Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP) is excited to announce the appointment of Maria Sager, MLS, as Assistant Vice President of Financial Aid. Prior to the appointment, Sager was the Senior Director of Financial Aid, and has worked at the university for over 10 years.
Sager and the Financial Aid team are the driving force behind the financial support of thousands of students who have chosen to attend graduate school in pursuit of careers in healthcare. And for RMUoHP, it all started with Sager.
Prior to RMUoHP, Sager’s career was dedicated to regulation systems, from employee benefits to retirement systems. As she puts it, “I gained a love for regulation systems…I love learning about legislation, regulation, federal rules, and all that comes with that.”
Then when RMUoHP, in its early years of enrolling graduate students, wanted to start Title IV and provide student financial aid, a friend of Sager’s from years before called her up asking her to come and apply. “I had regulatory experience,” she explains, “and I love research. So I started researching federal financial aid, what it means, and all the implications.” With her previous experience and passion, she got the job.
The financial federal aid process had been started, but Sager took it over and ran with it. When RMUoHP enrolled its first residential program–the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, Sager’s efforts earned RMUoHP its first ever federal financial aid disbursement for $500,000. But she didn’t stop there. She started the process again so all academic programs would be eligible for financial aid.
“It opened up a wide world,” Sager says. “It changed the world for the university, for recruiting, and for students to get funding.”
As Sager and her growing team worked to expand financial aid options for students, the impact was exponential. “We kept growing–from that $500,000 a year to 30 million a year. We went from being able to offer zero scholarships to a $100,000 scholarship budget,” says Sager.
But the journey wasn’t without its challenges. “I had to learn everything from scratch. Luckily my strengths are research and learning,” laughs Sager. As she explains, no one goes to school to work in financial aid, so she and her entire team have had to learn from the ground up. But she loves her job and she’s built a team of capable employees dedicated to helping students succeed.
In her role as Assistant Vice President of Financial Aid, Sager says, “I hope students know that they have an ally for life. When students take out federal loans, we’re with them for the duration of the payment, which for some students can be 20 to 25 years. We are with them for that entire duration.”
And that’s why building relationships with students is so important to the Financial Aid Office. “The relationships we build with our students and the confidence we establish is so they know that they can always come back. People don’t realize that working in financial aid means that we stay in the lives of students. We help them keep their loan default down. We call them when they miss payments and see how we can help. We work to connect them to resources,” says Sager.
She adds, “To me there is rarely a time we can’t help a student with additional funding. The big thing is students don’t know they can come to us.” But that’s why Sager loves her job. Being a small university, RMUoHP can help every student who needs it.
As Sager looks to the future, she reflects on what the Financial Aid Office has accomplished just in the last few years. The Veterans Assistant (VA) program has grown significantly, scholarships have been added, and more students are applying for funding. With new programs being added in 2023, their team is already at work to make sure those programs have funding.
While Sager has had a significant impact on the university and students success during her tenure here, she acknowledges the entire Financial Aid team: Alexandria Jackson, Associate Director of Advising and Outreach; Krista McEntire, Associate Director of Advising and Reporting; Joe Colflesh, Manager of VA Benefits and SCO; Josefina Sechtem, Financial Aid Regulations and Compliance Manager; Leslie Garcia, Scholarships and Grants Manager; Jeff Albee, Financial Aid Technical Development Specialist; Lauren Pickering, Financial Aid Advisor; and Kaila Sharo, Financial Aid Advisors.
Sager received her bachelor’s in English from Southern New Hampshire University and her Master of Legal Studies from Pepperdine Caruso School of Law.
For more information on Financial Aid services and support, visit rm.edu/financial-aid/.