By Kristen McEwen
When it comes to raising kids while pursuing education, University of Saskatchewan (USask) PhD student Kate Loseth (BA’18, MPP’22) is aware of the challenges single parents face.
Loseth created the Single Parents for Social Change Bursary designed to support single parents who are students attending USask.
Currently, a PhD student in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology in the USask College of Medicine, Loseth created the bursary because of her own personal experience with pursuing post-secondary education.
“I always knew that I personally wanted to go to university, but there were obviously factors affecting that, one of the big ones was the financial barrier of it all,” Loseth said. As a teenager, Loseth had her son when she was in Grade 12.
She earned a certificate in cosmetology to become a hairdresser to support herself and start her undergraduate degree in the USask College of Arts and Science. In the beginning, Loseth was taking one or two classes at a time while working.
“After a little while, I realized that if I’m going to stay on this track, this is going to be like a 20-year-degree,” she said. “You can’t take two classes a year and finish anytime soon.”
While in university, Loseth met her husband and the pair got married. She decided to increase the number of courses she was taking, to finish her degree sooner. This meant that Loseth needed to take out student loans, while working full-time.
“It was frustrating being a low-income student on student loans, working full-time and still struggling financially,” she said. “Because I had to work full-time to support my family, which obviously affected my grades. I was passing, I was doing OK, but they were not amazing.”
One night during her undergraduate degree, after she and her husband had put the kids to bed, Loseth went back to USask for a late-night finals study session at the library.
“I was just stressing out,” she said. “’OK, I need gas, I need groceries.’ I opened my email and there is this person letting me know that I’ve received a bursary for $250 ... For some people, that’s such a low amount, but in that moment, that was what I needed to keep going.”
Once she graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Indigenous Studies in 2018, she decided to pursue her master's degree in public policy. Due to low grades, and the longer than average time it took her to complete her undergraduate degree, Loseth did not qualify for scholarships or additional student loans. She continued to work full-time while earning her master’s degree.
Loseth’s master’s thesis hit close to home — it focused on single parents’ at USask and their experiences in university from a financial standpoint. Many student parents in Loseth’s study were also employed in the service and hospitality industries, which were greatly impacted during the pandemic.
Overall, parents expressed that the quality of their children’s lives were decreasing. While student loans may have covered groceries and other necessities, there often was not much leftover for extracurricular activities.
“People are struggling, even if we’re working,” Loseth said. “The cost of living is so high right now. We want to give our kids a stable life. We don’t want to survive; we want to thrive.”
When it came to sharing the results of her study, Loseth wrote her thesis, created infographics, and wrote articles to share what she learned and raise awareness. She wanted to do more.
“I wanted to see real action happen,” Loseth said. “The University of Saskatchewan has done a fairly good job at responding to the needs of all parents, whether they’re single, or low-income. But all of that takes time.
“We need to get money in pockets,” she added. “While we’re changing policies or improving programs, we need money now.”
Though she is a student herself, Loseth wanted to do what she could to help other parents by starting the Single Parents for Social Change Bursary with a total pledge of $4,500 to be paid in annual contributions of $1,500 for three years.
The bursary is intended to provide financial assistance for undergraduate students enrolled in the College of Arts and Science—who identify as women, transgender, or gender-expansive—and provide at least 50 per cent care of a dependent child or children.
The bursary will be open in August. Individuals who are interested in learning more about the bursary may visit the College of Arts and Science website, or contact Erin DeLathouwer. The fund will also be open to donations from anyone who wishes to contribute.
“Coming out of the pandemic, hearing all of these stories—I don’t want to wait any longer,” Loseth said. “I’m not expecting $1,500 to allow someone to go through university. But if that’s the amount that keeps a parent going through one more semester—and they’re one step closer to completing their degree—then that’s good too.”