She sat behind him in calculus class, and knew he was cute from just the back of his head. After the first day, she went home to tell her roommate about her math crush.
“So, from day one, I liked him,” Mary Kuligowski said.
Craig Kuligowski, her husband of 22 years, and MU Defensive Line Coach, asked her on a date one semester in 1986. After seeing a movie they walked across the street for burgers.
“Craig and I met his freshman year and my sophomore year … we dated for that year and knew pretty much then that this was it,” Mary said.
One day, driving back from Michigan to visit his family, Craig decided to make it official. Without even coming to a full stop, Mary said, he pulled out an engagement ring and stuck his hand in front of her.
“He just turns and hands it to me, he had no words,” Mary said. “He was so nervous.”
After she said yes they made their moment official with big slices of pie from a nearby restaurant. Though engaged, they decided to wait until after graduation to get married. Mary said part of the decision to wait was parental pressure from both sides. But, the majority of the decision came from their hectic college lives and lack of financial stability. She describes their college engagement as “lots of Ramen Noodles.”
“I think it’s a good idea to get your degree and have that under your belt, and be able to have the basis for a job,” Mary said. “It’s a lot easier being married when you can afford things. When you’re struggling financially it puts a lot of added pressure on you, that, when you’re newly married, can make or break a lot of couples.”
Tough job market leads to delays in life choices
Jennifer Selva, junior MU English major, has been dating Kaleb Watkins for nearly two years. She believes more students are waiting to get married for financial reasons. The struggle has increased recently, Selva said, with the difficult job market. According to “Voice of the Gradate,” a study conducted last year by McKinsey and Chegg Inc., 40 percent of graduates in the nation’s top 100 colleges could not obtain jobs in their chosen field because of the competitive job market. McKinsey’s study shows a world with overqualified candidates continually struggling to find jobs. Gone are the days when a diploma meant a job. College students today must equip themselves with internships, club memberships and job experience to stand out in a saturated job market.
“In our generation, I think because the job market has become so much more competitive and intense you really have to focus and make yourself the best you can be during college,” Selva said. “There is a lot of pressure and stress that goes into school stuff. When you’re young you need to be able to network and meet people to increase your opportunities, and if you have your future set you can’t really worry too much about the professional life.”
Selva believes it is more difficult for students now to juggle marriage and marketing themselves than before. The PEW Research Center conducted a study that found 82 percent of adults believe it is harder for young people today to find a job than it was for their parents’ generation. The study also found that in 2010, only 51 percent of American adults (18 and older) were married, compared to 72 percent in 1960. This decline is notable for young adults, (ages 18 through 29) where just 20 percent were married in 2010, compared with 59 percent in 1960. Selva believes this is predominately due to job market difficulties and the increased education focus.
David Schramm, MU associate professor in human development and family studies and a state extension specialist, said for newlyweds financial struggles can be stressful. But, when couples support each other through difficult situations they often become stronger.
Schramm married at 21, having completed only one of his ten total years of college. He said he is glad he made the choice to get married when he did and said he does not believe he could have succeeded at college without his wife’s support. Today, they have been married 15 years and have four children.
Schramm said that deciding to get married during or after college is a very personal choice, and depends on the couple’s life goals and outlook.
Shelby Richardson, freshman chemical engineering major, said because of the competitive job outlook, students must be a little bit “selfish.” Even when in a serious relationship, she believes there is a certain focus students must still give to job preparation.
Richardson has been dating Jesse Wellman for nearly five years, and the two plan to marry soon after college. They exchanged promise rings early in their relationship, emphasizing their commitment.
“I know that I want to spend the rest of my life with Jesse. I have no doubt about that,” Richardson said. “But I do not plan on getting married in college because right now I have to focus on getting my degree and getting a job. I have to think about, what if I get a job in another state, and he is currently in the military… When we do get married I want it to be the right time and for us to be able to be in the same place.”
Fewer personal commitments allow young people to focus on college/career
Selva echoed Richardson’s feelings, and said the most important thing for college students is to focus on making themselves marketable. With fewer commitments, Selva said, they can become more involved on campus, which could make them a better candidate for a job. For most college students the end goal of a degree is financial security through employment.
“Focus on supporting yourself, becoming financially stable, be able to do the things that you love – and then once you’re stable thinking more on who you want to be with,” Selva said. “That’s not to say the future shouldn’t be thought about though. For us it’s sort of a subliminal thing now, so we’ll say ‘oh when we’re older’ or ‘oh when we have grandkids’ and then we kind of stop, because it’s so far in the future. It’s kind of hard, but we both have so many plans for after college.”
Selva wants to attend graduate school and travel. Richardson knows that chemical engineering jobs are limited in Columbia. Unknown variables of where life will take them and added stress of a difficult job market makes settling down and getting married a little “unpractical, for right now,” Richardson said.
“I cannot wait to have a life with him (Jesse),” Richardson said. “But this part of my life is important too. … Just as I will give my all in my married life, I have to do the same right now, in college.”