Wisconsin — home of cheese, cheeseheads, and the upper reaches of the American frontier — has always been a little wild, true to its own unique history, which has seen a number of cultures and integrated the customs and practices of many of them. Mastodon once roamed its icy tundra. Various Native American communities lived in the region, including the ancient Mississippian and Oneota peoples. Later, the French moved in, and then French Canadians, eager to get in on the lucrative if dangerous fur trade. When the British came, they stayed longer than perhaps they were welcome: though the state became a recognized U.S. territory after the American Revolution in 1783, the British maintained control of Wisconsin until the War of 1812. The Erie Canal brought a new wave of immigrants from the Yankee North, including Germans, Irish, Norwegians, and others, all adding to the already diverse community of farmers, industrialists, progressive politicians, and hardy Wisconsinites, as they were now known. In the meantime, after the Civil War, the state became a leader in the burgeoning practice of public education, expanding the now 26-campus-wide University of Wisconsin System. Today, there are nearly 100 colleges and universities in the state, many of which are ranked among the best in the nation, and many of which have adapted to the current demands of affordable, flexible education through offering online degree opportunities.
In-state tuition is often applied to public schools offering online programs. Many online programs require some face-to-face time, or more numerous support services at their brick and mortar locations. Intensive study experiences–often on the weekends or in several week long bouts–enable many online students to accelerate their time until graduation. And students looking at online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees where degrees can be taken partially, or mostly online). Finally, one of the most common stipulations in scholarships is that students be from a certain state or region, often more funds are available to students seeking degrees in-state.
Featured Online Schools
There are 15 public schools in Wisconsin offering online degrees, including 7 two-year preprofessional schools — Milwaukee Area Technical College, Fox Valley Technical College, Lakeshore Technical College, Moraine Park Technical College, Northcentral Technical College, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, and University of Wisconsin Colleges — and 8 colleges in the University of Wisconsin system — Eau Claire, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Platteville, Stevens Point, Superior, and Whitewater. The largest of these is UW Stevens Point, which offers 33 total online degrees: 2 associates, 15 bachelors, 14 masters, and 2 doctoral, making it one of only two schools offering online PhD options in the state (beside UW Milwaukee). From there, in descending order, UWC and Eau Claire each offer 12 and Milwaukee Area Technical College, Moraine Park Technical College, and University of Wisconsin-Platteville each offer 9.
There are just 4 private schools in Wisconsin that offer online degrees: Maranatha Baptist University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Ottawa University — Milwaukee, and Viterbo University. The largest of these is Ottaw, which offers 29 online degrees, making it the second-largest distance education provider in the state. 17 bachelors are available, all in Business and Accounting, and 12 masters are available, including MBA concentrations, MEd concentrations, and more. Viterbo, a Roman Catholic liberal arts school, ranks second among the private school options, with 16 bachelors offered in Organizational Management, Business Administration (several concentrations), Criminal Justice Administration, Community Organizing And Advocacy, Rn to Bsn, Health Care Management, and more. Milwaukee School of Engineering offers an MBA and Engineering masters, and Maranatha Baptist University offers 5 associates and 4 masters that range from Business, to Christian Ministry, to Health Science.
For a variety of reasons, a student may look to move to the state of their online college program whether specifically required by the program or not – be it for a job, location desirability, school benefits, etc. Different states have different policies, however, and some of them can be rather demanding. Fortunately, Wisconsin's are straightforward and relatively lenient. All students wishing to apply for in-state tuition should be "bona fide" residents of Wisconsin for at least 12 months prior to application. Broadly this includes: graduates of a Wisconsin high school with parents who reside permanently in the state; minors who have lived substantial portions of their life in the state, or minors with guardians holding permanent residencies in the state; parents, students, or students' spouses have moved to the state for employment purposes; members of the military on active duty stationed in Wisconsin, or spouses/children of such military members; etc. For more information, visit here.
The average four-year Wisconsin public university tuition for in-state students is $8,815, over $300 dollars less than the national average. It gets even better. The percent change in tuition over the last year was 0%, compared to a national average increase of 3%, and the five-year percent change is just 4%, compared to a national average of 13% (!), which places Wisconsin in the top-10 nationwide for lowest increase. Perhaps more important, it also demonstrates a tuition stability that should be the envy of other states: stability means better ability to forecast costs, and better ability to forecast costs generally means increased enrollment (which generally means continued low costs). In fact, each year between 2012-2014, in-state tuition actually decreased. For a state with some of the best public universities in the country, all this is a win-win: affordability, value, and pedigree.
There are four schools in the Milwaukee metropolitan area that offer online degrees: University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee, Ottawa University — Milwaukee, Milwaukee Area Technical College, and the Milwaukee School of Engineering. The largest of these is Ottawa, with 29 online degrees available, including 17 bachelors in Business and Accounting (with a wide array of concentration opportunities) and 12 masters in Education, Business, Counseling, Healthcare, Management, and more. Milwaukee Area Technical College is the area's central provider for online preprofessional degrees in Accounting, Banking And Financial Services, Management, Marketing Management, Network Specialist, and Mobile Applications, among others. The Milwaukee School of Engineering and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee offer 7 masters and 2 doctoral tracks between them, in Nursing, Administrative Leadership, Library And Information Sciences, Engineering Management, and Business Administration, among others. Maranatha Baptist University, University of Wisconsin — Whitewater, UW Platteville, and the University of Wisconsin Colleges are all within reasonable commuting distance to the east; and Moraine Park Technical College, UW Oshkosh, Lakeshore Technical College, Fox Valley Technical College, and UW Green Bay, to the north. For those willing, there are at least 15 schools offering online degrees in and en route to Chicago.
The University of Wisconsin Colleges is the central provider of online degrees in the Madison area, a two-year preprofessional school which offers 12 associates in Fine Arts And Humanities, Business, Ethnic Studies, Mathematical And Natural Sciences, Geosciences, Interdisciplinary Studies, History, Sociology, and more. Nearby are UW Whitewater (5 bachelors, 2 masters), Maranatha Baptist University (5 associates, 4 masters), and UW Platteville (2 bachelors, 7 masters). Further to Milwaukee, four schools offer online degrees (University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee, Ottawa University — Milwaukee, Milwaukee Area Technical College, and the Milwaukee School of Engineering); to the north and northeast, UW Stevens Point, Moraine Park Technical College, UW Oshkosh, Lakeshore Technical College, Fox Valley Technical College, and UW Green Bay offer online tracks. The closest schools in Illinois are Northern Illinois University (in Dekalb) and Harper College (in Schaumburg).
The University of Wisconsin — Green Bay offers bachelors in Integrative Leadership Studies, Business Administration, Human Development, and Psychology. Within an hour drive are several schools with online preprofessional and undergraduate tracks, including Lakeshore Technical College (9 associates), Moraine Park Technical College (9 associates), University of Wisconsin — Oshkosh (8 bachelors), and Fox Valley Technical College (6 associates). Further out in Wassau is Northcentral Technical College, offering 8 associates in Business, Marketing, and Accounting; plus University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee (4 masters, 2 doctoral), Ottawa University — Milwaukee (17 bachelors, 12 masters), Milwaukee Area Technical College (9 associates), and the Milwaukee School of Engineering (3 masters). The University of Wisconsin Colleges, Maranatha Baptist University, and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater are equally within reasonable driving distance to the south.
Cost of Living: 99.8%
Top Industries: Manufacturing, Healthcare
Local Online Degrees: 28
Cost of Living: 98.6%
Top Industries: Education, Technology
Local Online Degrees: 17
Cost of Living: 92.8%
Top Industries: Manufacturing, Healthcare
Local Online Degrees: 13
Cost of Living: 91.9%
Top Industries: Healthcare, Education
Local Online Degrees: 6
Cost of Living: 106.1%
Top Industries: Manufactuing, Light Industry
Local Online Degrees: 12
Cost of Living: 99.8%
Top Industries: Government
Local Online Degrees: 28
Cost of Living: 92.1%
Top Industries: Manufacturing
Local Online Degrees: 12
Cost of Living: 100.1%
Top Industries: Manufactuing, Healthcare
Local Online Degrees: 7
The Best Online Schools in Wisconsin
Online Programs: 33
The University of Wisconsin — Stevens Point, founded in 1894, has a total enrollment of about 9,200. Ranked among the top 50 schools in the region, Stevens Point also offers the most online degrees in Wisconsin — 33 in total — including 2 associates, 15 bachelors, 14 masters, and 2 doctorates. (Many of these are in conjunction with other schools in the UW system). Undergraduate studies are available in a wide range of areas, from Business and Management, to Criminal Justice, Education, Communication, Leadership, and more. Graduate degrees include several MBA concentrations and MS tracks in Education concentrations, Sustainable Management, Human Resource And Workforce Development, Integrated Supply Chain Management, Operations And Supply Management, Organizational Change Leadership, Project Management, and Administrative Leadership, among others. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 21:1, more than 65% of classes have less than 50 students, and 29% have less than 20 students.
Online Programs: 12
Founded in 1916, the University of Wisconsin — Eau Claire has a total enrollment just under 10,500 and has been ranked by US News, Money, and Kiplinger's Finance, particularly for its affordability. Eau Claire offers 12 online degrees, including 7 associates, 3 bachelors, and 2 masters. Its preprofessional options, which are among the largest in Wisconsin, include studies in General Business, Management, Marketing, Health Care Administration, Public Service, and Police Science, among others. Bachelor and Master tracks are available in Organizational Leadership And Communication, Rn to Bsn, Emergency Responder Administration, Communication Sciences And Disorders, and an MBA. The school has a 21:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and a quarter of classes consist of less than 20 students, encouraging a highly collaborative, intimate learning environment. More than half of Eau Claire students receive some form of financial aid.
Online Programs: 9
Maranatha Baptist University is a private Baptist school in Watertown with an enrollment of 1,000, including students from 44 states and 11 foreign countries. Founded in 1968, MBU offers 5 associate degrees in Business Management, Health Science, Christian Ministry, Digital Media, and an Independent Study. Masters are available online in Church Music, Divinity, English Bible, and Teaching And Learning. Maranatha's 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports a tight-knit, engaging educational atmosphere, with over 70% of classes consisting of 20 students or less. The school also offers excellent financial aid opportunities: 86% of need-based students received some form of aid. In addition to its Christian mission statement, MBU's core values include fidelity, learning, integrity, charity, leadership, unity, balance, family, and excellence.
Online Programs: 16
Founded in 1890, Viterbo University is a Roman Catholic liberal arts school with a total enrollment of about 2,700. Its 16 online bachelors are the second most in the state, with studies offered in Organizational Management, Business Administration (several concentrations), Criminal Justice Administration, Health Care Science, Rn to Bsn, Community Organizing And Advocacy, Substance Abuse Counseling, Organizational Studies, and more. With an average class size of 16, the educational environment is intimate, collaborative, and engaging, and no classes are taught by teaching assistants or graduate students. 98% of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, and the average need met is an impressive 85%. In addition to its Catholic teaching tradition, Viterbo's core values include contemplation, hospitality, integrity, stewardship, and service. All online course work is design to accommodate busy professionals and adult learners.
Online Programs: 29
Ottawa University, with a main campus in Kansas, was founded in 1865 and today serves students in Arizona, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Ranked among the top 50 universities in the Midwest, there are 29 online degrees available, the second-largest offering in the state. Ottawa's 17 bachelors include tracks in Accounting (with concentrations in Actuarial Science, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Global Operations, Leadership And Management, and Management) and Business Administration (concentrations in Actuarial Science, Communication, Educational Business Services, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Global Operations, Health Care Management, Human Resources, Leadership And Management , and more). Its masters degrees include MEd tracks, MBA concentrations, and MA/MS tracks in Counseling, Human Resources, and more. With a 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio, 67% of classes consist of less than 20 students. Financial assistance is also available: 87% of students receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 60%.
Online Programs: 9
Founded in 866, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville has a total enrollment of 8,900 and is ranked in the top 25 among public schools in the Midwest. Platteville began offering online degrees in 1999 and today has 9 tracks: bachelors in Business Administration and Criminal Justice, plus MS tracks in Distance Education Leadership, Integrated Supply Chain Management, Organizational Change Leadership, Project Management, Criminal Justice, Adult Education, and Engineering. More than 75% of classes consist 20-49 students, and 20% consist of less than 20 to promote a tight-knit, collaborative learning environment. Further, 65% of students receive some form of financial aid; the average need met was also 65%. Additional resources include online advising, library services, disability services, tech support, counseling, and more. Admission is rolling, and the Fall 2015 acceptance rate is 77%.
Online Programs: 12
Consisting of 14 colleges throughout the state with a total enrollment of about 14,000 (including more part-time students, adult undergraduates, and first-generation college students than any other UW campus), UWC offers freshmen and sophomores associate degrees to transfer into baccalaureate and professional programs. In all, 12 associates are available in a wide range of disciplines: Fine Arts And Humanities, Business, Ethnic Studies, Mathematical And Natural Sciences, Geography, Geosciences, Mathematics, Interdisciplinary Studies, Social Sciences, History, Sociology, and Science in Application And Performance. Student resources include a first-year experience, multicultural student services, an online writing lab, library services, a federally-funded TRIO student support program, and more. UWC has guaranteed transfer agreements with UW Madison and UW Whitewater (provided that GPA requirements are met).
Online Programs: 5
The University of Wisconsin — Superior, founded in 1893, has a total enrollment of about 2,500 (600 of which are online) and is ranked second overall among public colleges in the Midwest by US News. Superior offers 6 online bachelor degrees in Sustainable Management Programs, Elementary Education, Health And Wellness Management, Communicating Arts, Exercise Science, and an Independent Study. The school's 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports a collaborative, intimate educational setting, with 60% of classes consisting of less than 20 students. Further, 64% of students receive some form of financial aid, and the average need met is 83%. 96% of graduates enter the workforce or continue their education. Additional student resources include library services, online tutoring, a writing center, exam proctoring, tech support, disability services, and career services.
Online Programs: 7
The University of Wisconsin — Whitewater, founded in 1868, has a total enrollment of approximately 12,350 and is ranked 9th in the Midwest among public schools according to US News. There are 5 online bachelors offered in Business Administration, Liberal Studies, and Political Science, among others. Whitewater also offers an online MBA and Master of Science in Environmental Safety And Health. With a 22:1 student-to-faculty ratio, 40% of classes have less than 20 students, and 60% have less than 50, allowing for an engaging, collaborative educational experience. Many courses are asynchronous, and hybrid options are also available for maximum flexibility. Additional student resources include career planning, resume development, disability services, counseling, and more. More than half of Whitewater students receive some form of financial aid; the average need met is 63%.
Online Programs: 8
Founded in 1871, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh has a total enrollment of 14,000 and is ranked among the top 20 public schools in the state according to US News. Its 8 online bachelors are in Aviation Management, Leadership And Organizational Studies, Liberal Studies in Leadership Development, Liberal Studies in Organizational Administration, Criminal Justice, Fire And Emergency Response Management, Public Safety, and Human Services. A 20:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports an intimate, engaging learning atmosphere, and 41% of classes consist of less than 20 students. Further, over half of Oshkosh's students receive some form of financial aid, with an average need met of 60%. All courses are designed for maximum flexibility and to accommodate adult learners; several tracks offer accelerated options. Admission is rolling, and the Fall 2015 acceptance rate was 68%.
Online Programs: 9
Milwaukee Area Technical College is a two-year vocational school with a total enrollment of about 60,000 (27,000 in Milwaukee). Its 9 associate tracks are in a wide array of fields: Accounting, Banking And Financial Services, E-business Technology Analyst, Management, Marketing Management (with an accelerated option), IT Network Specialist (accelerated), Liberal Arts And Sciences (accelerated), and IT Mobile Applications Development. Many courses are 100% online and deliver through the Blackboard learning platform to support dynamic, asynchronous learning with group discussion threads, live chat rooms, and more. Additional resources include careers services, counseling, academic advising, financial aid opportunities, tutoring, and transfer planning services. Among the in-state schools MATC has transfer agreements with include the UW system, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, and Wisconsin Lutheran College.
Online Programs: 9
Moraine Park Technical College, founded in 1912, has a total enrollment of about 16,200. Nine associates are offered online in Accounting, Business Management, Business Management (with concentrations in Marketing andSmall Business Entrepreneurship), Information Technology (with a concentration in Applications Developer-Business), Leadership Development, Instructional Assistant, Health Information Technology, and Water Quality Technology. (There are 9 certificates available online.) Moraine Park also offers flex and self-paced tracks, and all courses are 100% online and asynchronous to accommodate busy professionals and adult learners. Student resources include tutoring, TRO student support services, employment services, a career center, diversity relations, counseling, and transition services. In addition to regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, MPTC holds specialized accreditations from over a dozen other bodies.
Online Programs: 3
Founded in 1903, The Milwaukee School of Engineering has a total enrollment just below 3,000. Ranked among the top schools in the Midwest, it has also been recognized for veteran services, value, and (appropriately enough) its engineering programs. Its 3 online degrees consist of an MBA, Master of Science in Engineering, and Master of Science in Engineering Management. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 16:1, more than 40% of classes have fewer than 20 students, allowing for an intimate, vibrant learning environment. Further, 76% of MSE students receive some form of financial aid, and the school has a 96% job placement rate. Courses are available 100% online or in hybrid delivery formats and designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate busy professionals and adult learners. Admission is rolling, and the Fall 2015 acceptance rate is 65%.
Online Programs: 8
Northcentral Technical College, established in 1912, serves Marathon, Lincoln, Taylor, Price, Langlade, Menominee, Clark, Portage, Shawano, and Waupaca counties. Its 8 associate tracks are in Accounting, Business Management, Digital Marketing, Marketing, Small Business Entrepreneurship, Supervisory Management, Human Services, and Video Production. All courses are asynchronous for maximum flexibility, and the Blackboard learning platform encourages dynamic, engaged learned through group discussion boards, live chat rooms, and more. NTC also has transfer agreements for many universities, including the UW system. Student resources include IT support, library services, disability services, veteran services, and more. In addition to accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA), NTC has specialized accreditation from 8 bodies.
Online Programs: 3
Founded in 1965, The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has a total enrollment of about 6,800 and ranks among the top 25 public universities in the Midwest according to US News. Online, Green Bay offers bachelors in Integrative Leadership Studies, Business Administration, Human Development, and Psychology. A student-to-faculty ratio of 21:1 supports a collaborative learning environment, and 60% of classes have less than 50 students. All courses are designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate busy professionals and adult learners, and students have access to academic advising, library and research assistance, tech support, writing support, career counseling, internship services, and more. Transfer students can also take advantage of Green Bay's generous policies for BAS and BA tracks. 63% of students receive some form of financial aid, and the average need met is 71%.
Monitoring the accreditation of a university you are interested in attending is incredibly important. Accreditation ensures your credits can transfer that you can receive Federal financial aid, and most importantly that certain standards of educational quality are during your schooling. The highest accreditation standard for most programs in the United States is provided by regional accreditation agencies. The regional accrediting agency for Wisconsin is the Higher Learning Commission, one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Making sure that a University you're hoping to attend is regionally accredited — or accredited by a real and respected accrediting agency — is one of the most important choices you can make in ensuring the quality of your education.
Three Steps for Securing Financial Aid
- Submit your FAFSA.
- Check to see if additional forms are needed at your university of choice.
- Search and apply for private scholarships.
Through the previous three steps most students find themselves offered some sort of federal grant, work study, private grant, scholarship, or stipend.
Great Wisconsin Higher Education Resources
- Click here for the state's department of education site, including information on special and adult education.
- For students interested in private school opportunities, visit the WAICU.
- The Wisconsin Educational Approval Board (EAB) is oversees private trade, technical, career, distance learning, and degree-granting schools.
- The Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) oversees the state’s 16 public technical colleges.
- The Higher Educational Aids Board is responsible for Wisconsin's higher ed financial aid system.
- EdVest is the state-sponsored college savings program. Site includes potential plans, research, news, and gifting/legacy planning.
- Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education and private lenders, "helps students borrow responsibly, complete their education, and find repayment solutions that work for them."
- Serving eight other states in the region, the Midwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is an excellent resource for aid, with donor lists, online forms, member services, and more.
- Central Wisconsin residents visit here for a list of grants and scholarships available.
- North Central Wisconsin students click here.
- Southern Wisconsin residents check here for grants, scholarships, professional advisors, and news.
- For Racine County residents, visit the RCF for grants, scholarships, and financial planning info.
- Established in 1993, the MACF has gifted $4.6 million to Marshfield area students.
- With over 60 funds available, Duluth area students should visit here.
- The GGBCF offers award grants to more than 500 community initiatives and award more than 125 scholarships to students each year.
- For Madison area residents, click here for fund opportunities and financial advising.
- Click here for the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin's higher education page, with scholarships, resources, announcements, and more.
- Wisconsin's page for the Midwestern Higher Education Compact includes reports, data, and contact information for policymakers.
- The Wisconsin Higher Education Business Roundtable promotes the advancement of public higher ed in the state, with a number of reports, meeting schedules, and other resources.
- For those living in Northeast Wisconsin, the NEW ERA fosters collaboration between colleges and universities to serve the educational needs of citizens in the region.