Vicksburg mom among 10 to win tuition through national program

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 19, 2010

For years, Karen Cloud has been passed up for jobs because she doesn’t have a college degree. But that’s about to change, thanks to a scholarship program called Project Working Mom.

Cloud is among 10 recipients of a full scholarship to pay for online courses through Ashford University. More than 6,000 applied.

Project Working Mom, also open to fathers, was founded in 2008 and is sponsored by, an online education directory. The application process requires a short essay by the prospective student, telling why he or she wants to go to school. By the end of this year’s campaign, 280 full-tuition scholarships will have been awarded by Ashford University and other accredited online institutions for a total of nearly $5 million.

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Cloud, 32, will pursue a bachelor’s degree in health care administration. She works at the University of Mississippi Medical Center University Physicians billing office in Clinton.

“All my experience at hospitals has been with billing,” Cloud said. “In order to get into the actual coding part of it, you have to have a degree.”

Cloud married after graduating from Vicksburg High School. She and her husband, Kevin, have two children — Madison, 9, and Michael, 7.

Her husband, a specialist in the Army Reserve who returned last year from his first tour in Iraq, said he was surprised and happy when he heard she won the scholarship.

“She mentioned going to college after high school, but we got married and that kind of put a hold on it. Then we had kids,” he said. “Basically, the family and everything came first.”

Cloud said online education appealed to her because she’ll be able to complete her degree in her own time.

“Going to class would have to be done around a schedule,” she said. “The online (class) seems to be more flexible.”

Ashford University Provost Elizabeth Tice said Cloud’s essay showed she’s “very articulate” and a strong writer.

“That’s something that we put into the criteria because online education is all writing-based,” Tice said. “The people who are good writers have a much better chance to be successful in the online world. She’s exactly who this scholarship is for — somebody who works hard, cares, has academic ability and just needs somebody to help them fit this in to everything else that they’ve got going on in their life.”

Helen MacDermott, content director for Project Working Mom, said single moms typically fare much worse economically than men, and working moms have the most trouble trying to go back to school.

When devising the scholarship program, MacDermott said she and the staff identified three major barriers working moms face: time, money and confidence.

“The goal of Project Working Mom was to provide the information and resources needed to help overcome these barriers and encourage working parents to go back to school,” she said.

The deadline for the third and final round of Project Working Mom scholarships this year is Sept. 30. Second round winners have not been announced. Visit for information.

Ashford University was founded in 1918 and is located in Clinton, Iowa. It has an enrollment of about 25,000 students. Its origins date to 1891, when a Catholic priest invited the Sisters of St. Francis to help teach in Clinton.