My Story

As I mentioned in my most recent blog post (Looking ahead), I mentioned that I will be switching the focus of my blog.  I will be focusing on making it through college with as little debt as possible.  Let me give you a little background on my history of college debt:

Growing up, I always thought about going to a private university that would give me an edge in the workforce.  I started out wanting to become just like Dr. Carter from the NBC tv show, ER.  Then, I wanted to become a youth pastor.  Then I wanted to become a pastor.  Finally, I decided on a business major.  I figured that would give me a degree that would be useful in any situation that I would be in.

As I entered high school, I spent a few afternoon’s with both my pastor and youth pastor discussing college options and my interest in Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana.  With the stories that they told me, and the experiences that they had, I felt like Grace was the place for my face.

So I went and visited.

And I loved it.

So I applied in my junior year of high school.

And I was accepted through a part of their early enrollment period.

And I got invited to their Presidential Scholarship program to win some extra money for my education.

And I won $1,000.

Senior year went by with everything lining up as it should and I was all ready to head out to Winona Lake for four years of great education and fellowship with my fellow students and get ready to spend the rest of my life in a non-profit working to change the world.

I knew I was going to end up in debt.

I was okay with it.

I figured I was going to finish up with around $50,000 in debt.  I was going to get a high-paying job right out of college and snowball that debt until it was down to about $10,000.  Once it was down to $10,000, I would leave my high-paying job and go work for a non-profit.  I thought that it was a great plan…


Momentum 2008.

Momentum is a conference held for the students of the Grace Brethren churches across the United States that features speakers who challenge us in many different areas.

One speaker, Francis Chan, challenged me in a way that I never imagined was coming.

He got up on stage and began to talk about a student that he knew that graduated from Seminary with over $120,000 of debt from undergrad and seminary.  This student wanted to get into ministry right after he graduated, but he could not because of the amount of money he owed from the college loans.

That hit me.


I want to change the world.

Can I do that with $50,000 in debt?

Do I want to wait for a few years after I graduate?

Or do I want to get started right away?

I spent a lot of time in the weeks after Momentum trying to decide how exactly I wanted to get through college with the least amount of debt possible.

I weighed the options.

Do I go to Grace for one year and then end up at a public university, say OSU or UC?

Do I spend all four years at OSU or UC?

I decided that I would spend one year at Grace and then move from there to either OSU or UC.

So I went and applied for a loan for one year at Grace.  Just a little over $9000 after government loans, grants and scholarships from Grace.

We waited.

We got a letter letting us know that our first request was denied.

So we applied again.

And waited.


It was the Thursday before I was to leave.

I started to freak out (and if you know me, I don’t do that too often).

What if my loan is denied again?

What do I do then?

So I looked around.

Do I apply to OSU and hope to get in there?

What about Franklin University?

OSU-Marion branch?

Columbus State Community College?

I looked at prices and saw that Columbus State would be by far the cheapest option.

So I had a back-up plan.

Friday, August 29th, 2008 comes around.

One day before I was to leave for Grace College.

I hear the mailman.

I’m anxious.

The letter in the mailbox determines my fate.

I rush out to the mailbox and find a letter addressed to my parents and me.

I opened it and was declined.

I instantly get online and apply to Columbus State.

A few days pass and I get my acceptance letter to Columbus State.

That was over 15 months ago.

I’m still at Columbus State paying just over $3000 for a full year of classes.

I made it through the past year paying fully in cash for my classes (thanks mom and dad for paying a quarter).

This year, with the uncertainty of my hours at work, I had to take out a loan for this year.

I’m already in the process of paying off that loan.

That leads me to where I am now.

A little over $2200 in debt.

My goal is to make it through college with under $10,000 in debt.

I hope that you join me as I continue in my quest of a degree for less than $10,000.


About Zach Younkin

I'm currently enrolled at Western Governors University, pursuing my degree in Accounting. I'm hoping that this blog provides you with some encouragement to be what God has promised you. This blog collects dust, which is unfortunate. Keep your eyes open for some sporadic blog posts. I spend more time on Twitter, so go follow me there. @zachyounkin
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8 Responses to My Story

  1. mom says:

    I am very,very proud of you and the way you are thinking not having a big amount of debt when you are finished with college.. Remember to keep God first… Also that God loves you in whatever you do and so do I!!!!!!!!

  2. Zach Younkin says:

    @mom: Thanks Momma! I love you to and I’m glad you enjoyed this post!

  3. Jim says:


    Life is full of choices. I think we sometimes get paralyzed with choices fearing we will make the wrong choice. I recall weighing options when I quit a good job a few years ago to become a stay-home dad and seminary student. After much prayer and counsel, I felt that God was saying this to me: Make a choice. If you stay where you are I will still be with you; it will not be a “wrong” choice.

    However, I also sensed God saying something further: “Do you trust Me? Do you want to go on an Adventure? Then follow Me!”

    Choices. I think you made a good one. In the end, if your heart longs for the satisfaction that only Jesus can provide, if you continue to seek after a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, then I believe God will use your life in a powerful way to bring Himself the glory and fame that He deserves.

    Press on, bro!

    Jim Spelman

    • zachyounkin says:

      Thanks for the encouragement. I know that God does have a great plan for me. It was a difficult choice to make, but I continue to trust that God is always right by my side.

      Thank you so very much!
      My recent post Help Haiti

  4. Wayne says:

    Proud of you for thinking this through and acting fast to get into Columbus State. My kids and you are proof that you can get a great education on a shoe-string budget.

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  6. Irvin Setera says:

    Fantastic article. Keep publishing more imformative publications. Been following your web logs for 10 days at present and I should tell I am starting to like your post. I wish to know how do I subscribe to to your web logs?

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