A college degree was the life insurance a young family needed

April Levin wanted some life insurance.

Not the kind that cashed out after she died. The kind that improved her life and those of her sons while she was still very much alive.

Young woman hoisting a boy up a tree
April Levin and her son, Micah

She wanted a college degree.

April had looked at her future and didn’t like the view. Her early 30s had been rocky. Her husband, a mortgage broker, saw his earnings plummet during the recession. Their marriage fell apart, and they lost their home to foreclosure.

April had stayed home to raise her young sons and was lucky to land a job as a financial administrator at Great Bay Kids’ Company, a nonprofit child care center.

“I just wanted to do better for the boys,” she says. “It’s a different ballgame when you’re by yourself, and these days you can’t get a job without a bachelor’s degree.”

At Rockingham Community Action, April found out she could get help with college costs through the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund’s Individual Development Account (IDA) matched-savings program. She had some college credits, but was three years away from a bachelor’s degree.

She signed up for IDA, took the required financial fitness classes, and banked her tax refund. April then used her $2,000 savings and the $6,000 IDA match, plus a student loan, to enroll in Southern N.H. University. In fall of 2011, while still working full time, she began taking night and online classes.

A lot of help and support from her friends and family kept her going. So did knowing that four young eyes watched as she helped the boys with their homework, then did her own. Saturdays, while her kids romped with friends, they saw April writing reports.

Last May, the boys watched their mom graduate—with honors—with a bachelor’s degree in business and a minor in accounting. She hopes her struggle will persuade them to go straight to college from high school. “Maybe they will because they’ll see how hard it was for me.”

For April, the degree means security, the likelihood of earning more in the future, and accomplishment. “To be honest, I can’t believe I did it,” she says, “But I’m so happy I did.”

This story originally appeared in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund's 2014 annual report