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Wisconsin Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2018

Updated on: 01/04/2018
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Increasing the availability, affordability, and excellence of online colleges in Wisconsin remains a focus in the state. The most recent study from the National Center for Education Statistics states that 91 degree-granting institutions exist in Wisconsin, many of which provide online course options. The University of Wisconsin’s Flexible Option provides unprecedented flexibility; its students can combine life and work experience with online college courses to complete a degree. And the University of Wisconsin System’s ECampus offers nearly 50 master’s degree programs and 40 bachelor’s degree programs across many fields.

Online learning is estimated to develop at an annual increase of 3.9 percent nationally, and Wisconsin’s online schools are aligned with that growth. There has been a big push among education leaders to increase online options to potential students in Wisconsin, including in-state programs that provide online access and help students pay for their education, as well as multi-state organizations that make it easier for students to complete an online degree. This guide offers potential applicants an overview of what is available for accredited online colleges and universities in Wisconsin, and also provides information on tuition, financial aid and the best schools in 2018.

Best Online Colleges in Wisconsin: 2018

Prospective students have many questions when sorting through options to find the best accredited online colleges in Wisconsin. Which programs provide which degrees? What requirements are there? How does one find the best affordable online colleges in Wisconsin? There are many factors that determine this answer; for instance, tuition costs, student support and completion rates should be considered for any online degree program. Check out our rankings below to see which might be the best fit for you.

  • Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution

  • At least 3 online associate degrees or certificate programs (2-year schools)

  • At least 3 online bachelor’s or master’s degrees (4-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $5,000 (2-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $25,000 (4-year schools)

Colleges receive a total score based on performance in the following categories:

  • Average in-state net price for first-time/full-time undergraduates

  • Count and breadth of online programs available

  • Student-teacher ratio

  • 6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)

  • % of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college

  • Average $ of financial aid students receive directly from the college

  • Availability of academic/career counseling services

  • Availability of job placement services for students and graduates

  • 3-year loan default rate

  • AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*

*PBV is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or ‘bang for your buck’ – of an online degree.

Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information.

  • Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Viterbo University La Crosse, WI 100.00 $23,200 8 99% 11:147%yes yes yes
2 Lakeland College Plymouth, WI 99.15 $23,050 12 100% 15:151%no yes yes
3 Maranatha Baptist University Watertown, WI 96.93 $12,370 3 89% 13:146%no yes yes
4 University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI 96.10 $9,273 7 35% 18:183%no yes yes
5 University of Wisconsin-Stout Menomonie, WI 95.61 $7,014 24 24% 20:154%yes yes yes
6 University of Wisconsin-Superior Superior, WI 95.27 $6,535 8 29% 16:141%yes yes yes
7 University of Wisconsin-Platteville Platteville, WI 94.26 $6,418 8 37% 22:154%no yes yes
8 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Milwaukee, WI 94.25 $8,091 6 17% 18:141%no yes yes
9 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Eau Claire, WI 94.12 $7,361 6 38% 21:167%no yes yes
10 University of Wisconsin-La Crosse La Crosse, WI 93.85 $7,585 6 22% 18:167%no yes yes
11 University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Stevens Point, WI 93.43 $6,298 9 11% 22:158%yes yes yes
12 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Whitewater, WI 93.36 $6,519 6 15% 22:155%yes yes yes
13 University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Green Bay, WI 92.99 $6,298 6 24% 23:146%yes no yes
14 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI 92.93 $6,422 8 10% 22:154%no yes yes
15 University of Wisconsin-Parkside Kenosha, WI 92.12 $6,298 4 9% 21:131%no yes yes
16 Ottawa University-Milwaukee Brookfield, WI 89.51 $11,520 12 N/A 5:1N/Ayes no yes
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2-Year Best College Rankings

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Fox Valley Technical College Appleton, WI 100.00 $3,776 10 15% 12:1N/Ayes yes yes
2 Western Technical College La Crosse, WI 98.55 $3,776 4 11% 11:1N/Ayes yes yes
3 Lakeshore Technical College Cleveland, WI 98.51 $3,776 6 9% 12:1N/Ayes yes yes
4 Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Shell Lake, WI 98.38 $4,027 7 12% 9:1N/Ayes yes yes
5 Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee, WI 98.24 $3,776 14 N/A 14:1N/Ayes yes yes
6 Moraine Park Technical College Fond du Lac, WI 98.23 $3,776 10 8% 15:1N/Ayes yes yes
7 Southwest Wisconsin Technical College Fennimore, WI 97.97 $3,750 4 15% 14:1N/Ayes yes yes
8 Northcentral Technical College Wausau, WI 96.35 $3,776 15 N/A 19:1N/Ayes yes yes
9 Gateway Technical College Kenosha, WI 95.86 $3,775 6 N/A 16:1N/Ayes yes yes
10 Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College Hayward, WI 92.03 $4,560 21 N/A 20:1N/Ano no yes

Tuition & Financial Aid for Wisconsin Colleges

Online education is unlike traditional education in many ways, but one thing they do have in common is differing tuition rates for residents versus non-residents. Residency in the state of Wisconsin qualifies as domicile for 12 months, which means that in-state students have to be able to prove physical presence in the state for a year before they’ll secure in-state tuition. In some cases, in-state tuition is as little as 30 percent of out-of-state tuition. This goes for public and non-profit institutions; private universities generally charge the same regardless of residency.

According to the most recent (2015-2016) statistics from the U.S. Department of Education, the average annual tuition costs (including related fees) for full-time undergraduates at Wisconsin postsecondary institutions are:

Public 4-year in-state: $16,194

Public 4-year out-of-state: $21,327

Private 4-year: $29,777

Public 2-year in-state: $4,382

Public 2-year out-of-state: $7,336

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2017

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Do Wisconsin online college students pay in-state or out-of-state tuition?

Online college students must prove residency before securing in-state tuition in Wisconsin. If a student lives in a different state, they’ll pay a higher rate if taking credits from a Wisconsin institution. For example, the University of Wisconsin Colleges Online charges $238 per credit for residents and $285.60 for non-residents. For specific degree programs, the cost goes up to $315 for residents and $378 for non-residents (these prices do not include the $25 additional administrative fee).

However, sometimes there are ways for non-residents to still get in-state tuition, or close to it. The Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) includes 12 states that have agreed to not charge students of the other states in the agreement more than 150 percent of in-state tuition. In addition to MHEC, Michigan and Minnesota have reciprocity programs that guarantee their students in-state tuition through Wisconsin Colleges Online.

Quick summary on tuition:
  • 1. In-state tuition rates are available to online students who are Wisconsin residents.

  • 2. Students in one of the 12 states that are included in the MHEC may qualify for reduced tuition rates at qualifying schools.

How do Wisconsin college students apply for financial aid?

Like with all other states, the first step in the financial aid process in Wisconsin is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This federal form helps determine your eligibility for federal student grants and loans and will also transfer to the chosen institution. From there, students may be eligible for additional aid through the institution or from an individual college.

After the FAFSA, students should apply for financial aid through the State of Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB). Students can find state-wide programs here, including grants (“gifted” funds that aren’t paid back), loans (that will eventually be repaid) and scholarships. Additional information on tuition reciprocity and capitation is included for students in specific fields.

The requirements to qualify for financial aid vary depending on the type of aid. To qualify for federal and state aid at UW-Whitewater, for example, students must:

  • Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Be a U.S. Citizen or an Eligible Non-citizen
  • Be registered for Selective Service if male and aged 18-25
  • Have a High School Diploma or General Education Development (GED) High School Equivalency Diploma
  • Be admitted in an eligible degree program
  • Be enrolled at least half time for most aid programs
  • Not be in default on any federal educational loans or owe a refund on a federal grant
  • Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)
  • Not have been convicted of a drug offense while receiving financial aid

Students should contact each Wisconsin school under consideration to find out about the specific requirements for obtaining and maintaining financial aid.

Students should contact each Wisconsin school under consideration to find out about the specific requirements for obtaining and maintaining financial aid.

Scholarships & Grants for Wisconsin Colleges

Financial aid is available to Wisconsin college students, if they know where to look for it. The National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that $125.5 million was given to Wisconsin students in need-based grants by the state of Wisconsin. Nearly another $1 million was given in student loans for the 2013-2014 school year. And there are a wide range of scholarship options available for Wisconsin students.

What scholarships and grants are available?

Everyone can and should apply for the FAFSA, and that’s the first place to start. The results of that application will determine one’s eligibility for additional, school-specific scholarships. Wisconsin students should also look at the Higher Education Aids Board (HEAB). There are many financial aid programs here for residents who attend online classes in-state.

From there, students can look at online resources like Scholarships.com and Niche.com that outline general, nationally available scholarships that are open to all. These awards vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars, and it’s in each student’s interest to apply to each that may fit.

Here are a few financial aid options for Wisconsin students to consider:

  • The Wisconsin Higher Education Grant is available for multiple types of colleges including technical colleges and private schools. This program requires at least half-time enrollment and awards anywhere from $250 to $3,000.

  • The Talent Incentive Program Grant is a state-sponsored grant. The TIP program gives assistance to the most financially needy and educationally disadvantaged students. It pays out a maximum amount of $1,800 per student.

  • The Wisconsin Academic Excellence Scholarship is a gift-in-aid program that requires full-time tuition and awards up to $2,250.

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How do I apply for Wisconsin scholarships and grants?

Every scholarship and grant program follows its own particular application process and has its own requirements. Wisconsin students should carefully review and follow all application requirements and pay careful attention to application deadlines. Common requirements include:

  • Filling out the application form correctly

  • Providing certain personal, educational and family information

  • Completing and providing standardized test scores (for example, the SAT and ACT)

  • Providing letters of recommendation

  • Writing an essay on a stated subject

As previously mentioned, students will use the FAFSA form to apply for many scholarship and grant programs.

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Finding a Wisconsin Online College

There are many aspects of an online education for a potential student to consider. Choosing one option from the many can seem difficult or overwhelming. But the first step in making it a manageable decision is determining the factors that are most important in your chosen educational path. Below are some specific questions prospective online students ask in the search for the right Wisconsin online degree program.

Which colleges in Wisconsin accept transfer credits and work/life experience?

Many online colleges in Wisconsin give students academic credit for previous work experience and prior education. This is done by one of three methods; credit transfer, portfolio approval or examination. The University of Wisconsin Colleges, which is the group of the UW systems’ 14 freshman and sophomore colleges, allows credit for prior experiential learning. Students must complete a portfolio that outlines their prior experience and its relevance to a degree program.

Military experience is almost always guaranteed to give a veteran a chance at college credit. Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College gives students that were or are currently enlisted US military personnel credits toward an associate’s degree or technical diploma. University of Wisconsin Whitewater asks that adult students enroll in a credited course in which they create the portfolio that will determine their eligibility for college credit.

Credit for prior experience is becoming more and more common, but the requirements vary by institution. Students should check in with an advisor at any online college they’re considering to see if they qualify for this type of credit. Most schools also put a cap on how many credits can be transferred, so it’s important to find out the policy of any prospective school.

Do I have to pick a Wisconsin online college if I live in Wisconsin?

No, students in any state can choose online courses or programs through institutions in any other state. But students in Wisconsin will likely benefit from lower in-state tuition rates if they chose an online college based in Wisconsin or a program that has agreed to give Wisconsin students in-state tuition rates.

How do I pick a Wisconsin online college?

Ultimately, choosing an online degree program in Wisconsin, or any other state, is intensely personal. But, to start, applicants can look at the variables that matter to them most. What is the tuition cost? Does the individual institution give specific financial aid? Does any tuition reimbursement require on-site course completion?

Be mindful of quality indicators, like the institution’s graduation rates. Accreditation is also very important when considering an online college. For instance, the University of Wisconsin is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, a renowned body that evaluates colleges in 19 states. All online colleges listed on this page are also accredited.