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Wisconsin private colleges leader to retire after 3 decades

October 31, 2021 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The leader of Wisconsin’s group of private colleges and universities plans to retire after three decades at the helm.

Rolf Wegenke, 73, became president of the Wisconsin Association of Private Colleges and Universities, also known as WAICU, in 1992. The Madison-based organization represents 23 private nonprofit schools and their nearly 54,000 students.

“I think we’re in a very good place,” said Wegenke, who’s stepping down after the school year. “The presidents have been very entrepreneurial during the pandemic and the last recession and the recession before that.”

Wegenke has spent much of his time convincing people that private colleges are affordable, as compared to public universities. He has focused on promoting numerous sources of financial aid, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

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The average annual sticker price for a student attending a WAICU school is $33,422, he said, but the average financial aid package is $29,007. That means the average out-of-pocket cost for a student is $4,415.

“How we can tell that story and get people to listen is hard,” he said.

Grants are a part of that story. Nearly a third of students attending WAICU schools are eligible for a Pell grant, the federal subsidy for college students from families with the greatest financial need, and 27% are students of color.

Across the University of Wisconsin System, a quarter of students received a Pell grant and about 18% identified as students of color last fall.