Students interested in higher education in Wisconsin have many options for advancing their education at either the undergraduate or graduate level. As of 2013, the state had 126 vocational schools, community colleges and universities available, making it 23rd in the country for total number of post-secondary schools and 22nd for students who selected this state to attend college. One of Wisconsin's distinguishing features is its variety of choices through vo-tech schools, community colleges, four-year institutions, universities and distance education:
|College Type||Number in Wisconsin|
|Private not-for-profit (religious affiliation)||20|
|Private not-for-profit (no religious affiliation)||11|
Top Wisconsin Cities for Higher Education
Students can find a rich landscape in Wisconsin when selecting the state for higher education. Whether students want a program located closer to the Great Lakes or further inland, they are likely to find choices to suit their diverse needs. Take a look at student distribution and college prospects in Wisconsin:
Most Popular Cities for College Students (Total)
- Madison (84,800)
- Milwaukee (82,200)
- Green Bay (26,000)
- Kenosha (23,600)
- Eau Claire (21,000)
Cities in Wisconsin with the Most Colleges (Total)
- Milwaukee (25)
- Madison (14)
- Green Bay (8)
- Kenosha (5)
- Appleton (5)
City in Focus: Milwaukee Colleges
Aside from the brewing culture, one of the main focuses of the city of Milwaukee is higher education. In fact, the city was said to have the 6th highest per capita student population in North America, according to a 2000 study from McGill University. The city hosts 12 separate colleges and universities, with more in outlying areas. These colleges cover a variety of degree programs and specializations, including medical schools, art & design schools, engineering schools, and technical schools. The largest of these is the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, located on the East side of the city. UWM offers 188 academic programs and serves more than 27,800 students, including a portion of international learners. Their Division I NCAA Panthers team is also a notable rallying point for Milwaukee locals. Nearby, the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) also features impressive educational opportunities. This state-funded school, which educates more students than any other Wisconsin college, offers 87 associate degree programs, 45 technical diploma programs, 33 certificate programs, and 25 apprenticeship programs. For students interested in visual arts, Milwaukee is also home to the Art Institute of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Institute for Art and Design.
Online Learning in Milwaukee
The Milwaukee college with the most off-campus offerings is the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee—approximately 25 percent of UWM students are enrolled in at least one online course. More than 500 online and blended courses are offered by the school, in addition to undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates in a range of fields such as communication, administrative leadership, sociology, occupational therapy, history and computer science. Online students have access to a number of services and resources for support and guidance throughout their program.
Wisconsin Online Colleges and Universities
Private for-profit schools have long been the key players in distance education, but over the past decade traditional schools in Wisconsin have built up their online offerings. These help create more diverse and robust courses in academia, but also keep college access from being such a significant roadblock in educational attainment. In 2013, 22 four-year schools in Wisconsin offered online learning, whether through individual classes, hybrid offerings or completely web-based programs. The University of Wisconsin system provides students with the option of earning an associate degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, or doctorate degree online through its eCampus. Non-degree certificate programs are also available.
The Cost of College and Cost of Living in Wisconsin
Students planning to attend college in Wisconsin may encounter unexpected, as well as expected, costs that come with an education. The most common of these is tuition, which can vary based on location and type of school, undergraduate or graduate level, and whether or not a student holds out-of-state resident status. As of 2012, students with Wisconsin residency paid an average tuition of $13,511 per year, making the state 14th in the nation in terms of most expensive in-state tuition costs.
Tuition and fees are only one slice of the financial pie when it comes to college education. Also hefty can be costs for room and board, true whether students are looking to stay on campus or seeking off-campus housing. In Wisconsin, the cost of living (COL) is 4 percent lower than the national average, which students may want to keep in mind when doing their college planning. The subsequent table provides details about the COL in the state's metropolitan areas as compared with the national average index of 100:
|Urban Area||Composite Index||Housing||Groceries||Utilities||Transportation||Health Care||Misc.|
Financial Assistance to Pay for College
There are many options at hand to help students pay for college and keep financial stress at bay. Federal financial aid is available to students who qualify and may provide loans to cover tuition and fees. Students can inquire about the repayment schedule for loans. To begin the process of determining eligibility and loan amount, a student simply needs to fill out the FAFSA form. In Wisconsin, 67 percent of undergraduate students received financial aid.
Scholarships are another route in helping cover college costs. They may require up-front effort in terms of research and filling out applications, but can provide money that is free of the stipulation of repayment. Coupled with federal financial aid, a scholarship may be the icing on the cake when it comes to increased college affordability. Students in Wisconsin can seek scholarships through nonprofits, regional organizations, foundations, businesses and schools. Scholarships are available to college students in Wisconsin through different types of entities, including the following:
- Altrusa International
- American Business Woman's Association
- American Family Insurance
- American Foods
- American Legion, Department of Wisconsin
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield/United Wisconsin
- Capital Credit Union
- Central Wisconsin Home Builders Association
- Chippewa Falls Rotary Club
- Dairyman's State Bank
- Engineers Foundation of Wisconsin
- Golden Sands Ruffed Grouse Society
- Grandmothers for Peace - Wisconsin
- Medical Group Management Association
- Wisconsin Broadcasters Association
- Wisconsin Society of Professional Engineers
Accreditation for Colleges in Wisconsin
Students choosing a college in Wisconsin typically check on the accreditation of the school they plan to attend. Accreditation is important in confirming that certain educational standards are met, and it allows students to be eligible for federal loans. In Wisconsin, accreditation is carried out through the regional association of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, known as the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Institutions in Wisconsin can also hold programmatic or specialized accreditation for individual colleges, departments, or programs. For example, at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, individual programs have been accredited by the American Chemical Society, the Council on Social Work Education, and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
When planning to attend school in Wisconsin, students need to evaluate many different factors. First, they need to find a program at the undergraduate or graduate level that suits their needs. Second, they should make sure it fits with their financial plans in terms of cost and affordability. The information provided here offers a jump-start in that planning, but the list of Wisconsin schools below can paint a broader picture of what is available, particularly as related to distance learning.
We at AC Online certainly believe that affordability is important for anyone who wants to attend college online, but it's only part of the equation. We spoke with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to get a better sense of the online education landscape in the state.
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?
UW-Green Bay offers the Interdisciplinary Studies major completely online. In addition, all UW-Green Bay students have access to approximately 75 different sections of courses online each semester, of which the majority are taught by UW-Green Bay faculty and lecturers. Online is used to provide access to place-bound and adult learners, but is also offered as an alternative learning experience for on-campus, traditional students. Our online courses provide the same academic rigor and a commitment to having full-time university faculty teach in the program.
What makes your online programs so valuable to students?
Many of the students who attend UW-Green Bay are working adults who need the flexibility and convenience of an online degree program. These students are not able to attend classes in a traditional face-to-face environment. Our students earn a nationally-recognized University of Wisconsin degree, advance their personal and professional lives and do so in the most flexible and affordable way possible. In addition, access to online classes allows traditional students to enroll in classes that may otherwise be in conflict with their schedules.
Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?
Online programs will continue to be a part of higher education, adapting to meet new technologies. Online education will continue to grow as more traditional students continue to incorporate at least one online course into their schedules.
Ranking: Most Affordable Online Colleges in Wisconsin
Wisconsin, the “Dairy land,” is also the land of superior online degree programs. These programs are through four-year fully accredited colleges and therefore commonly grant identical degrees to those issued to on-campus students. Fully online colleges in Wisconsin are unsurpassed in convenience, curriculum, and professors. Online schools in Wisconsin commonly offer assistance with tuition, making distance learning a cost-effective way to continue your education. With value a priority, we’ve listed all of the best Wisconsin online colleges, based on tuition costs. Beginning with the lowest tuition program and continuing to the highest, this catalog of programs showcases the very best online programs in Wisconsin.Click here to see our methodology.