Can Jehovah’s Witnesses go to college?

If you have met many Jehovah’s Witnesses, you may have noticed that very few have a college education. Some have attended Technical School, but very few Jehovah’s Witnesses have degrees from colleges and universities. In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses have one of the lowest education rates of any religion, with only 12% holding a college degree. Why is this so?

While some do obtain college degrees against mass opposition, in reality, Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t go to college if they want to remain a Jehovah’s Witness in good standing. Attending college will make the individual “bad association”, and any family privileges will be taken away.

This article will look at what Jehovah’s Witnesses have to say about education and why they forbid their members from pursuing a college degree. We will also discuss the consequences if a member disobeys and pursues higher education.

What do Jehovah’s Witnesses say about college?

While the leadership does not outright say it, their publications, videos, and talks clearly show the use of “undue influence”, where they use excessive persuasion to manipulate a person’s viewpoint to act in accordance with the will of the leadership, avoiding higher education. Essentially, these statements are nothing more than propaganda and come in the form of articles, videos, talks, and images.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not condone obtaining a college education and treat the endeavor as morally wrong and selfish. Jehovah’s Witnesses are instead encouraged to obtain a minimal level of education, only enough to look after their very basic needs.

They attempt to avoid clearly stating their position on the topic. The article “How Do Jehovah’s Witnesses View Education?” on obfuscates their stance. It attempts to make them seem reasonable with statements such as: “We apply this principle by carefully examining the range of options available for supplementary (postsecondary) education and the cost and value of each.

Any former member of Jehovah’s Witnesses can confirm that this is not the view they actually hold. This is evident when examining other statements they have made on the topic.


The article “Slave For Jehovah”, in the October 2015 issue of Watchtower magazine, clearly shows the actual position of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It says in part: “Rather than acquiring secular degrees and titles after their names, true Christians focus on obtaining “letters of recommendation” by engaging as fully as possible in the field ministry.” This is a straw man argument against college and higher education. It reduces all the benefits and reasons to attend college to “secular degrees and “titles”, a gross oversimplification. Then it states that “real Christians” choose not to attend, implying that anyone who disobeys this direction is not a Christian at all.

In 2005 the October 1st, 2005 Watchtower article entitled “Parents—What Future Do You Want for Your Children?”, cautions parents against the imagined moral risks of allowing their children to get a college education. It asks the question, “Is the risk involved worth whatever benefit the young ones may receive? And most important, what are the young ones learning about things that should come first in their life?” These questions are not explicitly answered but asked in such a way to make the answer clear, parents should not allow their children to receive a college education.

Higher education and dating have even been likened to the abuse of drugs.

The “false Cause” fallacy was exploited in a statement made on page 2 of the 2011 Kingdom Ministry book, where the Jehovah’s Witnesses make it appear like the pressure to pursue higher education and dating is as “dirty” as abusing alcohol and drugs.

“Your children will no doubt experience new challenges and pressures … Are they prepared for the pressure they will receive to pursue higher education, date, and use alcohol or drugs?” 

Kingdom Ministry 2011 Jul p.2


If a picture says a thousand words, a video can say a million. Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken full advantage of using videos to employ “undue influence” techniques on their followers. Jehovah’s Witnesses are constantly bombarded with these videos at meetings, conventions, field service, and broadcasts. Below is a short video compilation of some statements regarding higher education made by one of the Governing Body members, Tony Morris.

Interestingly, some Jehovah’s Witnesses attend technical colleges and trade schools. While an exception is not made in printed literature, these schools do not seem to carry the same stigma that colleges and universities do. Why is that?

With that in mind, in the above video at the 5min 40sec mark, Tony Morris makes this statement: “What secular skills will we be promoting? Skills that will be useful to God’s organization (the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania), now and after Armageddon. For example, we need construction skills around the world right now! and think about this, we will not need doctors or lawyers after Armageddon, but we will need carpenters and plumbers, etc.”

It goes without saying that there is nothing wrong with trades such as plumbing and carpenting, but the problem here is that the organization will only accept education that they can exploit for the benefit of the organization.

The book “Young People Ask Volume 1” states that the goal of school should be to simply “graduate with an education that you can use”, and nothing more.

Why don’t Jehovah’s Witness go to college?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the least educated religious groups in the world. A study of over 30 modern religions and denominations found that the Jehovah’s Witnesses rank 27th, with a mere 12% of members having college degrees. That is less than half of the rate of the total adults in the United States. That shockingly low rate makes it clear that most Jehovah’s Witnesses do not go to college after all, but why?

Most Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t go to college because they are taught that higher education is useless and that Armageddon is imminent. Pursuing a college education is also taught to be morally wrong, selfish, and materialistic. It will open the individual up to bad association with worldly people (non-Jehovah’s Witnesses).

Jehovah’s Witnesses also avoid higher education because it’s too time-consuming, and they will not have enough time to participate in congregational activities and duties. Let’s look at some of the reasons Jehovahs Witnesses do not go to college:

  • “Armageddon is Imminent”.
  • Higher education is too time-consuming.
  • College is “Selfish and Materialistic”.
  • College opens you up to “Bad association.


Publicly, Jehovah’s Witness leaders have implied that college is a bad idea because the end of the world is imminent. An article in an Awake magazine makes the following statement:

If you are a young person, you also need to face the fact that you will never grow old in this present system of things. Why not? Because all the evidence in fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicates that this corrupt system is due to end in a few years…If you are in high school and thinking about a college education, it means at least four, perhaps even six or eight more years to graduate into a specialized career. But where will this system of things be by that time? It will be well on the way toward its finish, if not actually gone!

Awake! magazine from January 8th, 1969

Today we are more than “a few years” away from 1969, and the world has still not ended. However, similar statements continue to be made. The “June 15th, 2012 issue of Watchtower” had this to say on the topic: “No doubt, school counselors sincerely believe that it is in your best interests to pursue higher education and to plan for a secular career. Yet, their confidence lies in a social and financial system that has no lasting future.

These two quotes are 43 years apart, yet the message is the same. Armageddon is very near, so do not waste time going to college. In their own words: “A university degree may or may not improve your employment prospects. But one fact is indisputable: “The time left is reduced”! – Awake! 1989 May 8 p.13, What Career Should I Choose?


Jehovah’s Witness attorney Philip Brumley said in a video interview that “Learning things that have little to do with what one can do to earn a living, really serves no purpose.” and that “Rather than devoting or allowing this world to consume four, six, eight or ten years of studies, why not focus on two years of study to get some technical training that would facilitate or help someone to become a good regular pioneer.”

“She admits: “Studying for my courses took so much time and effort that I was too busy to linger in prayer to Jehovah the way I used to, too exhausted to enjoy Bible discussions with others, and too tired to prepare well for the meetings. Thankfully, once I realized that being immersed in higher education was damaging my relationship with Jehovah, I knew I had to stop. And I did.”

Watchtower 2019 Jun p.7

Clearly, Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught and believe that high education is too time-consuming and is a waste of time. But without higher education, we would have no doctors who save lives, engineers who make our world safer, or lawyers who fight for the dignity and rights of people.

So why do Jehovah’s believe those endeavors serve no purpose? The answer is simple, and they do not even try to hide it; the organization want’s its members to dedicate their spare time to serving the organization in door-to-door preaching, construction work, and other volunteering positions like pioneering (full time preaching), with no pay.

Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid higher education because it’s “Selfish and Materialistic”

“What effect did higher education have on this sister’s thinking? She answers: “I am ashamed to admit that the education I pursued taught me to be critical of others, especially my brothers and sisters, to expect too much of them, and to isolate myself from them. It took me a long time to unlearn these lessons. That time in my life showed me just how dangerous it is to ignore the warnings given by our heavenly Father through his organization. Jehovah knew me better than I knew myself. If only I had listened!” 

Watchtower 2019 Jun p.7

An article in the June 2019 Watchtower 2019 said that education “…generates pride and arrogance, and the result is that people become “lovers of themselves.”

Another statement printed in the June 15th, 2011 Watchtower magazine says: “Higher education: Jesus warned against ‘seeking your own glory.” while citing a scripture at John 7:18, that has no bearing on gaining an education at all. In fact, the bible is full of scriptures that encourage working hard in your career and education. Proverbs 3:13 says: “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding.” and Proverbs 18:15 says, “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid higher education because it opens them up to “Bad association”.

Don’t be fooled by the friendly demeanor of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. According to their very own publications, if you are not one of them, then you are “bad association,” and “Worldly people (non-Jehovah’s Witnesses) are not governed by God’s principles, and a “nice” exterior can conceal wicked intents.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are told that “We need not let our guard down by hobnobbing with worldlings at office parties, in outings or in sports groups.”. This same attitude is applied when it comes to going to college, where they are surrounded by so-called “worldly people”.

“University and college campuses are notorious for bad behavior—drug and alcohol abuse, immorality, cheating, hazing, and the list goes on.

Watchtower 2005 Oct 1 p.28

Clearly, while cloaked with self-righteousness, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a very warped view of everyone outside of their group. While there are examples of individuals who practice bad behavior in universities and colleges, the same can be said for their very own organization. Concealing child sexual abuse, money laundering under the guise of charity status, seizing of Kingdom Hall properties, practicing deception, and even outright lying in court.

Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid higher education because it encourages critical thinking and asking questions

There is another reason why Jehovah’s Witnesses are opposed to education, and it is not plainly spelled out in their literature.

Colleges teach their students critical thinking, science, and history. These are all things that can be used to break someone from the cult mentality. For example, learning that Watchtower magazine is lying about the date of Jerusalems destruction can lead students to be more critical about their beliefs and look for other lies, ultimately leading them to leave the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses altogether. To avoid losing members, the Watchtower organization recommends their members remain uneducated.

What consequences does a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses face if they pursue college?

Understanding the consequences a Jehovah’s Witnesses faces if they go to college requires some background information. Members are forbidden from having friends outside of the cult. Typically, everyone in a member’s social circle is also Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is why shunning is such an effective tool for controlling members.

There are various levels of shunning within the organization. The most extreme level is disfellowshipping. All members completely shun the person being punished, not so much as saying “hello” to them. While going to college alone typically isn’t enough to be disfellowshipped, the Elders will be watching closely for any other behaviors they can use to disfellowship.

The person who goes to college will be labeled as “bad association”, which is a cult phrase meaning that someone should receive low-level shunning. Individual Jehovah’s Witnesses will be encouraged to spend as little time as possible with this person. This can result in friends unexpectedly canceling all plans with the person labeled as bad association.

A higher level of shunning is marking. When someone is marked, a talk is given explaining a bad behavior, and the congregation is warned to avoid contact with anyone exhibiting this behavior. In this example, a talk could be given about the imagined dangers of college. It would be explained that someone was marked for attending college. The goal is to shame the individual into changing their behavior, in this case, it would mean dropping out of college.

A person’s entire family can also be punished if a person attends college. The Elder’s handbook Shepard The Flock of God lists pursuing higher education as something that “may require a review of an appointed brother’s qualifications”. This means that someone serving as an Elder, Ministerial Servant, or Pioneer could have their responsibilities revoked simply because their child went to college.

It is clear that, as a cult, Jehovah’s Witnesses will do anything possible to prevent their members from attending college.

22 Replies to “Can Jehovah’s Witnesses go to college?”

  1. Jehovah’s Witnesses do go to college I’m a Jehovah witnesses and I’m going to college my friends are Jehovah witnesses and they are going, everybody In the hall everyone has a choice to get a higher education god even want us to be smart so before you say sum abt any religion get your facts straight or maybe your to lazy to do that just don’t say nun at all have a nice hell of a day

    1. Are you sure you go to college? Your spelling and grammar are horrific!

      Firstly, your Governing Body has a strong stance against Higher Education: Listen your leaders!

      Furthermore, there are countless quotes from Watchtower study articles against higher education:

      “Many schools now have student counselors who encourage one to pursue higher education after high school, to pursue a career with a future in this system of things. Do not be influenced by them. Do not let them “brainwash” you with the Devil’s propaganda” – Watchtower, What Influences Decisions in Your Life?

      “Higher education: Jesus warned against ‘seeking your own glory.’” – Watchtower, Make Your Way Successful, How?

      “Human philosophy ignores or contradicts Jehovah’s righteous standards. It does not nurture the fruitage of God’s spirit but, rather, “the works of the flesh.” It generates pride and arrogance, and the result is that people become “lovers of themselves.” These qualities are the opposite of the meek, humble spirit that God’s servants are encouraged to have. Some Christians who have pursued university education have had their minds molded by human thinking rather than by God’s thinking.” – The Watchtower, Look Out That No One Takes You Captive!

      “Do you not agree that to continue enjoying divine blessings, we must resist seeking things for ourselves at the expense of Jehovah’s worship? That is so whether the activity or interest diverting our attention is the pursuit of wealth, get-rich-quick schemes, ambitious plans for advanced education to have a desirable career in this system, or programs of personal fulfilment.” – Watchtower, Let Your Hands Be Strong

      “Another example of something useful that can become a valueless thing is secular education…. many who pursue such education end up with their minds filled with harmful propaganda. Such education wastes valuable youthful years that could best be used in Jehovah’s service.” – Watchtower, Repudiate “Valueless Things”

      Ask your favorite elder what his Elders Manual says must happen when HE OR A MEMBER OF HIS IMMEDIATE FAMILY IS PURSUING UNIVERSITY EDUCATION.

    2. Thank you Brother, sounds like this article has followed the path of bitterness, which clouds judgement in itself, leading to ignorance. 🎶 Let them return to Jah who shows mercy and forgiveness in His own large way 🎶.

    3. Go figure you would be a JW! The spelling goes to prove the little importance of education! They want free labor to build halls and profit from free labor! Wake up!! They don’t even help members that can’t feed their families if the parent dies, or loses their job!! Worse form of giving out of any religion… period!! They should be stripped from their charitable tax exemption!! They are using you and you will suffer more than just being a bad speller!! I know… my whole life for the first 30 years wasted and for a man made GB of men that are horrible humans actually!! Lol.. out of all people in the world God chose only American idiots with major ego issues!!? Hypocrisy is an understatement!! Liars, and DRUNKS!! Everyone is Bethel has a large consumption intake of alcohol…. FACTS! See for yourself and tell me I’m wrong…. Trust the WT as the National Enquirer!!! Educate yourself!! To be against education to that level is absolutely the most absurd mindset!! They need you stupid to actually believe it’s the “truth”, learn the real truth and set yourself free!!
      Sarah T- Tracy, Ca
      Victim of abuse from JW Livermore Sex Slave crimes involving all 8 elders and over 85 children 16 yrs and younger. 1970-85! Public information is a great place to start!! Is that apostle? I’d say it’s trustworthy and public knowledge lawfulness doctrine!!

  2. They don’t want people to think for themselves. Higher education opens your mind to different ways of thinking and analyzing. To critical thinking.
    The less a person is educated, the easier it is to control them. God in the Bible says, “ Judge not…” I guess they skipped that part. Shunning is hurtful.
    Since when does the Bible encourage hurting people. They supposedly believe in the old and New Testament. Really ?
    It also says no one will know when the end time is coming. It’s a wealthy “church.” VERY much so. What do they truly do with all the givings ?
    How are they not worldly ?
    They do no believe critical thinking is good. That’s why they are against higher education. That way people are easier to control. Sounds like a cult to me !
    I guess kids don’t need to learn to read and write. We need a good education to be a teacher. parents are too busy going door to door to teach them them how to read. That being said, how will they be able to read The Watch Tower ?

  3. In studying with the witnesses and not once has anyone said college is forbidden. I personally graduated with a bachelors and I’ve not heard in my studies anything condemning that. One thing I know is the organization bases all their teaching on the Bible. Their mission as far as I have experienced is to get you to know God and understand his expectations.

    1. So true, some just was to be blindly led and forget there is moderation to everything. Sounds like this site has gone to the extreme.

  4. > Replying to: LaFaye Smith’s comments of June 16, 2022

    In studying with the witnesses and not once has anyone said college is forbidden.
    > In growing up around several witnesses for decades now, I have never ever never witnessed ANY of them seeking higher education – that is until this year in that XXXX is about to enter college; a first!!

    I personally graduated with a bachelors
    > A bachelors in what??

    and I’ve not heard in my studies (anything condemning that)
    > Studies of what??

    One thing I know is the (JW) organization bases all their teaching on the Bible.
    > CORRECTION – Their (JW) “teaching” is based on their restricted version of a REVISED Bible (New World Translation) which you can ONLY obtain within their organization. And a revision of the (Holy) Bible is forbidden per Scripture, cf – Proverbs 30:5-6, Revelation 22:18-19, Deuteronomy 4:2

    Their (JW) mission as far as I have experienced is to get you to know God
    >But they DO NOT believe in the Triune God, the Father – the Son – the Holy Spirit

    and understand his expectations.
    >> Who is his”? God is “His”

    See – Is the New World Translation a valid version of the Bible?

  5. Yeup we don’t want to infect our sheep with critical thinking skills haha!

    Funny that I was told I was wasting my time getting higher education and sorting pension funds out – now I’m in my 50s I’m not sure if me never leaving school was a false prophecy 😂😂

  6. Funny, University was A-ok for late Governing Body Member Albert Schroeder’s son, Judah Ben! WatchTower PAID for him to go to NYU, and then Columbia Law School so he could run their Legal Dept.

    “Rules for thee, but not for me!”

  7. Limited education AND network also forces a “dependence“ on god and his “chosen 8”.

    This limited education results in limited career choices that make escaping this cult without dire repercussions difficult.

  8. There has been a bit of an influx in my area lately of former pioneers, bethelites, etc who are in their late 40’s and 50’s who are scrambling to get jobs now and make money so that they can qualify for at least some sort of social security credits for when they hit 62.

    This is obviously in the US. You can pull up your SS credits and likely payout by just going to the .gov website. I’ve heard of many JWs who did this and were mortified when they saw a bunch of zeros or very low numbers for many years and how it affects their SS payout.

    I know this doesn’t directly have anything to do w/ College or not, but the Crotchtower mentality is the same: work for Crotchtower by pioneering, building crap for them for no pay.

  9. The phrase my elders used when I suggested wanting to go was “a chasing after the wind”

    But I also knew a pioneer who went to college and kept her hours up so it’s only an issue if it is

  10. Just some quick questions. Have you ever attended a meeting with the Jehovah Witnesses? If so, have you ever tried asking the elderly or the ministers what they know about this? I don’t think so. This whole thing is just your own personal assumptions. I study with the Jehovah Witnesses and have been since mid 2015. Not once has there been a saying about how higher education is prohibited or not allowed. As long as you remember to put god as a priority and be careful with the bad temptations given in such schools, there is absolutely nothing wrong with attending University, college, etc.

    1. Yes I have attended the meetings ever since I was born and let me tell you this! The whole thing about attending University depends on which hall you go to! I have attended different halls and yes I’ve heard some elders discouraging some of my friends and I from attend college. Which is so horrible in my opinion because the ones that were telling me this had their lives and HAD GONE TO COLLEGE THEMSELVES. Now this does not means that all the members of the congregation thinks like this but a lot of them do! The only worst part is that you hear more of the “do not ” than “ do”go.

      1. Agreed… especially in halls near colleges, you see a lot of college-educated friends and students going there. I remember attending one where the speaker prayed for exam success for the students in his concluding prayer. So, it all depends.

    2. exactly!! I was born into the religion and I have not once heard going that college/university is bad or is prohibited. I’m even in college at the moment. people love brainwashing others with this crap.

  11. I was an elder for about 4 years.
    My two sons were about to enter college. I went to an elders school where they instructed us to review anyone who is an elder and he promotes higher education. Although they said if the kids don’t miss any meetings or field preaching work, them going to college does automatically disqualify him from being an elder. I, being conscientious told them of our plans and asked them to review me. Keep in mind that if I wanted to they would never have reviewed me because these guys liked verry much or I could have lied and said the kids are just a two year associate degree, them another two years and they get their bachelors.
    To make story short. I was removed as an elder, my two sons are in college, one graduating soon with a CS degree. He has minor privileges in the congregation ,so do I, but from time to time the usual watchtower study beats us up a little ,the usual discourse ,from time to time makes us feel bad.
    But we get the hugs and words of encouragement from the elders afterwards and tell us that when these studies are over we should work to gain bigger privileges. That is my experience concerning higher education.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. I see it all depends on the region and congregation type. A friend’s family had a policy of not discussing education, while they were enrolled and continued reaching out in their congregation even as elders. As far as attention was not brought to it, all was good, to prevent stumbling those on a different faith phase.

  12. Who knows why i am posting on this dribble website. But hey, bit of fun. “Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t go to college if they want to remain a Jehovah’s Witness in good standing”. In my congregation in Cambridge, my friend is taking(yes TAKING) a Phd in economic law at Cambridge University. He serves as a regular pioneer. To serve as a regular pioneer one cannot be regarded as not in good standing. I myself am studying an undergrad degree in strength and conditioning at Anglia Ruskin University and i have the all clear for full congregation priveledges. I dont mind you criticising but get your facts straight please. Amateurs!

    1. Favoritism is quite common in the organization, and your case is the perfect example.

      Read the article properly, and follow the links to the references from I am not making this stuff up.

      Read other people’s experiences.

      By boasting that you and your close ones were afforded the opportunity to pursue higher education, you are spitting in the face of those who were deprived of that, by the organization’s policies. All you’ve proven is that there is favoritism in the congregations, which I have seen a lot of in my time.

      1. Nope, even among Jesus disciples, some could grasp truths differently than others. We have our power of reason for a reason, and are to exercise our faith with knowledge and action.. Some tend not to do research to supplement and strengthen themselves.

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