THU AM News: WTCS leader calls student loan relief plan ‘good first step’; WEC Energy Group putting $5.4B into renewables by 2026

— The head of the Wisconsin Technical College System says the Biden administration’s student loan relief plan is “a good first step” toward lessening the burden on borrowers. 

In an interview yesterday, WTCS President Morna Foy noted technical college students tend to have higher levels of financial need compared to other those at four-year colleges and other institutions. She notes the state’s technical college system has “long supported … any and all ways to help students” make college more affordable and accessible. 

“I think that seeking perfection sometimes can be the enemy of getting something good done, and I’d like to focus on getting the good thing done,” she told “Is there more that we could do to address the debt crisis and make college affordable? Yes, of course there is. There probably always will be. But this is a good first step and I’m appreciative.” 

She explained tech colleges students and two-year college students in general tend to borrow less than their counterparts at four-year colleges. That’s due in part to them being in school for less time and paying less for their education, she said. 

“Overall, the dollar benefit will obviously be weighted heavily toward four-year college students,” she said. “But I think in terms of a difference it makes to the individual students, the more the student relies on these federal dollars to help them, the more important it could become.” 

Foy said about 37,000 technical college students in the state last year participated in federal student loan programs, noting that figure is fairly representative of a typical year. 

The Biden administration last week rolled out its plan to wipe out up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 for non-Pell Grant recipients. The debt cancellation will only be available to individuals making less than $125,000 and married couples making less than $250,000, a White House fact sheet shows. 

One estimate from the Student Borrower Protection Center found this plan will eliminate $4.14 billion in federal student loan debt in Wisconsin, benefitting about 660,000 borrowers in the state while completely erasing the debt of about 320,000 Wisconsin borrowers. 

Foy described the plan as “a great new option” for borrowers whose federal student loan debts are impacting their purchasing power and employment decisions. 

“In the end, anything we can do to take some of the pressure off, not just individual students, but again, this is a concern for all of us, when folks graduate from college and get jobs and still struggle because of excessive student loan debt,” she said. 

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— WEC Energy Group plans to put $5.4 billion into renewable energy resources between 2022 and 2026, the company’s latest Corporate Responsibility Report shows. 

Over the same period, WEC Energy Group also plans to spend: $6.8 billion on grid and fleet reliability; $1.6 billion on grid and fleet modernization, $1.5 billion on electric generation, transmission and distribution; $1.3 billion on gas distribution; and $1.1 billion on other technology. 

Between now and 2026, some of the company’s top priorities include replacing fossil fuel generation, expanding regulated natural gas infrastructure to meet rising demand, launching “advanced metering” and upgrading other systems and equipment. 

The report notes WEC Energy Group has gotten approval for a renewable natural gas pilot program that will source this gas from dairy farms. 

“The RNG from the farms will directly replace conventional natural gas that would have entered our pipes,” report authors wrote. “In addition, these investments will reduce the environmental impact of agricultural activity.” 

According to the report, the company plans to have renewable natural gas in its distribution network by the end of the year. Its first three contracts are expected to source up to 80 percent of this gas needed to reach its net-zero methane goal by 2030. 

The report also includes a section on two liquified natural gas facilities being built in Walworth and Jefferson counties to help the company meet higher demand levels in the coldest parts of the year. Report authors say the company plans to spend about $370 million on the facilities, which are expected to go online in late 2023 and early 2024. 

“We expect these projects to save our customers approximately $200 million over time,” they wrote. 

Between We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service — WEC Energy Group’s two Wisconsin subsidiaries — the company has about 1.6 million electric customers and 1.5 million natural gas customers. 

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— Marshfield Clinic Health System has announced a new push to enroll more people in a federal research program. 

The National Institutes of Health’s “All of Us” program has a goal of gathering health data from at least 1 million U.S. residents for research purposes.

The health system had been enrolling participants full-time at sites in Marshfield, Wausau and Chippewa Falls since early 2019, with part-time enrollment available in Minocqua, Neillsville, Wisconsin Rapids, Park Falls and Eau Claire.

MCHS yesterday announced new enrollment sites in Mosinee, Weston, Rhinelander and Eagle River opening in September. 

Scott Hebbring, the project’s lead investigator in Wisconsin, says the effort looks at factors including environment, genetics, lifestyle, culture and more. 

“In doing so, the goal is to develop better ways to predict, prevent, and treat hundreds of diseases,” Hebbring said in the release. “By opening up Mosinee, more Marshfield Clinic patients can benefit from participating in this innovative research and help advance the field of precision medicine.” 

Those participating in the program can share electronic health records, data from personal health tracking devices, as well as blood and saliva samples. According to the release, they get information back about their ancestry and other personalized results. 

Along with MCHS, other Wisconsin organizations taking part include the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Gundersen Health System. 

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— The Wisconsin Technology Council is calling for applications from early-stage companies to present at the annual Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium in November. 

This year’s event is being held Nov. 9-10 at the Monona Terrace in Madison. 

Startups will have the chance to give five-minute presentations through the Tech Council Investor Networks track, as well as 90-second pitches through the Elevator Pitch Olympics. Some companies will also be selected to meet one-on-one with angel and venture capital investors at the event. 

The deadline to apply online is 5 p.m. Oct. 7. 

See more event details here: 


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