Prepare yourselves for a vulnerable & LONG full financial story of the past three years….
Three years ago from today I graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University (April 28, 2012). I attended there the full four years & I do NOT regret a day I spent there. I learned a lot about myself, others, and God. I also witnessed first hand what genuine community looked like, became challenged as a person by my own peers, invested into the lives of others as an RA & in return, was completely poured into for FOUR years mentally, physically, and more importantly spiritually. To this day, I have managed to maintain some of the deepest friendships with my college friends. These friendships and connections have allowed me to travel all over in the past 3 years re-connecting and even photographing some of their most precious moments in their lives. I really could go on & on about my college experience and just how much I LOVED college… but then there is the other side… you know, the financial side? Well, like the majority of high school students embarking on their college career comes the dreaded student loans… SOOO let’s rewind for a second…
I still remember the date. January 25th of my senior year of high school, I was at a church dinner on a Wednesday night & the lovely Patti Evans had just returned from a college visit from IWU with their son Chase. We sat down at the dinner & talked about the school & to that date I had LITERALLY NEVER heard of IWU. I knew of Ohio Wesleyan, it was practically my neighbor, but I had never heard of Indiana Wesleyan. She ranted and raved about the school, but she said, “Katie, I could not stop thinking about you the whole visit. I know if this school is not for Chase, it is for Katie!! I even checked & they have a photography program.” Patti is one of those people that if she ‘feels’ something, you better listen to it because she is so in tune with the Holy Spirit that I felt I better at least look in to this place. I got online & looked at visiting days. Come to find out, the very next visit day was February 8th & it was the Art Day specifically (they only have 1 day the entire year set aside specifically for those interested in this field). Well, you can do the math, from the day I first heard of IWU to the college day that would speak directly to me were only weeks a part… so close together that my parents could not even get off work to take me. I called my grandpa & off to IWU we went. Immediately, I fell in LOVE! I came home & told my parents they have to go back with me. I LOVE it & I am pretty sure I am going there…
Then came the financial talk… neither of my parents attended college & I was actually the first person in my family to graduate from college. They were honest and said ‘someone told me years ago that when it was your time to go to college it would cost $100,000 to attend college & I literally laughed at them.Well, it did & it’s now my time to make a decision. I had actually planned on attending a branch of Ohio State & I’m pretty sure my entire four years were payed for. I graduated high school was a 3.98 GPA & I was basically set in their minds. I didn’t even need to worry about loans, that is until IWU came into the picture. I thought my GPA would still play a major role in scholarships, but then there is that annoying test that proves nothing called the ACT! I’m not a genius, I’m a hard worker & that’s what a GPA proves. They were not prepared for this & honestly, who is? My parent’s supported & blessed my choice to attend IWU, but also made sure I realized what I was getting myself into. They went from, my college is basically paid for to you are going to need to take out some loans. By no means were we ever in need of anything growing up. I had a VERY privileged life that many could only dream of, but paying $28k outright is something else. For those of you whose parents have blessed you by providing the finances for your college, thank them & I actually thank my parents for NOT paying for my college as well and I have a pretty good reason why…
God had BIG plans to proclaim HIS name through me. He knows I am a pretty good steward of my finances, but He also knows I like to have control of that. Obviously, I was freaked out about student loans, but I also thought everyone has them, right? Even more, I felt called to IWU. At the end of the day, despite how big the financial burden that lied ahead, I knew I was to attend this University & let go a little of the financial reign I controlled. Each year I attended IWU I earned more scholarships & became an RA for two years, which helps. Well, four years passed & I graduated April 28, 2012. Everyone has the grace period & then, October of 2012 rolled around, which meant it was time to start paying back those dreaded loans.
The Lord has been more than faithful & I firmly believe this entire situation I endured is for one reason & that is proclaim how BIG God is & that He is who He says He is. He is a provider, He is just, He is love, He is grace, and He is peace. He began preparing me for this journey in my last semester of college as I took an exiting class on Personal Family & Finances & a closer look at Dave Ramsey’s philosophy. I LOVED this class!!! I remember reading in this class a Bible verse that talks about being a slave to your debt & I made a decision then & there to completely hand over this burden to the Lord, work my butt off, remain faithful, and be a good steward of the things he has provided me with, which leads me to his provision. Before graduation, I was in contact with my part-time job back home, the good ol’ Richwood Banking Company about the possibility of coming back. I agreed to it, but still needed a flexible schedule to kick start my photography business. I still worked 40 hour weeks at the bank & begin my first year as Katie Lee Photography the spring of 2012. I had 12 weddings lined up & a number of sessions. The year 2013 rolled around, and I have 13 weddings lined up, stilled worked 40 hours at the bank and a longer list of sessions. Then 2014 rolled around & I ended the year with 14 weddings and 100 + sessions!! Each year the Lord continued to faithfully provide work & that is exactly what I have done for the 3 years is work my behind off. My days consisted of working normal business hours at the bank, leaving straight from work for a session, packing my car for a wedding on Saturday, attending church on Sunday & adding a couple more sessions that day. Oh, then there’s editing where I would stay up to get it done.
There were definitely ‘bad’ days where I would come home from work at the bank or a session & want to go crazy. At the end of the day, I had to remind myself, you are playing a role in something that is bigger than yourself & you are called to serve people well in both of your jobs & be thankful you have a job(s). I ALWAYS heard that whispered to me before I fell a sleep because it is 100% true. Today (the 28th), exactly three years to date from graduating, I submitted my FINAL student loan pay-off at exactly 8:00 a.m. totaling a JAW-DROPPING $81,800.28 & without my parents repaying a penny of it!!!!!! Yes, you read that correctly & go ahead & re-read it because I’m telling you, It is an amazing feeling to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Sometimes the Lord brings us in to the desert to bring us out to Proclaim who He is. GUYS, I did not start paying on my student loans until October of 2012 & completely finished April of 2015!!! That is not of me, but of God through me. I do not even know where that amount came from… I never borrowed that much (gotta love interest – a lot of interest), but it was the cards in life I was dealt & I had a faithful responsibility to do something about it. I have worked a lot, remained faithful in tithing, and kept my eyes fixed on Him.
I know some of you may think, ‘well, that was kind of stupid for you to go to that school to begin with’ or, ‘I could have paid a lot of things off too if my parents would help me now.’ All of that may be true to your perspective, but not to mine. College was AMAZING & I can’t even begin to put a ‘price’ on it, for me. My parents also could not fully provide for the expense of college (nor were they ever expected to), but they have helped me pay for other day to day life bills since graduating. They would have LOVED to help me more with college, but that was not our situation so they have joyfully chosen to help me with day to day bills while I focused completely on my student loans. Some parents pay their kids’ tuition, while others pay their cell phone bill! I kept my same 1998 car until two weeks ago & yes, I still have a ‘dumb’ phone. Can you believe, I, a business owner, still have a dumb phone? Neither can my brother…. but the point is that I was very focused & yes, I could afford both of those things two years ago, but instead, I tripled my payments monthly by eliminating ‘wants’ out of my life. I run a business based off social media & managed to without a smart phone. Yes, I will be getting one, but not because I want one. Just so that’s clear (: My eyes have been opened to appreciating the ‘wants’ even more than before because they were never handed to me, the concept of hard work & staying focused, and the bigger picture of the Kingdom that is to come.
My God is faithful & I think he even has a sense of humor tacking on that .28 on the end since I graduated on the 28th & payed my student debt off in 2.5 years on the 28th!!!
What’s your desert you feel stuck in? Dear one(s), You do not have to wander for 40 years like the Israelites did in the desert. Do your part & the Lord will remain faithful. We will all endure suffering of some sort, but there is joy to come!!