Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary ClintonClinton's college affordability plan to benefit student parents

When Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced her college affordability plan earlier this month, she promised voters in New Hampshire that if she wins the presidency “costs won’t be a barrier” to higher education, according to CNN.

This week, Clinton let voters know that in addition to not having to worry about cost, student parents can expect that access to affordable, quality child care services will no longer be an obstacle to attaining an undergraduate degree.

“One out of every four post-secondary students in America is also raising a child,” said Clinton at a town hall in Dubuque, Iowa. “I want to help these young people get their education so that they and their children will have a better life.” Read more.

Founding director, Ralph Nesson2012 Outstanding Philanthropic Organization: Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund

November 14, 2012

Hosted by the local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the 11th Annual Northwest Arkansas National Philanthropy Day Luncheon was held at the John Q Hammons Convention Center in Rogers. Several individuals and organizations were recognized at the luncheon for their outstanding contributions to advancing philanthropy in Northwest Arkansas. Award recipients were nominated by individuals and organizations in our community and then chosen by an anonymous panel of judges comprised of some of the region's finest leaders.

Xue Lee, a recipient of the Single Parent Scholarship, with sons, Leng Gao Kue and Sengsai Kue Graduate calls on other alumni to support single parents with scholarships

January 2012

In 1984, Carol Feyen was a single parent struggling to continue her education. She had paid her tuition at a local community college and was halfway down the stairs leaving the building when the secretary came running after her.

Feyen recalled clearly what the woman said. Read more.

— Be Like Mike, an event honoring Gov. Mike Beebe and benefiting the Single Parents Scholarship Fund, paid tribute not only to the governor, but his mother, the late Louise Beebe, and single parents who received scholarships and those who support them.

The fund-raising dinner and tribute was held May 19 at the Embassy Suites.

Jennifer Hefner, a single-parent scholarship recipient who now has her law degree, spoke about how a scholarship helped her “break the cycle.” She also introduced a video tribute to the governor produced by Joan Early Strauss.

Afterward, in his remarks thanking and encouraging sponsors and attendees, the governor noted, “I don’t know that you’ll do anything that will have a more significant effect on a momma, a daddy or children than what you’ve done here tonight.” Read more.

Community Philanthropy: Strategies for impacting vulnerable populationsStrategies for impacting vulnerable populations: Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund

An essay by Kathy Smith, Senior Program Officer, of the Walton Family Foundation. This essay is featured in "Community Philanthropy" a publication of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service (2010)

Sometimes populations are vulnerable because generation after generation is born into impoverished circumstances. To those observing from the outside, this cycle of poverty appears relentless and predictable, but place-based and therefore avoidable in terms of a widespread threat to new populations. Many organizations over time have assisted in the work of building up whole communities in hopes of breaking these generational circumstances, with some level of success. The work is both challenging and slow, but it is clear that all aspects of quality of life issues must be addressed in a targeted location. In some ways, the work is comfortable, but it is borne out of predictable circumstances and even the smallest improvements often yield significant impact.

What if a growing population becomes vulnerable without predictors, though? What if there is no "place" to build infrastructure and capacity in a concentrated effort? What if that population reaches across all communities, backgrounds, and ethnicities? All of these factors are true of single parents and their children who are living below the poverty level. Read more.

Lori Holyfield, a sociology professor at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville Fresh start: Local United Way wants to emulate Arkansas program

April 24, 2007

FAYETTEVILLE — Lori Holyfield was excited to learn that an agency in the Joplin area wants to start a scholarship fund for single parents.

Holyfield, 46, has two perspectives — professional and personal — on the program that the United Way of Southwest Missouri wants to emulate.

Today, she holds a doctorate in sociology and teaches at the University of Arkansas, but more than two decades ago, her life was on a different track. Holyfield, who dropped out of high school five weeks into the 10th grade, said she soon was divorced and raising a daughter as a single parent.

In January 1985, after passing her General Educational Development test, Holyfield began receiving $300 per semester through the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Washington County to help her go to college.

Holyfield said the concept of the scholarship can be copied by other communities, and she hopes it will spread like “wildfire.” Read more.

Governor Beebe's weekly column and radio address: Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund

March 21, 2008

Every parent knows that raising a family requires hard work; but for single parents that challenge can be overwhelming - especially if they lack the education and skills to get jobs that pay a living wage.

As a child, I learned the meaning of hard work by watching my single mother labor to support us on a waitresse's tips. It was never easy, but despite our struggles, my mother was focused on my education. She encouraged me to reach higher and try harder - to attend college and get my degree.

My story is proof that a college education is the key to a better life, but getting it requires more than just drive and commitment. It takes money. This is where the Single Parent Scholarship Fund can make all the difference.

In 1990, the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund was created to help remedy the extremely poor financial standing of single parents within our State. Since then, the ASPSF has provided nearly 20,000 scholarships, made possible by the tireless work of its board of directors and the generosity of foundations, corporations, and individuals who have donated more than $10 million to this cause.

This week, on the campus of Philander Smith College, I proclaimed March 17-21, 2008, as Single Parent Scholarship Fund Week. I met Paula Rogers, a former scholarship recipient, college graduate and working mother who explained that her scholarship gave her more than a degree. "It helped me survive," she said, and as I listened to her speak, I wished that this opportunity had been available to my own mother.

The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation funded a recent study tracking the lives of individuals who received this scholarship between 2003 and 2006. It found that 77 percent of scholarship recipients remained in school and earned their college degrees. When you compare this statistic to Arkansas' overall college retention rate of 46.3 percent, it's clear that this project is delivering amazing results - not only for the individuals it serves, but for our State.

The study also noted that 88 percent of the female recipients were employed full-time and that the median income for ASPSF graduates was $33,500, and that's 14 percent higher than the median income for other female college graduates in Arkansas. Additionally, 53 percent are now homeowners, and 48 percent have earned, or are in the process of pursuing, advanced degrees.

Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship recipients are motivated - not only for themselves - but for their children, and their success is breaking the cycle of poverty that can ensnare generations. Increasing our number of college graduates is vital to the future prosperity of Arkansas, so I have instructed our state's colleges and universities to study the success of the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund and to support its efforts with their own scholarship funding.

Victor Chasles, a Frenchman of letters, once wrote, "The sure way to miss success is to miss opportunity." This scholarship fund is working to ensure that the single parents of Arkansas can seize their opportunity to succeed.

Single parents learn hope

November 2004

Across the nation, a variety of models have emerged to give single parents a leg up, yet one feature ties them together: a team effort. At least 12 states have scholarships for single parents, but success seems to favor those that can attract ample private dollars.

Case in point: the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund. What began with $2,400 divided equally among eight families in 1984 has become an $870,000 boon to more than 1,500 students. The secret, according to executive director Ralph Nesson, has been twofold: fundraising from local businesses and organizations to get state matching grants, and a steady stream of donations, in excess of $50,000 a year, from the Arkansas-based Walton Family Foundation.

"We've been fortunate to have reliable contributions year after year," Nesson says. The program has kept 85% of its students in school. Read more.

Scholarship graduate, Beth Wilkins and sons

Arkansas Rotarians support scholarship fund

Feburary 2004

Lori Holyfield, Ph.D., is a published author and a professor of sociology at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. But until she learned about Washington County's Single Parent Scholarship Fund, she was a high school dropout and single mother living on welfare.

"The scholarship helps to empower so many women and men," says Holyfield, who worked 25 hours a week while attending school and raising a toddler. "It's really a celebration of people in your community being your own personal cheerleaders."

Holyfield is just one of more than 10,000 single parents helped through the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund (ASPSF) since its humble beginnings in the northwest corner of the state in 1984. Ralph Nesson, a member of the Rotary Club of Springdale, AR, USA, founded the private nonprofit program to work at the county level to organize scholarship funds for single impoverished parents. Since its start, the program has been tremendously successful, providing more than $4.5 million in scholarships and expanding from just two counties to 71 of a total 75 counties statewide. Individual scholarships range from $250 to $1700 per semester, and the money is not limited to books and tuition. Recipients can use the money for car payments, childcare costs, utility bills, or anything else that will help them stay in school and focus on their studies. Read more.