Wisconsin Association of Private Colleges Chief Retires after 30 Years as President | Higher Education
Rolf Wegenke, who has headed the state association of private colleges and universities for the past three decades, plans to retire next summer.
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. WAICU members include Edgewood College and Marquette University.
“I think we are in a very good position,” he said. “The Presidents were very enterprising during the pandemic and the last recession and recession before that.”
One of Wegenke’s biggest challenges has been to confront the public perception that private colleges are a much more expensive alternative to public universities. The emphasis on financial aid has been a major factor in breaking this belief.
The average annual sticker price for a student attending a WAICU school is $ 33,422, he said, but the average financial aid program is $ 29,007. This means that the average cost for a student is $ 4,415.
“How do we tell this story and get people to listen is difficult,” he said, especially in recent years when a growing share of the public is questioning the value of a college degree.
Private colleges have some inherent advantages, Wegenke said. Chief among them is their flexibility to meet the needs of the workforce. The Medical College of Wisconsin, for example, has established two secondary campuses in northern Wisconsin to address the shortage of physicians in the region.