Solely In Black and White: The College Paradox

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The College Paradox

Typical Frum Female Attire- Photo via Flickr

Here is an interesting paradox to ponder, why is it that our society pressures girls to acquire college degrees yet at the same time pressures our boys not to?

Many people can attest to fact the one of the motivation for girls to attend college is to better their shidduch prospects. Just ask some of our Touro and Raizel Reit grads. ;-) (or see Bad4’s link from this past Friday)  Logically it makes sense; someone has to earn a living. Ergo, if one intends on acquiring a husband who intends on learning, at least for the interim said husband would require a wife who is capable of bringing home a paycheck. While a college degree isn’t a necessity, it does provide more income when one family is relying on one salary. (Arguably that would make older-singles more attractive as they have better earnings prospects than their younger counterparts as argued here.) Additionally, for the girls intent on marrying the college educated boy, logic would arguably dictate that said boy would want a college educated girl, for two reasons: intellectual compatibility and hashkofic compatibility. However, what seems to be the complication nowadays is: guys who “back in the day” would have chosen to go to college (or started working) are deferring from doing such activities purely because of shidduchim. Case in point, my friends who are in yeshiva get more dates than my friends who aren’t, even if they aren’t nearly as good of a catch…! 

So the question here is just as Double Trip asked:  What do these guys do instead? Could you please reveal the logic involved as well? They sit in yeshiva until they get married! The logic follows as a simple plan to manipulate this convoluted system. Basically, there are a lot of girls who are seeking guys who are in yeshiva. Additionally, there is another segment of girls who are seeking guys who will go to college or work eventually assuming the guy is currently in yeshiva. However, in the current system there is only small contingent of girls who are willing to go out with guys who aren’t in yeshiva anymore and are working or in college. This group pales in size by comparison. Besides, I would venture to say that a good majority of the girls currently on the market claim they want a learning guy, (a.k.a. they are more open-minded about the topic, or less rigid about the terms) even if they don’t really want that just so they can get access to a larger dating pool as well.

“Coincidentally,” when a boy defers going to college or work this boy just happens to become a more attractive candidate to both of the larger dating groups and thus allows himself to be set-up with a larger potential dating pool. Understandably, this logic is based on the erroneous societal principle that a guy who is still in yeshiva is a better catch (and will ostensibly make for a better husband) than one who is not, which is untrue, yet it remains a primary tenet of our shidduchim system.

Aside from this practice being one complete farce (not everyone who is in Yeshiva should still be there and not ever girl who claims she needs a learner is really looking for one) this leads to some other big problems. For one, this makes it harder to redt shidduchim in general as no one really knows what anyone really is looking for. Often people create lists of what they think the shadchan wants to hear without being honest. Additionally, some of the best guys on the market (i.e. the guys who would make for the best husbands) will be overlooked because they aren’t in yeshiva while some of the “best guys on market” really really aren’t…

**This post is written as a generalization and doesn’t fully address the age and demographics aspect of this discussion. 


  1. I like the last paragraph. It's all so true. Every girl is asking for a long term learner whether that is something she really wants or not. And every boy IS a long term learner, because that is what every girl wants. If you tell a shadchan that you're not necessarily looking for a long term learner, you can forget about being redt any decent boys.

  2. Frankly, I can't comprehend the current state of things.

    I don't think these girls who want learning boys know what they are getting into. While it may be "easy" to find a learning boy, supporting a husband and children when he eventually goes to school doesn't make much sense.

    My brother wanted to spend shana rishona in Israel (his wife's idea) and my father said no, finish school first. My sister-in-law later thanked him for that.

    Real life means supporting a family, which is the man's, not the wife's, responsibility. While there may be some amazing learners out there who will become amazing rabbis, that cannot be everyone who is learning.

    Give me a working man.

  3. Yeah, I'll take those working men too.

    >>Case in point, my friends who are in yeshiva get more dates than my friends who aren’t, even if they aren’t nearly as good of a catch…!<<

    You just found two takers.

  4. Princess Lea, you’re absolutely right, these girls really don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. “Real life” nowadays is a bit more complicated, especially in America. Nowadays familial and working responsibilities are not as clear cut as they used to be. Perhaps this is a topic for another post in the near future…

    Lon, your right, there are some girls out there who are seeking working men, but they are far from the majority. Also, you can’t just redt shidduchim based on the fact “he is a working guy she looking for a working guy.” Furthermore, I would venture to say that perhaps the common denominator here is age. I suspect that many girls at 20 had different “wants” in a potential husband than they do later in their dating career…

  5. The longer you're dating the more likely you are to date working guys (even if you didn't consider them in the beginning) for two reasons:
    1) you're generally more open minded the longer you've been dating
    2) the further you are from your bais yaakov and seminary years- the less brainwashed you become and the more aware you are of how the world works, how much money a therapist/nurse/social worker really makes- and you realize that you're not quite sure a large family can be supported solely on that income. You also see how some of those friends of yours who married the learning boy of their dreams early in the game are struggling. The reality of hungry mouths, long hours working and bills to pay is a lot less romantic than Morah Frumie made it sound. (but i will admit I am guilty of dating only learning boys in the beginning- that's where most boys were and I know enough math to know that I'd have a better probability of getting a date if I date guys who are learning)

  6. Since I started dating a few years ago, I've been looking for a earner-learner, NOT a learner-earner (and it took me a while to figure out what the difference was). But there seems to be a shortage of boys who have "real" jobs or actual plans of what they want to do with their life. Mostly they're sitting in Yeshiva (whether or not they are serious about learning) and going to school part-time with the intention of "eventually" working in some field or another. Many of the boys who are already working don't have college degrees or long-term plans.

    Funny how the shidduch system messes with everyone's priorities. Girls will say they're looking for a certain type because it's good for shidduchim, boys strive to fit that mold, and in the end there's a lot of people unsatisfied with their options.

  7. Lon: I will also admit that my dates are not as quick in coming as, say, if I was okay with a learning boy, but I don't need many dates. I just want the one guy. :)

    iTripped: On you last point - when a guy says to me on a date, "Everyone else is doing such and such" then I say, no dice. I do what makes sense to me, and I'm looking for a guy who stands for something, not what everyone else says. So if a guy is learning, usually it is because "everyone else is," so I can cut out the whole population there to begin with.

  8. Princess Lea: I agree with you- but how can we avoid going out with these types in the first place? No one will tell you beforehand if a guy is just doing what's expected or what he wants. And most guys would not tell you that in person either.

  9. Princess Lea, that may be true, but what about the guy who says he is learning just for the sake of getting redt to more girls, but also happens to be learning for real and accomplishing? Just because one follows the flock doesn’t mean they’re actually a sheep…

    iTripped, the same could be asked on the flip side. How do guys figure out what girls are really looking for before going out? I assume at the end of the day no one really knows and that’s part of reason why two individuals need to hash-out their differences and figure out what works for them. Nonetheless, you’re completely right, a more efficient and honest system would help avoid and probably solve these issues…

  10. iTripped: I ask and the shadchan tells me what he is doing now. That is enough for me. Either it is "he's working" or "he's in college." If "he's in yeshiva," you are the weakest link, goodbye.

    SiBAW: I have no intention of supporting a husband. None. It's not my job. One curse per person. He's supposed to work, I'm supposed to bear children. Even if he has a brilliant learning mind, he can still work. One does not outweigh the other.


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