Making a Difference, One Family at a Time

For single parents concerned about the cost of college, Marian University offers one of the nation’s most comprehensive educational programs available.  Celebrating its 20th year, the Working Families Program (WFP) was created through a unique collaboration with an anonymous donor to expand the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes’ (CSA) vision to advance Marian’s mission, core values, and legacy of service.  WFP awards tuition and stipend grants to economically disadvantaged single parents who desire to achieve an undergraduate degree.  Built on the belief that education is the critical key to breaking the cycle of poverty, WFP is committed to creating the ripple effects of change one student and one family at a time.

A Partnership Philosophy

“After returning to college as a single Mom in my 30s, I planned to drop out after the first year to pursue a job and steady income.  But after being accepted into Marian’s Working Families program my sophomore year, I discovered it possible to balance my time as a Mom and student, afford excellent child care, enroll in full-time classes, and pursue my dream of a career in social work,” said Megan Francis ’13.  Opening the door to higher education for single custodial parents with primary or physical placement – divorced or widowed – WFP accepts a select number of applicants each year.  Once accepted into the program students receive support services and tuition, rent, childcare, and food assistance.  The help does not end at financial assistance and education, but extends to meet the unique needs of each individual.

WFP embraces a partnership philosophy with academic advising, support services, career assessment and development resources, community service/volunteerism experiences, counseling, financial aid assistance, freedom of spiritual exploration, life skills development, and mentoring.  Students in the WFP have academic requirements such as full-time enrollment in traditional on-campus program, but they are also being prepared for the future through a career assessment, personal development opportunities, and completion of 20 hours of community service each semester.

Now 8 years into her social work career and “dream job,” Francis wholeheartedly believes, “I found myself at Marian and I am grateful to Marian and the WFP for making that possible.  The after-school child care allowed me to take on a full-time academic schedule without sacrificing time with my son.  The required counseling appointments provided a safe space for processing and healing past trauma which enabled me to grow stronger as a woman, Mom, and role model.  And one of my favorite aspects of the program is the community service requirements that taught me the importance of giving back and offered opportunities to experience life from a wider lens.”

The Ripple Effect of Change

As of August 2021, 209 single parents have graduated with their undergraduate degree, and another 22 are currently pursuing a degree.  With a graduation rate of 87%, WFP exceeds the national graduation rate of students of all income levels.  If you’ve ever watched the ripple effect of throwing a large stone in the water, it’s pretty easy to see the “splash” at the impact site, but a lot more effort is required to pinpoint the conclusion of ripple effects created by the impact.  Similarly, WFP is designed to have a large impact on the participant but its effects reach far beyond.  More than 370 children have been served through the WFP.  Support varies from the direct impact of financial assistance with a licensed child care provider to the indirect impact of promoting the importance of their own education.  With a goal to break the cycle of poverty for that one single parent, the hope is that it will break the cycle for their children and future generations.  And these ripple effects of change are also felt in Fond du Lac, and surrounding communities, where 75% of WFP graduates live.

Change the Trajectory of your Life … or Support Someone Else in the Pursuit of More

The application process is competitive and involves an in-depth application and panel interview.  An application packet can be picked up in the WFP office, or accessed online at  Applications are accepted year-round and will be kept on file for up to one year.   If you have questions, you can email or call (920) 923.8974.

While the foundation of the program is built upon education, the WFP seeks to inspire its students toward excellence in all areas of life.  It’s a program rooted in the passion for serving the underserved, and is made possible by generous donations of charitable giving.  If you are inspired to support the WFP, please visit