Elly, on the other hand, is purposely vague about her career as a student. Granted, we have learned certain things despite her need to keep us in the dark; we know that she finds it hard to pay attention in class and tends to be easily distracted so it's not hard to see why her own grades were probably fairly poor. What we don't know is what, if anything, she planned to do with her Bachelor of Arts after she got it. It seems to me that she probably believed that as soon as she got her degree, people would be falling all over themselves to employ her; any anecdotal evidence that suggested that she'd either need to further her education or settle for an entry-level position in an unrelated field was most likely dismissed out of hand as being the jealous rantings of haters.
Speaking of unfair and evil commentary from people who just don't get how hard her life is and how she should be given a free ride, my gut tells me that John's need to be Mister King Dentist Man was not why Elly's bid to get that degree she'd hoped would miraculously give her an identity not dependent on a man collapsed. I tend to believe the executioner of her hopes was a letter from the Dean of Students telling her that the University looked at her spotty attendance, poor work and general disinterest in post-secondary education and stated that the Board of Regents took her as seriously as she took her classes; it thus seems likely that Elly got married when she did not because she wanted to take a break from her studies to support John but because the university kicked her out for being a party girl who failed every course she had because she wasted her time playing guitar for draft dodgers. John is thus best interpreted as being the moral equivalent of a man who marries an immigrant so she can apply for a green card; it was either marry him or return home and admit to squandering her parents' money and her scholarship on stupidity. Another interesting thing is that, well, the courses John suggested that she take at night school which she rejected out of hand might have actually led her to a real career and the public identity she craves. Look, for instance, at Annie; she parlayed a night-school course or two into a genuine career.
Come to think of it, that could be another reason that Elly tends to avoid Annie of late; it could well be that one of the last strips in aprilp_katje's webcomic Foobar is indicative of how Elly really feels; since Annie did things on her own initiative and stuck to them, she has the career and the public identity Elly believes should be handed to her for being alive. What makes things all the more darkly comic is that Elly does have an identity that isn't dependent on her family that she's not aware of; she started out being known as the glorified temp at the library and is now known as an inept failure of a bookstore owner who resigned because she had to deal with customers and suppliers.
To be fair to her, however, there is another impulse driving her to do something that she's not really suited to do: the need to please her parents; since she's sort of poor at reading between the lines, she doesn't quite realize that what most disappointed them more was not that she quit school to support John but that she came up with excuse after excuse as to why she couldn't quite seem to pick things back up at a later date. Yet again, her need to avoid what she spuriously believes to be the cataclysmic results of too much candor made her life a misery. If she'd been honest about how post-secondary education wasn't for her, they'd have understood; heck, Jim told her to her face that her happiness loomed larger in his mind than all the sheepskin in the world. His being a guy about it didn't take 'cause of Elly's love of feeling bad about things that she shouldn't but he did try to inject some sanity into the martyrdom party.