Governor Scott Walker kicked off a new era in online education with the UW Flexible Option. The program combined a system for awarding credits based on professional competency, meaning experience in the workplace, and online courses that could be completed at whatever pace the student wants, meaning an incredible amount of flexibility. This program made it clear that the state considered it crucial to award degrees to professionals who deserved higher education credentials. These degrees have a material impact on the Wisconsin economy, as highly qualified professionals historically result in far greater economic production for the state ― the reason why so many states have made awarding more degrees a key part of their long term agendas.
In keeping with the ever-increasing interest in earning a degree on a flexible schedule, many of the top schools in Wisconsin are now offering undergraduate and graduate degrees completely online.
But before we dive into our list of the best online colleges in Wisconsin, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in Wisconsin today.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Wisconsin
In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that Wisconsin had 91 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 31 public schools, 30 nonprofits and 30 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 26,939 at public schools, 9,262 at private nonprofits and 726 at private for-profits.
- 31 public
- 30 non-profit
- 30 for-profit
Tuition-wise, the College Board found that, in the ’15-’16 school year, the average in-state tuition and fees for four-year public schools was $8,820, only increasing by 4% over the last five years, while the out-of-state average was $20,710, only increasing by 2% over the last five years.
As for the state’s financial aid efforts, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that Wisconsin awarded $125.5 million in need-based grants and $2.98 million in non-need grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 11.5% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education. Over the same period, Wisconsin awarded $930,000 in loans.
Wisconsin has incredibly stable and competitive tuition rates; they dedicated a large portion of the state higher education budget to financial aid; and the state is replete with excellent institutions. Overall, the next decade appears to bode well for Wisconsin.
The State of Online Higher Education in Wisconsin
The NCES estimates that at least 7.6% of students enrolled in Wisconsin’s Title IV institutions are in fully online programs. Of those, 78.6% were reported to be undergraduates and 49.3% were found to be living in Wisconsin.
Along with the UW Flexible Option mentioned above, the Wisconsin state system also maintains the Distance Learning.Wisconsin organization. This site, in effect, serves as a directory of all courses and programs offered online at the various branches of the Wisconsin higher education system. The site also serves as a resource hub of sorts for distance students, explaining financial aid options and the various student services tailored to support them.
Wisconsin is one of twelve states to honor the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC). Through this Compact, students enrolled at public colleges in member states can take advantage of non-resident tuition breaks, a greater selection of courses and a simplified transfer processes. This agreement, which opens so many doors for its in-state distance student, captures the support of online colleges in Wisconsin.
It’s also worth noting that Wisconsin is home to one of the nation’s oldest annual conferences on distance learning. With a history 30 years in the making, The Distance Teaching and Learning Conference is one of the most highly regarded meetings of the minds at the forefront of online education, whether that be teachers, administrators, developers or distance students themselves.
Best Online Colleges in Wisconsin
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Wisconsin. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list out their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in Wisconsin, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Wisconsin or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||Concordia University - Wisconsin||Mequon||$$$$$|
Concordia has educated students for more than 125 years, and teaches 2,400 learners through its online college. The school is affiliated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and teaches courses through a Christian worldview. Students considering online colleges in Wisconsin can choose from over 40 degrees and certificates in more than 10 fields at CUW. Programs include business, nursing, criminal justice, theology, and counseling. The university also offers several MOOCs (free online courses).
Students can take classes completely online or in hybrid formats. Courses, on average, take eight to 10 weeks to complete. Students from all 50 states, except New Mexico, are accepted at CUW. Also, in line with the school’s goal to foster scholarship and accelerate academic goals, students can transfer up to 90 credits from a four-year university and 70 from a two-year college. The school has an online blog to expand student’s learning.
|2||University of Wisconsin - La Crosse||La Crosse||$$$$$||1725 State St|
La Crosse, WI 54601-9959
Students at Wisconsin - La Crosse can earn their bachelor’s or master’s degree entirely online. Distance-learning courses run three to 16 weeks, and most programs are delivered asynchronously. Classes are interactive. Instructors and fellow students can be contacted through email, discussion threads, chat, or whiteboard. Wisconsin - La Crosse’s average class size is 28. A maximum of 72 credits can be transferred from a two-year institution.
UW - La Crosse is among online schools in Wisconsin to offer online certificate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. Undergraduate programs include health and wellness management and health information management. Master’s programs include business administration, education - reading, professional development, and data science. Courses are taught through the Desire2Learn platform. The bachelor’s in health and wellness is asynchronous and has no on-campus requirements. The degree prepares students for careers as health and productivity analysts, wellness and fitness coordinators, health promotions advisers, and more.
|3||Viterbo University||La Crosse||$$$$$||900 Viterbo Drive|
La Crosse, WI 54601-8804
Viterbo, founded in 1890 by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, offers traditional courses at La Crosse and online learning to students from over 45 states. General education coursework can be completed in two years. Viterbo offers programs in seven areas, including accounting, professional studies, and BSN completion for registered nurses.
Viterbo’s RN to BSN program is taught completely online, with the exception of a public health course that requires a 24-hour clinical experience. All other courses are delivered in eight-week sessions. Most programs take less than two years to complete; students with a previous degree can finish in one. As with other online colleges in Wisconsin, Viterbo accepts CPL credit, reviewed through a portfolio process. The university is authorized to provide online instruction to students in all states except Connecticut, Kentucky, and New York.
|4||University of Wisconsin - Stout||Menomonie||$$$$$||712 S. Broadway St.|
Menomonie, WI 54751
Wisconsin - Stout has been serving the distance-education needs of students since 1996. Recently, the school’s online enrollment topped 1,970, with students coming from 49 states and 20 countries. The median age for an online UW - Stout student is 34.5. The school is among online schools in Wisconsin to focus on providing an education to adult learners.
UW - Stout offers nearly 60 degree programs and certificates, including 13 online undergraduate degrees in areas such as education, business, and communications. Students in completion programs, like the BS in career, technical education, and training, can graduate in two years with year-round registration. Instruction is delivered mainly online, though there are some blended courses. The student-to-teacher ratio is 20 to 25 students for undergraduate courses, and 12-20 for graduate. Approximately 99% of students who enroll in UW - Stout’s online curricula transfer with some credit.
|5||University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire||Eau Claire||$$$$$|
Eau Claire, WI
UW - Eau Claire offers online courses that help students balance their work, study, and personal commitments. The school offers online undergraduate and graduate degrees. Its 30-credit consortium MBA program is designed for the working professional, with the average student having at least nine years of experience. The program’s courses are delivered entirely online and take about 2.5 to 3 years to complete. Average class size is 25 students, and enrollment represents 39 states.
Some programs, like the undergraduate BSN@Home program for registered nurses, are only available to Wisconsin students. There are more than 300 noncredit online classes available. Among online schools in Wisconsin, UW-Eau Claire is notable for its former Blugolds who have made a name for themselves in science, government, journalism, and athletics. Composer Will Jennings, Wisconsin poet laureate Max Garland, and Olympic gold medalist Bob Clotworthy have all served on the university’s staff.
|6||University of Wisconsin - Whitewater||Whitewater||$$$$$||800 W Main St|
Whitewater, WI 53190-1790
Online graduate and undergraduate students at UW-Whitewater can choose from courses in areas such as business, library media, early childhood education, and law enforcement. Tuition at UW-Whitewater is the same for all students.
Online programs at UW-Whitewater have been developed with a focus on flexibility. The university is among online colleges in Wisconsin to offer a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement. It’s a 36 credit, three-year program designed for those who have been in the profession for at least three years, already have an associate’s degree, and are looking to major in criminology. A minor in sociology is also available. Other programs include marketing, liberal studies, early childhood education, and a master’s in business administration. The school’s career services helps students plan their careers, develop a resume and cover letter, and prepare for interviews. Online advising is also available.
|7||University of Wisconsin - Green Bay||Green Bay||$$$$$||2420 Nicolet Dr|
Green Bay, WI 54311-7001
UW - Green Bay offers distance learners a catalog of 70 classes each semester and has offered online courses since 1998. The school listed its first correspondence course in 1978, and 20 years later developed nine courses for asynchronous delivery online. Students can earn a BA or BAS. Each degree teaches the fundamental leadership principles needed for success in today’s workforce. Many students begin with 60 transferable credits, reducing the time needed to earn their bachelor’s by half.
UW - Green Bay also offers two-year degrees and certificates. AAS students who maintain a GPA of 2.0 or better will earn their associate degree after completing 60 credits, 33 of which are breadth courses. As with other online schools in Wisconsin, UW - Green Bay offers completely online and hybrid courses that combine online coursework with a face-to-face classroom environment.
|8||University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point||Stevens Point||$$$$$||2100 Main St|
Stevens Point, WI 54481-3897
With an enrollment of more than 9,000 students, UW - Stevens Point is one of the larger colleges in Wisconsin. Its online courses are flexible, working around a student’s employment and personal life.
Online students can choose from 14 undergraduate and graduate programs, delivered through online and hybrid formats. Undergraduate programs include health information management and technology, health and wellness management, and RN to BSN. Master’s programs include data science, natural resources, and education. More than 25 completely-online courses are offered each semester, including biology, music appreciation, and sociology. A number of certificates are also available for teachers, paralegals, and project managers. Students transferring into UW - Stevens Point, one of the best online colleges in Wisconsin, must have a cumulative GPA of 2.25 or higher; learners with a lower GPA can still apply, but will be considered on an individual basis. The majority of courses are semi-synchronous.
|9||Maranatha Baptist University||Watertown||$$$$$||745 West Main Street|
Watertown, WI 53094
Maranatha Baptist offers online degrees at every level, with coursework designed to accommodate work, family, and ministry. More than 100 different online courses and 11 fully-online degrees are available from MBU, with class sessions set at eight weeks. While courses are primarily asynchronous in format, there are exceptions. Students are expected to participate in discussion boards and forums with their instructors and peers. Undergraduate online programs include criminal justice, business management, interdisciplinary studies, and educational studies.
Maranatha Baptist advises prospective distance learners to start with one course to get an understanding of online learning and what it takes to be successful at one of the online schools in Wisconsin. After the introduction, students can enroll in as many courses as their schedule allows. Military students are encouraged to apply. For high school students, the university offers dual enrollment.
|10||Marian University||Fond Du Lac||$$$$$||45 S National Ave|
Fond Du Lac, WI 54935-4699
Marian offers an interactive learning experience for 15 online degrees, including business administration, RN-BSN completion, psychology, and criminal justice. Coursework is taught asynchronously. Unique among online colleges in Wisconsin is Marian’s undergraduate program in homeland security. The curriculum follows the principles established by the Homeland Security and Defense Education Consortium Association, and prepares students for careers in public safety. The bachelor’s degree in homeland security consists 45 liberal arts core credits, and 36 credits in major studies. Students will also need to take 18 electives in subjects like criminal history and philosophy of law. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements: a 2.0 GPA and a score of 18 on the ACT or proof of finishing in the top 50% of their graduating class. Merit-based scholarships are awarded at the time of admission. Graduate degrees and certificates are also available.
|11||Wisconsin Lutheran College||Milwaukee||$$$$$|
Wisconsin Lutheran, located in Milwaukee, is home to 1,200 students through its on-campus, on-location, and online classes. Its eLearning experience is designed for working adults seeking a flexible, impactful bachelor’s degree in business management and leadership. Students can earn the degree in about 20 months. The program can also be completed on campus by taking one night class per week. The degree-completion program is offered in an accelerated format, similar to other online schools in Wisconsin. Students must earn 128 credits with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or better, while the GPA for courses in the major must be above 2.5. Students can transfer up to 70 credits earned from previous study at an accredited college, and all applicants for the completion program must have at least two years of professional work experience. Financial aid is available, plus options for employer reimbursement.
|12||Lakeland College||Plymouth||$$$$$||W3718 South Drive, Cth M|
Plymouth, WI 53073
Lakeland, located in Plymouth, offers flexible programs that allow working adults to integrate their coursework into their professional and personal lives. The school has 10 majors online, including accounting, computer science, and psychology. The online psychology major teaches students to be clear communicators, attentive listeners, and dynamic problem solvers in preparation for a career in human services. Much of the coursework is delivered through eLearning, but BlendEd classes are available, similar to many other online colleges in Wisconsin. Students taking these hybrid courses meet face-to-face at least once a week at one of seven convenient learning center locations, including Green Bay, Madison, and Milwaukee. Semesters last 14 weeks. Many distance learners begin with prior credits, and the university will accept up to 72. Three master’s degrees are offered online in counseling, business administration, and education.
|13||University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh||Oshkosh||$$$$$||800 Algoma Blvd|
Oshkosh, WI 54901
UW - Oshkosh offers nine different majors for distance learners. Programs include aviation management, criminal justice, human services, and leadership development. The leadership development major helps students develop leadership ability and understand how to manage a team in a modern-day workforce. The program is delivered in an accelerated, seven-week format. The university also offers three graduate programs, including the newest master’s in public administration starting in spring 2017. Other master’s include data science and sustainable management.
As with many online schools in Wisconsin, courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to learn at their own pace. There are no structured “class times” to adhere to. Tuition for all courses is a flat, per-credit rate, with the exception of data science. Up to 90 credits can be transferred, with most students bringing in at least 60.
|14||Cardinal Stritch University||MIlwaukee||$$$$$|
Cardinal Stritch was founded by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in 1937. In 2005, Stritch debuted its first online program. The school offers 14 degrees and certificates in an eLearning and blended format.
Cardinal Stritch is among online colleges in Wisconsin to offer a BS in respiratory therapy completion program. It’s taught in an accelerated format that allows students to graduate in two years or less. No additional clinical time is required for the program, though it can be arranged. Applicants should have a cumulative GPA of 2.33 or better. Students can finish the RN to BSN program in 16 months. Other programs include strategic management information systems, cyber security, and student affairs. Many of Stritch’s programs are offered in a hybrid format. Financial aid is available to online students.
|15||University of Wisconsin - Platteville||Platteville||$$$$$||1 University Plaza|
Platteville, WI 53818-3001
Backed by its 150 years of academic history, UW-Platteville has emerged as a leader in distance learning, which the school has offered for more than 35 years. The university features five master’s programs that are delivered completely online, including engineering and integrated supply chain management. Unlike most online schools in Wisconsin, no entrance exams are required.
The online BS in business administration requires students to earn 120 credits, 50 of which must be in the chosen major and 23 in liberal arts. Candidates will also choose an area of emphasis that’s worth 15 credits, such as finance or sales and marketing. Not all emphases are offered completely online. Certificates are also available online. They’re designed to help with career advancement and personal growth. The school offers credit for work and life experience.
|16||University of Wisconsin - Superior||Superior||$$$$$||Belknap & Catlin|
Superior, WI 54880-4500
UW-Superior offers seven online majors, six minors, and four graduate programs. Unique among online colleges in Wisconsin, the school lets students design their own major. The interdisciplinary studies major is also a popular choice. The school’s master’s in data science is a versatile, 12-course, 36-credit program. Graduates of the data science program can find jobs in industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and IT. Other undergraduate programs include education, elementary education, and communicating arts. Online minors are also available.
UW-Superior rewards Credit for Prior Learning (CPL), which takes into account what a student has already learned. There are four ways to demonstrate this knowledge and earn CPL credit: standardized tests, military/ACE credits, challenge exams, and a portfolio. Distance learners receive access to the online library, tutoring services, the writing center, and more.
|17||University of Wisconsin - River Falls||River Falls||$$$$$||410 S 3rd St|
River Falls, WI 54022-5001
UW - River Falls was founded in 1874. The school enables students to earn their degrees and certificates while maintaining their work-life balance. Curriculum is designed for adults who wish to improve skills, gain professional knowledge, or earn a four-year degree.
UW - River Falls is among online schools in Wisconsin to offer bachelor’s completion programs. Online degrees include health and wellness management and sustainable management. Both programs can be completed completely online and require students to have a minimum combined GPA of at least 2.0 in previous college-level coursework. The health and wellness management program requires students to earn 63 credits in courses like health literacy, worksite health environment, and health and medical terminology. The curriculum ends with a capstone project which has students complete a minimum of 100 hours in fieldwork. Tuition is the same for all distance learners.
Northland, located in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, offers associate degrees and certificates for students looking to improve their resumes or expand their skill sets. The school is one of the best online colleges in Wisconsin.
Many courses at Northland are taught in an accelerated format. Online programs include customer service, dietetic technician, automation technologies, and medical coding specialist. Online offerings also include a certificate and AAS in digital marketing. The associate in digital marketing requires students to earn at least 60 credits in courses like social media marketing, small business management, and marketing research. The certificate requires students to earn 21 credits and combines marketing theories and practical experience throughout the program. Digital marketing graduates are prepared for careers as sales representatives, managers, business owners, and more. It’s recommended that students completing the AAS complete courses within the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum, this includes an internship, marketing and administration coursework, and history and social science electives.
|19||University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee||Milwaukee||$$$$$||2200 E Kenwood Blvd|
Milwaukee, WI 53201-0413
UW - Milwaukee offers more than 30 online degrees and certificates. The school’s College of Letters and Science offers a completely online curriculum for five majors: communication, history, political science, psychology, and sociology. The university offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral studies, along with six minors and 10 certificates. Many courses are taught asynchronously. Non-credit certificates are also available in digital marketing, project management, social media manager, and more.
Similar to other online schools in Wisconsin, most programs are offered three ways: online, blended, and face-to-face. UW - Milwaukee’s online offerings are designed to maximize learning outcomes. A few programs through UWM have a Flex option, a competency-based learning format that has students earn credit through assessments that demonstrate their learning. This format provides a more flexible education, freeing students from course and semester schedules.
|20||Ottawa University - Milwaukee||Brookfield||$$$$$||245 South Executive Drive, Suite 110|
Brookfield, WI 53005
Ottawa University, a liberal arts college that was founded over 150 years ago, offers adult-oriented online degrees in a variety of fields, including English, history, and law enforcement. The school is among online colleges in Wisconsin to offer a bachelor’s in addiction counseling with certification for Arizona and Kansas. Online master’s programs include counseling, business administration, human resources, and an MBA-MAHR dual degree. The dual degree requires students to complete at least 66 credits, and it’s recommended to finish one program before beginning the other.
Each course at OUM lasts eight weeks and is delivered entirely online in an asynchronous format. Students have access to lectures and coursework 24/7. Students can apply up to 80 transfer credits toward their degree requirements. The school uses Blackboard; a sample online class is available. The student-to-teacher ratio at OUM is 4:1.
|21||University of Wisconsin - Parkside||Kenosha||$$$$$||900 Wood Rd|
Kenosha, WI 53141-2000
UW - Parkside, one of the best online schools in Wisconsin, offers online degree completion programs and has more than 235 classes to choose from. Programs are available in the areas of business management, health information management and technology (HIMT), and sustainable management. Degree completion programs are intended for students who have an associate degree and want to earn a four-year degree. The HIMT degree completion program is designed as a collaborative program that prepares graduates for a career in health information. Students will learn coding and data management, including the inner-workings of the software and how to build systems.
Students who hold an AA or AS degree are not required to complete general education requirements. Flex options are available for certain degrees and certificates, such as project management sales. Flex programs award credit based on competency not class time.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Wisconsin
Below is our list of the most affordable online colleges in WI.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire||Eau Claire||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh||Oshkosh||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||University of Wisconsin - Platteville||Platteville||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||University of Wisconsin - Whitewater||Whitewater||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||University of Wisconsin - Green Bay||Green Bay||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||University of Wisconsin - Superior||Superior||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||University of Wisconsin - Stout||Menomonie||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee||Milwaukee||School profile||$$$$$|
|9||Ottawa University - Milwaukee||Brookfield||School profile||$$$$$|
|10||Cardinal Stritch University||MIlwaukee||School profile||$$$$$|
|11||Lakeland College||Plymouth||School profile||$$$$$|
|12||Viterbo University||La Crosse||School profile||$$$$$|
|13||Marian University||Fond Du Lac||School profile||$$$$$|
|14||Concordia University - Wisconsin||Mequon||School profile||$$$$$|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Wisconsin
Academic Excellence Scholarship
This scholarship is available to incoming freshmen or transfer students at Marquette University. To be eligible, students must be Wisconsin residents and valedictorians of their graduating high school class. The award is $2,250 per year for 4 years.
Academic Excellence Scholarship
Provided by the State of Wisconsin, the Academic Excellence Scholarships are awarded to high school seniors who have the highest GPA in each public and private high school throughout Wisconsin. The award may be used at the University of Wisconsin, or at any technical or independent college within the state. The award covers full tuition for 4 years.
Academic scholarships are available to incoming freshmen and transfer students at Alverno College. Selection is determined by applicants’ academic performance in high school. The maximum award for freshmen is full tuition coverage for 4 years; the maximum award for transfer students is $9,500 per year.
The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire offers the Chancellor’s Scholarship to incoming students who have an ACT score of 25+ and rank in the top 25% of their class. This scholarship is intended to reward students who have challenged themselves to achieve academic excellence.
Freshman Honor Scholarship
The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire provides the Freshman Honors Guarantee to incoming students who fall into one of the following academic categories: A) 28 ACT score and rank in the top 5% of high school class; B) 29 ACT score and rank in the top 10% of high school class; C) 30 ACT and rank in the top 15% of high school class.
International Student Scholarship
Lawrence University provides this scholarship to incoming international students. Students must apply for this scholarship alongside their application for admission to the university. The award amount varies based on academic merit and financial need; the maximum award totals $34,000 per year.
Minnesota-Wisconsin Reciprocity Program
The Minnesota-Wisconsin Tuition Reciprocity program, provided by the Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board, allows Wisconsin residents to attend public postsecondary institutions in Minnesota for the price of in-state tuition.
Minority Retention Grant
Administered by the Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board, this grant is available to residents of Wisconsin who are sophomores, juniors, or seniors at an independent, tribal, or Wisconsin Technical College. To be eligible, students must qualify as a minority. Award amounts vary based on financial need; the maximum award is $2,500 per year for 4 years.
Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship
Open to incoming transfer students at Marquette University who are members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. The maximum award is $2,000 per year.
Wisconsin Higher Education Grant
Provided by the Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board, this grant is open to Wisconsin residents who are attending University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Technical College, or Tribal institutions. The award amount is determined by financial need; maximum award is $3,000 per year for 5 years.
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