Online Colleges in Wisconsin

The sprawling state of Wisconsin, rich in lakes and rivers, is also endowed with a variety of universities and colleges. Many of these schools are increasing their use of online degree programs in Wisconsin for students within the state and in other states who can't travel to campus for a face-to-face class. Use the data we've collected here to find a program or an online college that meets your needs.

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Colleges and universities around the country have been watching as the University of Wisconsin system becomes the first public university system in the nation to offer online or hybrid "flexible degree" programs for its students. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is the system's pilot campus, rolling out four flexible degree options in the fall of 2013. The idea was to provide students who have practical working experience the opportunity to move through the degree programs more quickly by focusing on competency assessment instead of credit hours. Furthermore, it is expected to reduce the cost of higher education for those students already in the workforce. Having already been working in their particular field of study, the university assumes that students are already bringing with them a wealth of practical knowledge upon entering the program. Thus, they may not need to spend as much time in the classroom as those who are new to the field.

The program is based on competency rather than classroom learning activities. Students are able to complete most of their degree work online, possibly even leveraging the use of massive open online courses (MOOCs) that are available. Once the student feels that they have gained the applicable knowledge, they can prove their competency by completing an assessment from home, work, or at a testing site. Passing the test will allow them to move on to the next stage of the degree. UW-Milwaukee has started by offering three Bachelor's degrees -- in Nursing; Diagnostic Imaging; and Information Science and Technology -- as well as a certificate in professional and technical communication. Although UW-Milwaukee will be the first school in the nation to offer these flexible degree programs, other schools in the University of Wisconsin system are expected to follow suit.

Many Wisconsin jobs require the completion of a certificate or degree. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest-growing jobs in the state (with education requirements) include:

  • Lawyers: Professional degree
  • Dental Hygienists: Associate degree
  • Public Relations Managers and Specialists: Bachelor's degree
  • Computer Support Specialists: Associate degree

There are 5.6 million people living in Wisconsin, and among those between 18 and 24 years old, 9 percent have a Bachelor's degree or higher, and 46 percent have an Associate degree or some college experience. Among those older than 25, nearly 9 percent have a graduate or professional degree, 17 percent have a Bachelor's degree and 9 percent have an Associate degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

There are just over 2.7 million workers in Wisconsin, and they earn an average of $20.34 per hour for an average annual income of $42,310, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates from 2013. Those workers who are thinking of going back to school in order to change careers or to prepare themselves for higher-paying jobs can choose from any of 63 colleges and universities in the state that offer Bachelor's degree programs.

The Most Affordable Online Colleges in Wisconsin

The following list ranks the 10 schools in Wisconsin that offer online degrees at the lowest tuition costs. This ranking is based on a number of factors that are important to prospective students such as the actual degree programs that are taught online, and information on tuition fees, accreditation and notable alumni. Tuition figures are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics (2013-2014) and reflect in-state tuition (when in-state tuition is available) for all students, including online students. See our Methodology section for more details on the ranking methodology.

#1 - University of Wisconsin System

  • In-State Tuition: $5,183
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 1 Associate, 37 undergraduate, 44 graduate, 2 doctorate degrees
  • Notable Alumni: Nobel Prize winner John Bardeen; author Saul Bellow; actors Don Ameche and Fredric March; comedian Jeff Cesario; architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

The University of Wisconsin in Madison is the flagship campus for a statewide collection of UW campuses, many of which offer online degree programs in Wisconsin. The university system pulls together these offerings from such campuses as Oshkosh, Stout and Milwaukee, giving students who can't travel to campus the opportunity to earn their degree online. In addition to Associate degrees in Arts and Science and doctorate degrees in Nursing and Nursing Practice, UW offers Bachelor's degrees in such areas as Art History; Business Administration; History; and Psychology. Its 44 Master's degree programs run the gamut from Administration Leadership and Construction Management to Integrated Supply Chain Management and Vocational Rehabilitation.

#2 - University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

  • In-State Tuition: $7,578
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 5 undergraduate, 5 graduate degrees
  • Notable Alumni: Actor John Belushi; activist Bidal Aguero; professional football player Dave Kraayeveld; congressman Mark Neumann

For online students who want to work through individual schools within the University of Wisconsin System, the UW-Whitewater campus offers online Bachelor's degrees in Business; Liberal Studies; Political Science; Early Childhood Education; and Alternative Education Programs Licensure. Its Master's degree programs online include Special Education; Business Administration; Education; and Library Media. It has Master's certificate programs in Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism Specialist.

#3 - University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

  • In-State Tuition: $8,710
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 2 undergraduate, 2 graduate degrees
  • Notable Alumni: Musician Justin Vernon, NASA administrator T. Keith Glennan, politician Mark Andrew Green, poet Elizabeth Willis

UW-Eau Claire's online undergraduate programs are just as rigorous as their face-to-face classes and are offered in Nursing and Organizational Leadership; and Communication. Its graduate degree programs include Business Administration; and Communication Sciences and Disorders.

#4 - University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

  • In-State Tuition: $8,769
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 2 undergraduate, 5 graduate degrees
  • Notable Alumni: Professional baseball players Jerry Augustine and Vinny Rottino; professional football players Will Berzinskii, Roman Brunn and Don Kindt; politician Robert Quackenbush

This campus of the UW system works with the Extension Service and other satellite campuses to provide online degree programs in Wisconsin. Its Bachelor's degree programs include Health and Wellness Management; and Health Information Management and Technology. Its Master's degrees available online include Business Administration; Professional Development; Student Affairs Administration; Exercise and Sport Science; and Medical Dosimetry.

#5 - Maranatha Baptist University

  • Tuition: $13,120
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 5 Associate degrees, 1 undergraduate degree, 1 graduate degree
  • Notable Alumni: Olympic wrestler Benjamin Lee Peterson

Maranatha's online degree program in Wisconsin includes 5 Associate degrees, including Business Management; Christian Ministry; Digital Media; Health Science; and a student-designed course of study. Its Bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies allows students to choose from a variety of concentrations, with the underlying value being that graduates have earned a thorough biblical knowledge and graduate with strong skills in communication and critical thinking. Students can choose from one or two minors from such fields as Business Management, Mathematics, and Science.

#6 - Lakeland College

  • Tuition: $22,950
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 9 undergraduate, 3 graduate degrees
  • Notable Alumni: Professional football players Pat Curran and Ron Ferrari; politician Calvin Potter

Most of Lakeland's nine undergraduate majors are offered entirely online, although students also have the option of popping into the face-to-face classes if they choose to. Its online Bachelor's degrees are in Accounting; Business Administration; Communication; Computer Science; Criminal Justice; Education; Marketing; Psychology; and Specialized Administration. Its Master's degree programs include Business Administration; Education; and Counseling.

#7 - Edgewood College

  • Tuition: $24,666
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 3 graduate degrees, 1 doctorate degree

Edgewood gives students the opportunity to complete some of their Master's degree programs entirely online or in a combination of online and in-person. Courses for their programs begin every eight weeks or so, and students are accepted into programs up to two weeks before classes start. Their Master's degrees online include Accountancy; Business Administration; and Organization Development. Edgewood also offers an online doctorate program in Educational Leadership, with a concentration on higher education.

#8 - Wisconsin Lutheran College

  • Tuition: $24,770
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 1 undergraduate, 1 graduate degree

Wisconsin Lutheran maintains campuses in Milwaukee and Watertown, but two of its programs are also available entirely online. These include their Bachelor's degree program in Business Management and Leadership, and their Master's degree program in Education, which features five areas of concentration that allow students to tailor their education to their interests.

#9 - Concordia University (Visit School Site)

  • Tuition: $25,160
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 4 Associate, 3 undergraduate, and 8 graduate degrees
  • Notable Alumni: Politician Andre Carson; professional football player John Scardina; author Walter Wangerin Jr.; political scientist Norman Wengert

Concordia, a national university, has a campus in Mequon, Wisc., but also offers a wide array of Associate, Bachelor's and Master's online degree programs in Wisconsin. Its Associate degree programs include Healthcare Management; Management of Criminal Justice; Human Resource Management; and Business Management. Its undergraduate degree programs are in Nursing and Occupational Therapy, and its Master's programs include Business Administration; Organizational Leadership and Administration; Information Technology; Nursing Practice; Educational Leadership; and Curriculum and Instruction.

#10 - Marquette University

  • Tuition: $34,640
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 1 graduate degree, 1 doctorate degree
  • Notable Alumni: Actor Mark Alaimo; director Peter Bonerz; journalist Mark Curtis; comedian Chris Farley; actor Kevin Farley; author Michael F. Flynn

Marquette Online Campus provides continuing development opportunities for professions, as well as two fully online degree programs in Wisconsin -- a Master's degree in Christian Doctrine and a doctorate in Nursing Practice. In addition, Marquette offers licensure renewal in Theology; Education; Physician Assistance; and Nursing. It offers a fully online program in Nurse Midwifery and Natural Family Planning.

Online Colleges: Expert Interview

Michael Wick

Michael Wick, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of Graduate Studies, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire

Q. Can you tell us a little about the online programs offered at your school?

We offer a couple of undergraduate degree completion programs - BSN@Home (for completion of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing), and the Bachelor of Professional Studies. Both are intended for students who have earned credits at the associate level. We also offer graduate degrees online - master's in speech/language pathology and Master of Business Administration. And, of course, we offer many of our standard face-to-face courses online to assist students with schedule building.

Q. What advice would you give to students interested in an online degree program?

They should ask the same academic questions that they would when considering a brick-and-mortar education. They should know about student success rates (retention, graduation, placement). They should also know what academic support services are available for students. In addition, they should be able to read what employers/graduate schools are saying about the degree program.

Q. How do you think online learning will change in the coming years?

Tough to know. I suspect we will see online education focusing on the nontraditional student (working adult, children, etc.). Much of that has already started to happen. As broadband Internet becomes more accessible, I would expect to see more synchronous technology used not just between the teacher and students, but between students.

Snapshot of Wisconsin Cities

The three largest metropolitan areas in Wisconsin are located around the three cities of Milwaukee, Madison and Appleton. The Milwaukee metro area includes the cities of Racine and Waukesha, and is home to 2 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Madison, which includes the area of Baraboo, is home to 630,569 people, and the Appleton-Oshkosh-Neenah metro area has a population of 392,660.

What follows is a closer look at the economic and demographic profile of Wisconsin's largest urban areas. The economic data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All demographic data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau and the latest Labor Force Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All data in the Facts for Online Learners section comes from the region's various tourism websites.

The city of Milwaukee, with 594,833 residents, is the largest city in Wisconsin, and is the primary entertainment and economic hub of the larger metropolitan area surrounding it. In the city of Milwaukee, and the surrounding cities of Racine and Waukesha, there are 814,120 workers, and they earn an average of $22.32 an hour, or $46,430 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Milwaukee metro area supplies roughly 30 percent of the state's entire workforce. Of the 950,000 residents living in just the Milwaukee County portion of this metropolitan region, 10 percent have a graduate or professional degree, 18 percent have a Bachelor's degree and 29 percent have either an Associate degree or attended some college without earning a degree.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
Milwaukee is home to the Milwaukee Brewers, a major league baseball team, and the Milwaukee Bucks, a National Basketball Associate franchise. For football, folks turn their attention to the famed Green Bay Packers. Visitors to Milwaukee often enjoy taking brewery tours, where they can learn about Milwaukee's rich history in beer making (and drinking), as well as the Milwaukee Riverwalk and Milwaukee Art Museum.

Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, has a population of 243,344, but the metro area surrounding it is home to more than 630,000. There are 342,930 workers living in the region, and they earn an average of $22.49 an hour for an average annual income of $46,770.

The Madison metropolitan area provides nearly 13 percent of the state's entire workforce. Madison itself, the home for the University of Wisconsin's flagship campus, is a highly educated populace. Of those over the age of 25, 24 percent have a graduate or professional degree, 30 percent have a Bachelor's degree and 25 percent have an Associate degree or have attended some college.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
As a college town, Madison is a lively place with plenty of live music and nightlife. Its location on the shores of Lake Mendota also make it a great location for those who want to escape the urban life and go boating. King Street is a popular destination for diners looking for high-end restaurants, and the Saturday morning Farmer's Market at Capitol Square is a great way to sample some of Wisconsin's rich produce and farm products.

The Appleton-Oshkosh-Neenah metro area is home to 115,480 workers, who earn a little less than the state average. The average hourly wage in this metro region is $19.83, and the average annual income is $41,240.

The Appleton-Oshkosh-Neenah metro area provides roughly 4 percent of the state's workforce. In the city of Appleton itself, which has a population of 72,623, 10 percent of those older than 25 have a graduate or professional degree and nearly 21 percent have a Bachelor's degree. More than 31 percent have attended some college or have an Associate degree.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
Appleton, located on the Fox River, is part of a metropolitan area known as the Fox Cities. Points of interest include the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, the Fox River Mall and the Gardens of the Fox Cities. The Hearthstone Historic House Museum is also a popular attraction.


  1. Concordia University Wisconsin, http://online.cuw.edu/programs/
  2. Edgewood College, http://www.edgewood.edu/Prospective-Students/Graduate/Online-Programs
  3. Lakeland College, http://lakeland.edu/Evening-Weekend-and-Online/evening-weekend-and-online
  4. List of Marquette University alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Marquette_University_alumni
  5. List of University of Wisconsin people, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Wisconsin%E2%80%93Madison_people
  6. Maranatha Baptist University, http://www.mbu.edu/online/academics/
  7. Marquette University, http://www.marquette.edu/cps/graduate_programs_index.shtml
  8. Michael Wick, interview with the author, June 2015
  9. National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
  10. Notable alumni Concordia University Wisconsin, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concordia_University_Wisconsin#Notable_alumni
  11. Notable alumni Lakeland College, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lakeland_College_%28Wisconsin%29#Notable_alumni
  12. Notable alumni Maranatha Baptist University, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maranatha_Baptist_University#Notable_alumni
  13. Notable alumni University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Wisconsin%E2%80%93Eau_Claire#Notable_people
  14. Notable alumni University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Wisconsin%E2%80%93La_Crosse#Notable_alumni
  15. United States Census Bureau: American Factfinder, http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF
  16. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/
  17. University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, http://www.uwec.edu/Online/index.htm
  18. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, http://www.uwlax.edu/online/Degree-programs/
  19. University of Wisconsin system, http://www.ecampus.wisconsin.edu/
  20. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, http://www.uww.edu/online/degrees-and-programs
  21. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Wisconsin%E2%80%93Whitewater#Notable_alumni
  22. Wisconsin Lutheran College, http://blogs.wlc.edu/ags/2010/11/06/accreditation-approved-for-ma-ed-online-programs/

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This list also contains online colleges that accept students from Wisconsin.

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