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Bring back the MRS. degree?

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Remember back in the pre-feminist days when some women went to college for the MRS degree as well as the BA.  Supposedly times have changed, with the majority of college women focused more on careers than marriage.  But maybe young women are making a mistake for snaring an engagement ring as well as a degree. A 1977 Princeton alumna created a tempest over this topic recently by suggesting that female college students should rethink their priorities and “find a husband on campus before you graduate.”

In a letter to The Daily Princetonian, 1977 alumna Susan Patton argued that “Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are.” Where better than college–most likely the last time women are surrounded by thousands of smart, eligible young men—to scout out marriage material?   Patton is the divorced mother of two Princeton boys, one of whom married a classmate and another, a junior, still looking. 

Her reasoning:

Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Interestingly, her words echoed a sentiment that we have heard from a variety of sources—men and women–that the dating scene in New York City and other big cities was “brutal” for 20-something women because many men under 30 believe “there always someone better, prettier, more successful around the next corner.”

Patton’s letter set the blogosphere on fire, prompting the expected criticism. A response from the other end of the spectrum came from Jill Filipovic, a columnist for the Guardian, who urged young women to go “a little wild” rather than husband hunt in college.  Filioivic, an NYU undergrad and law school alum, explained in “Hooking Up Culture in College Has Benefits”:

It means: don’t let shame keep you from doing what feels good, right and freeing, sexually or otherwise. It means: reject a culture that shames sexual women, and don’t participate in the shaming. Take calculated risks. Enjoy yourself.

So what’s the conversation you might have with your adult daughter (or for that case adult son) about finding life partner in college?  We can all give happy examples of young people who married college classmates as well as others who met their significant others out in the work world.  Still, in the 21st century College is often viewed as a time of exploration and personal discovery, as well as a time to lay the foundation for the next step in life, and it seems that most young people view it just that, delaying marriage.

The average age of marriage for men is 28.7, while the average woman is 26.5.   One reason cited by experts for the ever-increasing marriage age is the cost of college; many young men and women are putting off getting married until they make a dent in some of that average $25,000 of tuition debt.

However, if you feel that your daughter missed an opportunity to find a husband in college, there’s always graduate school, or so believe the producers of a new reality show now casting.  A Craigslist posting in Gainesville, Florida, sought women who are “in the process of getting [their] MBA, PhD, JD or any other graduate degree” who are also “hop[ing] to find the perfect man in the process.”

What do you think? Do you agree with Ms. Patton that the MRS. degree should be front and center for college women?   Or should young women use college as a time for self discovery and not worry about putting a ring on it?

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