years. I know with continued support from the community, alumni, and Champlain College's leadership, it will continue to do so for the next 30 years and beyond," Moran-Brown observed.

The program provides single parents a step up out of poverty or an abusive relationship and positive modeling for children, who get to see their parents doing homework beside them.

This year's 30th Anniversary celebration continues a long tradition of holding an annual fall fundraiser to support the Single Parent scholarships. "The message to our supporters as we celebrate this milestone is that we are only able to do this good work "Because of You," said Caldwell. Over the past 12 years of benefit events, supporters have contributed $2.2 million to the program.

Alumni of the program often return to talk about their experiences and share the value they have received from the support of others. While tuition assistance and scholarships are one important service the program provides, its reach extends into all areas of these unique students' lives.

Many participants cited the social and emotional support they got from the monthly lunches for Single Parent students, as well as the "Save the Day" fund that helps with emergencies like flat tires, last-minute childcare, or any other problems that might come up for a single parent who is attending school full-time. Typically, more than 60 community members show their support by donating gifts for Single Parent students' families at the annual holiday party.

Fexhrije Ilazi, a 2017 graduate in paralegal studies, summed up her experience this way: "The Single Parent Scholarship changed my life in so many ways. I was here to get all that was possible out of my education and to use it every day to make a difference. You gave me the opportunity to learn about myself, grow professionally, and finally, work towards my dream."

Learn more about the Single Parents Program  

Support Services Provided through the Single Parent Program

  • Caring staff of advisors including a director and two service coordinators
  • Financial assistance for undergraduate college tuition
  • A summer orientation workshop
  • "Save the Day" Fund to assist with unexpected emergencies
  • Free tutoring
  • Free counseling
  • Free career advising
  • Referral to full-time, part-time, seasonal, temporary and work-study jobs
  • Help writing your resume and finding a job
  • Benefits
  • Career advancement
  • Networking and friendship
  • Advocacy and support
  • Group celebrations
  • Holiday events
  • Increased self-confidence

Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit