Originally published Nov. 9, 2011

The American concept of marriage is changing, but rising divorce rates have not prevented some college students from tying the knot before graduation.

Yan Yu, a sociology professor at Grand Valley State University, said she is surprised by the number of college students marrying because the average age at which Americans wed is rising.

“Those who marry later are less likely to divorce,” she said. “Young marriages are vulnerable or unstable because young couples may not be ready to face the challenges brought about by marriage. They may marry for romantic love, but marriage itself is not romantic at all.”

However, GVSU sophomore R.J. McVeigh said he does not expect a fairy-tale marriage. The newly-engaged student embraces the alternative.

“If I was making this decision and it meant that I was to be poor for the rest of my life, but I would be married to Brianna, would I still choose to do this assuming pretty much the worst?” he said. “The answer is yes.”

McVeigh will wed his girlfriend of two years in August despite opposition from many of his peers, who he said are skeptical about college-age marriages.

“The reason our marriage seems young is because of its relation to the marriages in our society right now,” he said. “If you’re talking the human race throughout history, we’re normal getting married (at this age).”

Like McVeigh, junior Cassie Regan has found little support in her marriage from peers and others.

“People can’t understand why you would be 22 and in college and married,” she said. “It’s just really awkward, the reactions.”

Regan met Paul Kiger in a GVSU Spanish class, and the couple waited only a year to marry.

“Once we met each other, we both knew we weren’t coming back to school (right away),” she said. “We didn’t have any time limits or time frames, so we were like, ‘Well we really like each other,’ and the next step in our lives we were both doing the same thing, so we decided to do it together.”

The couple married in September 2010 and moved to El Salvador before returning in the spring.

Regan said she has no regrets about the timing, but the marriage has not been completely easy.

“Marriage takes lots of time,” she said. “There’s just not a lot of time (in college), so lots of times I will decide, ‘I’m just not gonna study extra for this exam,’ or ‘This homework’s just not going to be done super well’ because, at the end of the day, my husband’s more important, and he’s going to take up the extra time.”

However, Regan said one of the hardest aspects is managing finances for two people, especially when each person works only part-time and their total income doesn’t equal a full-time salary.

Housing, food and textbooks become expensive purchases when shopping for two, and Regan has even delayed taking her husband’s name because the legal process is too expensive.

She intends to become Cassie Kiger after graduation.

The prospect of getting pregnant and raising a child is another financial worry for the couple, which takes precautions but embraces the reality that their methods are not always 100-percent effective.

“It’s certainly risky, but you have to be willing to accept it,” Regan said. “We know that if I get pregnant, we’ll make it happen and we’ll deal with it.”

Although the marriage has brought financial struggles and worries about the future, Regan said it has been a benefit to her education.

“I wouldn’t be in college if it wasn’t for my husband,” she said. “I may graduate because of my husband.”

Kiger received his bachelor’s degree in social work before the couple married, and he is now working toward a master’s degree at GVSU. At this point, Regan does not think their marriage will hinder their individual careers.

“If I decided to become a working professional or decided to be a stay-at-home mom and use all the psych I know on my children, that would be okay,” she said.

Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2011/11/college_marriages_withstand_trials_tribulations