After almost 38 years of dedicated service, Minnesota State University, Mankato is saying goodbye to one of its esteemed employees, Sandra Loerts, who is retiring from her position as Director of Financial Aid Tuesday, April 25. With her extensive experience, Loerts has had the unique opportunity to see financial aid grow and adapt with the times into the office we have today.
Loerts first started working here at MNSU as a graduate assistant for the Financial Aid office while she was working on her Master’s degree in sociology, human service administration. Her work was to help automate the award and award letter process. After graduating from her Master’s program, Loerts applied for an open position as a financial aid advisor and got hired in August 1979. From there, she gradually worked her way to her current position as the director.
“I thought I’d only stay for a year,” she said. “And then 38 years later, I’m still here.”
Prior to becoming the full-time director, Loerts filled in as the acting director a couple of different times when the previous director took his sabbaticals. When the previous director decided to step down from the position, Loerts filled in for two years before eventually going through a national search and finally being hired as the official director in February 1990.
Loerts enjoys the details and the fast-paced environment of the job. The different layers of regulations that financial aid has to follow—from the federal government, state government, MnSCU, MNSU, and also student financial aid itself—are always fluctuating and changing, and Loerts enjoys keeping up with them and the research that goes along with that. She says that’s the reason she stayed as long as she has.
“I like the regulations, I like the detail, I like the paperwork, I like the research, I like presenting to students and parents and helping solve problems,” she said.
With a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology, Loerts passion is working with people who need assistance, so financial aid for college students is right up her alley.
“That’s the exciting part of the job—the students,” she says. “Working directly with them. If I didn’t have that piece, I wouldn’t like my job as much as I do.”
Loerts has been able to see the financial aid office change throughout the years. As someone who worked in the computer division at Schwan’s for a year before pursuing her Master’s, Loerts sees how technology has made a huge impact in the way financial aid operates.
“We used to, when we would give an award to a student, print off a letter, mail that out, and they’d mail things to us,” she said. “Now we push a few little buttons and the award notice goes out. The students know what their award is before we even send the email out, because they can see it on E-Services right away.”
Loerts urges students to be proactive in their rights as a student by keeping an eye on Congress and the laws that are brought to them. Students have a greater impact on those decisions than if a financial aid director were to write to them, she says.
The decision to retire was not an easy one, she said, due to her love for her work and her dedicated staff. However, she felt that it was best to leave while things were going well, “versus when pieces are falling apart,” she said.
Loerts’ plans for retirement include working with more individuals who need assistance; instead of students, though, she’s planning to do some volunteer work with individuals with dementia. She also has an interest in climate change and is hoping to take a class or go to seminars on that. Mostly, however, she is looking forward to a “freer structure.”
A retirement reception for Loerts will be held Friday, April 21 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in CSU Conference Rooms 253/4/5. Her successor, C. Tyler Heu, will begin his duties on May 15. Heu has 18 years of financial aid background and is currently serving as the Assistant Director of Student Financial Services for Washington State University.