AMES, Iowa — Emily Funk is the only person in the circle of people she knows at Iowa State University who will graduate this month without debt.
“My dad died when I was a senior in high school, and he left a bunch of money for me and my brothers to go to college,” Funk, 24, of Davenport, said. “It’s only for school. That’s the only way we can use the money.”
She will have some money left to attend graduate school but will have to borrow some, and also work for a year. Funk said she’s taking a year off of regular schooling to improve her research and language skills, and to read books for fun. Eventually, she wants to study 20th Century America with a focus on pop culture and become a professor.
Funk, who is to graduate with a degree in history, said her mother never had a paying job before her parents divorced. After the divorce, her mother didn’t have many skills and had to take a lower paying job. Even though her family did not have a lot of money her father saved for college.
“It’s really funny because I’m dirt poor and can barely afford food, but (I have) no debt,” Funk said. “My mom is dirt poor, too. Everybody’s dirt poor, except we have money for school,” she said. “My dad was frugal and saved up all that money.”
The agreement was that Funk’s father, Ruben Funk, would pay for two-thirds of her college education and that she would have to come up with the rest. Funk has worked on campus about 17 hours per week to help pay for books and groceries.
In the fall, Funk is to participate in the The Disney College Program at Walt Disney World in Florida for the second time. During her first trip, Funk worked 40 hours a week in housekeeping at a contemporary resort for a semester. She received two days off per week and said she would spend that time exploring the park.
“I could see Magic Kingdom through the window of the resort I worked at,” she said. “Really hard work, but it was wonderful.
Her second time around, Funk will be doing custodial work around the park. “I’m doing it again after I graduate just to give myself a little buffer room where I don’t have to worry about school for a year,” she said.
Danielle Ferguson is a sophomore at Iowa State University from Salem, S.D. She is a staff writer at the Iowa State Daily.