Accredited Degree Programs, Scholarships and Resources for Top Schools
With more than 280,000 students enrolled in Wisconsin’s public schools, and another 70,000+ pursuing degrees from private institutions, the state contains many individuals intent on advancing their education, despite declining enrollment trends since the Great Recession. A part of the state’s master education plan to enroll more students is to create more flexible education and transfer options for Wisconsin’s non-traditional students. One answer may be online education, which can offer the flexibility and affordability Wisconsin’s learners are looking for. We’ll cover which colleges are offering the best online education in Wisconsin and answer students’ frequently asked questions about paying for an online degree in Wisconsin below.
Best Online Colleges in Wisconsin 2020
Prospective students can select from a variety of online schools and colleges in Wisconsin. Most Wisconsin institutions report declining student enrollment due to potential factors like fewer graduating high school seniors and financial obstacles. However, a college degree helps professionals advance their careers and qualify for higher salaries.
The flexibility of online programs allows students to balance their studies with professional and personal obligations. This guide covers the best online colleges in Wisconsin to help students find the right program for their needs. It also covers financial aid opportunities, the importance of accreditation, and programs and resources for adult learners.
Distance learners studying through the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus can choose from half a dozen undergraduate programs and 9 graduate degree programs. There are also several certificates and non-credit options. Several of the graduate programs offer extra flexibility to allow students to manage their schedules by allowing the option of 1-3 courses per term. Those programs can be completed in as little as 18 months or as many as several years. While graduation requirements vary, several graduate and undergraduate programs require a culminating experience.
Graduate students can pursue degrees in 4 subject areas completely online at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, while undergraduate students have half a dozen options. Student services include everything from help with resumes and career searches to counseling, advising and tutoring. Graduation requirements vary by program and degree level, but the school does accept transfer credits, provided the student and school of origin meet the university's requirements. Most of the coursework for distance education is delivered through the Canvas learning management system.
More than 98% of University of Wisconsin-Stout students report finding employment or continuing their education upon graduation. The online student body includes some 2,000 students, representing 49 states and 20 countries, and virtually all of them transferred credits in from other schools. Distance learners can request free online tutoring as little as 24 hours in advance, and online students have access to writing labs and dedicated advisers, just like their on-campus counterparts. Prospective students have the option of 16 graduate and 15 undergraduate degree programs.
All distance learners at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire are invited to join a general online orientation in addition to any program-specific orientations. Financial aid is available to distance learners, including some part-time students, and special programs are available to military personnel and veterans. Students can take individual web-based courses, pursue a certificate or certification or complete an entire graduate degree, 100% online. Distance learners enjoy the same career, academic and library services as traditional on-campus students.
The distance learning program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has been recognized and endorsed by the Online Learning Consortium for its quality. More than 10 degrees can be earned completely online, most at the bachelor's and master's levels, as well as one doctoral degree. Each program has its own credit and graduation requirements. Students may participate in the school's online readiness tutorial, and online students receive the same academic support services as their online counterparts. Financial aid is also available to eligible students.
By participating in the adult accelerated degree program, distance learners at Wisconsin Lutheran College can earn a bachelor's degree in as few as 20 months. The structure is designed to cater to working students and some 60% of graduates reported being promoted while enrolled in a program. Students must earn 128 credits to earn the accelerated bachelor's degree and, under certain guidelines, can transfer as many as 80 credits from an approved 4-year institution, or up to 70 credits from a 2-year school.
Concordia University-Wisconsin offers dozens of online programs, including certificates and full degrees ranging from the associate to master's level. Transfer, credit and graduation requirements vary by specific program, but all courses are taught with a Christian worldview. The college has developed an extensive array of library services for online and accelerated learning students that is equivalent to the library enjoyed by on-campus students. Distance learners also have access to services like academic advising, tutoring and the school's writing lab.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is part of the UW System eCampus network, giving distance learners access to more than 150 baccalaureate degrees, graduate degrees and certificates offered at more than a dozen campuses. The UW Flexible Option allows students to begin their coursework at the start of any month and to advance at their own pace, all also while offering personalized support throughout the duration of the program. Hybrid options are available for students who wish to combine online learning with some traditional face-to-face education.
More than 1,300 distance learners are enrolled in online classes at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, which is part of the university's statewide eCampus network. Post-graduation prospects are strong, with a 98% placement rate in either employment or further education. There are 7 complete degree programs available online at the undergraduate level, as well as 4 graduate programs leading to master's degrees. Graduation and credit requirements vary by program, but the school offers a step-by-step application tutorial to guide students through the process.
Students can take individual online courses through the Cardinal Stritch University School of Continuing and Online Education. For those pursuing online degrees, 6 full programs are available, including 4 bachelor's degrees, 2 master's and an RN-to-BSN option. The university allows students to get a feel for the format with a free preview course if they're not sure whether online learning is right for them. The school is an approved institution in the National Council For State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements.
Pursuing a degree typically increases a professional’s career opportunities and earning potential. As the following table illustrates, professionals earn higher salaries, on average, with each level of educational attainment they achieve.
Paying for Online College in Wisconsin: Tuition and Financial Aid
Tuition for online schools and colleges in Wisconsin varies by factors like institution type and residency status. Students at public universities in the state typically save on tuition compared to the national average, but private school students in Wisconsin pay higher-than-average tuition rates. The following tables compare average tuition costs in Wisconsin to national averages.
Cost Considerations for Online Students in Wisconsin
Students should consider education expenses beyond tuition, such as technology and travel costs. The following list outlines several important cost considerations for online students.
Tuition Reciprocity Agreements
Tuition reciprocity agreements allow students from qualifying out-of-state programs to pay in-state tuition rates. Wisconsin currently holds an agreement with Minnesota, but some schools may hold additional agreements.
Some online programs include on-campus requirements, which may necessitate that students pay for airfare and room and board.
Flat Tuition Rates
Some schools offer flat tuition rates for all online students regardless of where they live, while others offer tuition discounts to in-state students.
Online programs may require that students pay technology fees to cover the costs of online course administration.
Tuition rates may vary for full-time and part-time students. At many schools, full-time students save on tuition compared to part-time students.
Qualifying for In-State Tuition in Wisconsin
Qualifications for in-state tuition vary by program, but they may include graduating from a Wisconsin high school or living in the state for at least one year prior to enrollment. Students may need to provide proof of residency in the form of bank or credit card statements, utility bills, or government-issued ID.
However, some schools allow all online students to pay in-state tuition rates regardless of where they live, so students should research the requirements at each prospective program.
Paying for College in Wisconsin: Scholarships and Financial Aid
Online students in Wisconsin can take advantage of many financial aid opportunities to help offset the costs of their education, such as loans, scholarships, and grants. Unlike loans, scholarships and grants do not require repayment. We cover several scholarship and grant opportunities for Wisconsin students below.
Scholarships for Wisconsin College Students
Academic Excellence Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Wisconsin high school seniors with the highest grade point average at their school qualify for this opportunity. Recipients must plan to enroll full time at a qualifying Wisconsin school.
Who Can Apply: Recipients of this scholarship must be nominated by their school and demonstrate exceptional academic success in technical subject areas. The scholarship must go toward tuition at a college within the Wisconsin Technical College System.
Who Can Apply: Wisconsin residents graduating high school and planning to attend a technical college or university in Wisconsin qualify for this award. Applicants must submit a 500-1,000-word essay and proof of college enrollment.
Who Can Apply: Graduating high school seniors planning to pursue a degree at one of the University of Wisconsin’s locations qualify for this opportunity. Applicants must volunteer in their community and be members of the UW Credit Union for at least six months prior to the application deadline.
Who Can Apply: Students attending a college or university in Wisconsin qualify for this grant. Candidates must be educationally disadvantaged and demonstrate financial need. A school’s financial aid office or a counselor must nominate students for the grant.
Who Can Apply: Undergraduate students enrolled part time at the University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Technical College, or a tribal institution qualify for this opportunity. Candidates must demonstrate financial need.
Who Can Apply: U.S. citizens that show academic progress and financial need qualify for this grant. Each state receives a set amount each year, so students should apply early to increase their chances of receiving the award.
Who Can Apply: This grant helps qualifying students pay for tuition at nonprofit, independent colleges and universities in Wisconsin. Recipients must attend school at least part time and demonstrate financial need.
The Importance of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in Wisconsin
Accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and academic rigor. Only students attending an accredited school qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only recognize and accept transfer credit and degrees from accredited institutions. Additionally, many employers prefer to hire candidates with an accredited degree.
Regional and National Accreditation
Schools may hold regional or national accreditation. National accreditation typically applies to for-profit, vocational and technical schools, while regional accreditation applies to nonprofit, degree-granting institutions. Regional accreditation is generally considered the more prestigious of the two. Several independent regional accrediting bodies accredit schools based on where the school is located. The Higher Learning Commission accredits Wisconsin schools.
Certain programs within a school may also receive accreditation, such as business and psychology programs. The American Psychological Association accredits psychology programs, while the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accredits business programs. Some careers, such as nursing, require professionals to hold a degree from an accredited program to qualify for licensure or certification. Students should research the accreditation requirements of their intended career path.
How to Know if Your School or Program is Accredited
Wisconsin is one of 12 states participating in this compact, which aims to increase access to higher education through programs that offer tuition discounts and other benefits to students.
Adult Basic Education: The Wisconsin Technical College System offers ABE courses that help adults meet high school equivalency standards and prepare for postsecondary education. The program is available at participating accredited schools in Wisconsin.
Nextdoor Milwaukee: This program offers free courses to help students earn their GED credential and pass standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT.
The Wisconsin Technical College System offers ABE courses that help adults meet high school equivalency standards and prepare for postsecondary education. The program is available at participating accredited schools in Wisconsin.
This program offers free courses to help students earn their GED credential and pass standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT.
Online College Resources for Wisconsin Students
Current and prospective students in Wisconsin can take advantage of a variety of resources to support their studies. The following resources offer information on topics like financial aid opportunities, accredited programs, and educational standards in Wisconsin.
The National Center for Education Statistics maintains this directory, which allows students to search for colleges by state, type of degree, available programs, and institution type.
This tool from the U.S. Department of Education allows students to search and compare colleges by factors like cost, admission requirements, and graduation rates.
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
This tool allows Wisconsin students to explore school standards, resources, and programs in the state. The site is particularly beneficial for current high school students considering a college education.
State of Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board
This organization manages the state's financial aid system. Users can access information on financial aid opportunities and loan forgiveness programs. The site also links users to external financial resources and application information.
Students can use this site to search for schools by state, program, and degree type. The website also offers career, admissions, and financial aid guidance.
Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.
Even if you don’t have a diploma or your GED, there are still alternatives available if you’re interested in pursuing a college education.
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