Navigating the world of financial aid can sometimes be one of those tasks students may find daunting. Fortunately, students throughout the North Dakota University System have people like Minot State University’s Financial Aid Director Laurie Weber to offer a knowledgeable and helping hand.
A veteran of all things financial aid, Weber got her start roughly two decades ago, taking on leadership role of the department five years ago. Her experience is rounded out by an additional two years at Bismarck State College in the Financial Aid Office as a work study student assistant. It was there, Weber said, that she was inspired to take on the work as her chosen career in 1997. And, according to Weber, it’s “definitely not the same every day.”
“Our work, like much of the work at the university, runs in cycles depending on the time of year,” she noted. “We spend a lot of time interacting with students and parents, helping them understand the financial aid process.
“My staff and I also award and disburse scholarships, grants and loans,” Weber continued. “We present financial aid information at various events on campus and at high schools. We work to ensure that MiSU meets compliance requirements for federal aid programs and oversee scholarships and the work study program.”
That compliance is an important responsibility, and helps ensure that the department not only keeps the students up on their financial responsibilities to the university, but also that the university keeps up on its responsibilities to the students. While that compliance is essential, the part of the job that Weber likes the most is helping students and their parents learn how the process works.
“My very favorite part of my job is interacting with students and potential students and their families, helping them understand the financial aid process and figuring out how they can make the finances work to achieve their goals,” Weber said. “It’s so exciting to be at commencement and to see the excitement of students that we have assisted as they cross the stage on that big day! I also really enjoy my interactions with staff and faculty across campus and with my financial aid colleagues at MiSU, around the state and the region.”
As with all careers over time, change inevitably happens. When it comes to finances and student privacy, one challenge appeared with the implementation of a new system.
“Initial implementation of the PeopleSoft system was a pretty big change for us since I started working here,” she noted. “We’ve learned so much and have really come in a long way in understanding the system’s capabilities since we started. Use of technology and social media to communicate with the public has also been a gradual change over the years. Many of our communications now are sent through various electronic and social media avenues rather than via the postal system. In a very positive way, students now have much better access to information about financial aid and finances in general online.
“Very recently, on a federal level, the Federal Perkins Loan has been discontinued, which negatively impacts students,” Weber added. “It’s been hard to lose access to this program with no replacement available and we are still working through how to best help students who might have qualified for this program in the past.”
In recognition for her efforts, Weber was selected last spring as a recipient of the MiSU High Five Award, as well as being elected as the Vice President-Elect for the Rocky Mountain Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
Outside of her role at the university, Weber enjoys volunteering with the Minot Backpack Buddies program, which provides food for elementary age students that may otherwise suffer from hunger over the weekends.
“It’s particularly enjoyable because the program started in Minot as a project that grew out of a Leadership class at MSU that a number of staff members participated in,” she said. “I also volunteer with our state and regional financial aid associations and I serve on a number of MiSU committees.”
She concluded that she had a great, supportive family and is proud to celebrate her 25th wedding anniversary with her husband, David, this fall, with who she has three sons.
“Being a parent to these young men has been my best and most enjoyable job of all,” Weber added.