Many will argue that college isn’t for everyone, and that a piece of paper doesn’t make a man. On the contrary, however, some will justify that having a college degree certainly aids in a man’s earning potential, or rather, paper potential.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that those with higher degrees earn more and suffer less with unemployment, there are no official studies that prove that those without college degrees lack intellectual currency entirely. Moreover, having a college degree is not a sure sign of intelligence, smarts or aptitude.

Indeed, a college education is undoubtedly invaluable and advantageous for reasons other than income, but when it comes to dating, are college educated women and those who adhere to strict must-haves open to exploring the exception to the rule?

A few days ago a colleague and I were having a conversation about her dating list. On it were three simple things that she declared were non-negotiable: a college degree, humor, and one who makes more money than her. The latter stemmed from divorcing a man in a 50-50 state where in which she, the bread winner, had to divvy up and pay him half of everything. When pressed about her first must-have, my colleague claimed that a man can have millions but at the end of the day he needed brains that came from an alma mater. With a Masters under her belt, she believes that a man with a degree is better learned in the ways of communication and conversation.

Her conclusion obviously rules out non-degree successes like, for example, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jay-Z, and a plethora of other lesser-known, highly intelligent men whose plump portfolios are diploma deficient. Needless to say, with money comes power, and these individuals surely aren’t sweating that paper.

Money aside, other women admit that having a college degree represents more for them. Out of my female friends with bachelor degrees, most feel that because they’ve earned a degree, their male suitors ought to have earned one too. With all the hard work and challenges that come along with university life, being able to overcome and accomplish such a milestone is significant to one’s character. Additionally, for first-generation college graduates especially, earning a degree can symbolize an upward change in trajectory for not only themselves but also for their families, friends and community.

But what about the exceptions to the rule, men without college degrees?

In another conversation, this time with a friend who is pursuing a career in the military, it was admitted that a man did not necessarily have to have a degree so long as he was successful and ambitious in his own right. My beautiful, early-twenties, homeowner friend feels that a man’s ambition is more important than what a piece of paper insinuates. For example, the men who’ve traveled the world in their military careers, earning rank, power, knowledge and experience that the average college graduate may never is far more relatable to this particular friend of mine.

My far more liberal, HBCU educated, best friend could care less about formal credentials. One of her most intelligent boyfriends opted to follow a path other than university; he was a musician and worked in the community. Along with his neurotic personality and refreshingly worldly disposition, she admired his thoughts, his similar tastes in music, and the fact that he was an empathetic semi-feminist who just “got” her. Although she is still young, every fiber in my being doubts that my beloved friend will alter what she thinks is “good enough” or non-negotiable in a man. “People are just people,” she always says.

I can’t help but return to a chat I’ve had over and over again with my college-educated friend who has single-handedly put her daughter through school and has maintained a successful business, all while being fabulously single and fabulous—“I just want a good black man!”

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