College sophomore Travis Hilley met his future wife while riding past her house on his frequent bike rides in Navapine, Wash. Alissa Joahann, Hilley’s neighbor, soon started biking with him, and they fell in love. After dating for eight months, took her on a bike ride and asked her to marry him. They were engaged for six months before their wedding on Aug. 8, 2010. The newlyweds even exited their wedding ceremony by riding out of the church on bikes together.
“I think everybody would marry her,” said Hilley. “Honestly, I didn’t want to wait.”
Because the couple’s relationship progressed so quickly, the marriage left one set of parents disapproving of their decision to get married before Hilley’s junior year of college. Alissa was not even in college at this point. Regardless, they moved to Salem, Oregon for Hilley to continue working toward his degree in pastoral ministry at Corban University. Hilley said their parents were “skeptical about how I was going to be able to provide.”
Hilley admits their insights turned out to be well-founded, as he wound up working two jobs, while taking 18 credits. The first year of the Hilleys’ marriage left them scrounging for funds as they were spending $600-$700 on bikes for their across-the-country bike trip. Getting married while still in college may not have been the best idea after all, according to Hilley.
“In hindsight I might have done it differently,” he said.
Many young couples in America are waiting longer to get married due to the economy. With uncertain futures, the national trend shows that couples want to wait until they are more financially secure to get married. However, marriage in college is a recurring trend among couples at Christian colleges. While finances and the wishes of parents play into a couple’s decision about marriage, many regard it as something that should happen sooner rather than later.
For some couples, getting married means less college debt. Jake and Tina Johnson received more financial aid after they filed for independence from their parents, and it was easier to receive government grants and scholarships. Another couple, Becca and Jeff Forrest of Springfield, Ore. got married on July 23, 2011, and are saving money as well.
“We were both RAs last year, but if we ran numbers now, we’re paying less than we would have,” said Jeff.
Of course, married couples work hard to put food on the table. Jeff works 20-hour work weeks at Les Schwab, while being a full-time student.
“To make ends meet without having school loans, we have to work a lot and still do school,” said Jeff.
But most couples would rather stick it out with each other than wait for marriage. Kyle and Paige Nash said their vows on July 23, 2011, in Tri-Cities, Wash., and so far living with each other has been a blessing.
“We’re broke, but not worse than any other college students,” said Kyle.
Like the Johnsons and the Forrests, Paige and Kyle had known each other for years before they got married. When deciding whether they should get married soon, the counsel of their parents was paramount. While going through the pros and cons, Kyle’s parents said they didn’t see a reason why they should not get married. Even with doubts from his long-time friend and teacher, Kyle said his parents still encouraged him to go along with his marriage plans.
The same went for the Forrests as well. Since Becca and Jeff had known each other in middle school and been dating since their freshman year of high school, both sets of parents felt good about letting them get married.
“Her dad told me that he probably wouldn’t have thought it was a good idea the year before,” said Forrest, but after their second year in college, Becca’s father saw the maturity in their relationship and approved of the marriage.
Jake and Tina Johnson of Hood River, Ore. had been dating five years prior to their marriage. They knew they were going to get married, but it was just a matter of when. Through prayer and the counsel of their parents, the couple decided to tie the knot before their junior years as well.
“Why wait another two years?” Tina remembers thinking.
Being in an environment of primarily single students has proven a smooth transition for these couples, but some find it hard to adjust. The Johnsons thought it was different coming back to Corban, where they both attend, only to find they were the minority.
“It took time for people to realize we were married,” said Tina. Because most of their friends are unmarried, their social lives have suffered slightly, since their single friends do not know how to adjust to them being married. The Nashes, on the other hand, found that being married on a campus full of single people did not pose any threats.
“People seem to get really excited when we tell them we’re married,” said Paige.
Would they recommend marriage to other couples thinking about it? Or would the Forrests, Johnsons, and Nashes say to wait until after graduation? The couples’ situations and maturity in their relationships are the primary concerns for most of them, while finances should never be a deal-breaker.
“If you’re ready to get married, you shouldn’t let finances stop you,” said Jeff Forrest.
“We’re still in debt from school, but we’re married and going through it together. It’s a struggle, but it’s good for us even. Becca and I are glad that we waited, but we’re glad we’re not waiting any longer.”
The couple also warned about the temptation to let the pressure of a Christian college campus play into whether or not marriage is a good thing for college students. Through prayer and counsel from wise adults, couples must determine for themselves whether marriage should happen sooner rather than later.