A balancing act

Jennifer Nacin

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series examining the experiences of married students at Iowa State. Today’s story looks at the difficulties and rewards of marriage during college. Tomorrow’s will examine what happens when husband and wife becomes husband, wife and children.

Najua Nordyke has slept in and arrived late for class a time or two. But it wasn’t because she forgot to set her alarm; it was because her husband, Josh, just turned off the alarm and forgot to wake her up.

For better or for worse, students like Najua, senior in communication studies, and Josh, junior in management, who plunge into the world of matrimony still manage to balance classes, work and relationships while earning a degree at Iowa State.

Najua said she feels the university caters to her and her husband’s needs as married students.

She said because she’s been married for almost a year, she notices she can better relate to her professors on a more understanding level.

“I can identify with the professors on a deeper level now that I am married,” Najua said. “And they can identify with me. They look at me as a young married woman and think back to the times when they were in my position.”

Kory Pence, junior in marketing and offensive lineman for the ISU football team, and Heather Pence, senior in music, both said some of their professors who knew they were married offered a helping hand or expressed sincere concern for them in certain situations the professors could identify with.

Heather said she had a richer relationship with her professors after she married.

“When it comes to my personal professors, I think they have connected with me on a different level because I am married,” Heather said. “I think that they have been more understanding, especially when I was pregnant. They were very accommodating, which was very nice.”

The Pences been married for a year and a half and have a 4-month-old daughter.

Josh Nordyke said most of his professors are understanding when it comes to balancing classes and marriage.

“There have been times when I couldn’t make it to a class because Najua was sick and I wanted to take care of her,” Josh said.

Balancing classes, work and marriage has proven a difficult and interesting task, he said. But he said he wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Heather Pence said it’s difficult at times to manage time to spend with her husband because they are both busy with class, practice and raising their child. She said they try to make time to spend with each other through their busy schedules.

“Pretty much it’s like [Kory] has a full-time job,” Heather said. “It’s kind of hard because I don’t get to see a lot of him.”

Because being a student and working to support a family can be time consuming, it can be difficult at times for the couple to see each other for more than two or three hours each day before they turn in for the night, Josh said.

Josh said he doesn’t see his wife as much as he’d like because one person works while the other person has the day off. He said he believes it has been easier for him to be married in college; he said he would have rather been married than engaged throughout college and have gotten married after graduation.

Kory said it’s been great being married while attending college.

“It’s something that is pretty rare but pretty neat to have a family when you are studying at school,” Kory said. “It’s great to have that support system — someone who is going through the same thing you are.”

The Nordykes and the Pences said they have been very pleased to receive the amount of financial help from the university that they would not have received if they were not married.

Najua said after she qualified for more FAFSA money after she was married and received a fairly significant grant from the university.

Ann Wessman, enrollment service adviser for student financial aid, said many married couples on campus qualify for more FAFSA money because of the drop in income that appears on applications once students are married. She said because students are no longer dependents, they tend to qualify for more financial awards.

“We have a lot of students receive money from FAFSA,” Wessman said. “It is based on the married couples’ income; the parental information or income is no longer a factor.”

Heather Pence said she didn’t qualify for grant money from the university before she was married. But that changed once they she said her vows.

“When we got married, we immediately qualified for grant money,” Heather said. “And that has been a tremendous help.”

Being married definitely has its benefits, she said.

“It’s nice to have someone to come home to,” Heather said.

Click here to see scenes from the Pences’ lives.