Best Online Colleges in Wisconsin

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Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleBest Collegesin Wisconsin2017
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Wisconsin is part of the Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP), which allows students from Illinois, Kansas, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and North Dakota to attend participating Wisconsin schools at a reduced rate. Wisconsin students can also attend schools in other participating states at a reduced rate. A total of 100 schools participate in the program; public schools agree to charge MSEP students no more than 150% of in-state tuition, while private schools offer a 10% discount.

One in four Wisconsin adults have earned a college degree. In an attempt to increase this number, the University of Wisconsin launched the UW System eCampus to encourage students to earn an online degree from among 26 two-year and four-year colleges in the state. UW also created a UW Flex option for working adults, who can pass assessments to show skills and move towards a degree more quickly.

Online students enjoy many benefits without studying on campus. They can study on evenings and weekends, learn from home without commuting, and work at their own pace to graduate sooner or focus on a career. While flexible, many online programs still offer great services like online career counseling and library catalog services.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 University of Wisconsin-Stout 69.09 3/5 52% Menomonie, WI

One of the best online colleges in Wisconsin, UW-Stout is celebrating its 125th year as a degree-granting institution. UW-Stout offers 14 online undergraduate degrees, including bachelor of science (BS) degrees in digital marketing technology, golf enterprise management, and technology education. Students receive a 70% discount on popular software, including the Adobe Creative Cloud, Acrobat, Microsoft, and many others. Courses are asynchronous, though students are expected to check in three to five times a week to keep up with discussion boards and other interactive assignments. Online students have access to an online library and the “fetch it for me” service, which offers book and document exchange between libraries. Distance education students are eligible to apply for one of UW-Stout’s Customized Instruction (CI) Scholarships.

In 2016, UW-Stout’s online student population represented a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds from 49 states and 20 countries; 36 is the average age for UW-Stout distance learners.

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2 University of Wisconsin-La Crosse 68.52 3/5 70% La Crosse, WI

UW-La Crosse’s online programs have gained recognition by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), the organization that assesses online program quality. One of the top Wisconsin online colleges, UW-La Crosse offers both bachelor’s and master's degrees, as well as professional certificate programs, with several collaborative programs taught in tandem with other participating WI colleges. Current bachelor’s degree options include a BS in health & wellness management or a BS in health information management & technology.

Students access courses through the Desire2Learn (D2L) platform. All classes are taught by the same on-campus professors and the majority follow an identical semester schedule. Online students have full access to the Murphy Library, textbook rental services, and many other essential student services. Students can stay in-the-know with university happenings through UW-La Crosse’s active social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter.

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3 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire 68.41 3/5 65% Eau Claire, WI

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire currently offers an online bachelor’s degree in nursing. Three professional specialist and certificate programs are also available, as are over 300 non-credit programs through a collaboration with Ed2go. Online degree completion times range from one to three years. Virtual classroom learning takes place through the D2L platform, with lectures delivered through Kaltura video and recording software. Students can also request free one-on-one software training in Adobe, Microsoft, Weebly, and other programs, from the Learning and Technology Services Training Center.

As one of the best online colleges in Wisconsin, UW-Eau Claire is a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) through the Midwestern Higher Education Compact and offers degree reciprocity to students residing in other member states. UW-Eau Claire’s motto, “the power of AND”, speaks to the university’s culture of encouraging students to find both purpose AND passion through their college experience.

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4 University of Wisconsin-Green Bay 67.50 3/5 51% Green Bay, WI

UW-Green Bay, which is one of multiple online colleges in Wisconsin to be part of the greater UW system, has set in place a strategic vision for 2020 that involves initiatives to increase operational excellence, make college education more affordable for families, and prepare graduates who are able to help boost the state’s economy.

Students can choose from versatile, adult-oriented degrees. An online bachelor of applied science (BAS) or a bachelor of arts (BA) in integrative leadership studies offers concentrations in areas like applied communication, the arts, nonprofit leadership, environmental studies, and several other domains. Both online programs place an emphasis on preparing students to adapt to rapid changes in the modern workforce and a focus on mastering 21st century learning skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Three additional bachelor’s programs are offered in psychology, business administration, and human development. Courses are accessed via the D2L platform, and students can access an online orientation at anytime. Students receive free access to Microsoft 365 cloud software, as well as tutorials.

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5 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater 65.68 3/5 58% Whitewater, WI

Founded in 1868, UW-Whitewater had a 100-year independent history before joining the UW system in 1971. As one of the best online colleges in Wisconsin, UW-Whitewater offers undergraduate offerings in some of the university’s most popular majors, including bachelor’s degrees in marketing and business. An online BA or BS in liberal studies also allows students to customize their study focus according to specific career interests. All online courses are accessed through the D2L platform, and distance learners have access to career development services and the UW job board, health and counseling services, and more. Textbook rental fees are included in the cost of undergraduate admission.

UW-Whitewater enrolls over 22,000 students, with 38.4% of the 2016 population graduating with degrees from the College of Business & Economics. The campus has a proactive sustainability policy and engaged student body, and recently a small group of its students embarked on a 2,700-mile bike trip over the summer to raise awareness for climate change.

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6 Maranatha Baptist University 65.34 3/5 45% Watertown, WI

Maranatha Baptist offers undergraduate certificate and bachelor’s programs in education, organizational leadership, or seminary. Students applying for online bachelor’s degrees must be at least 23 years old, with the exception of military service members. Some programs, such as the online BS in interdisciplinary studies, require that students transfer in a minimum number of credits from a post-secondary institution.

As one of the top-ranking Wisconsin online colleges, Maranatha Baptist offers asynchronous online courses, though some classes may involve voluntary or scheduled synchronous discussions with instructors and peers. Courses may be taught in eight-, 12-, or 16-week sessions. Classes have the same amount of content in half the time as on-campus courses, and students usually take one to three courses at a time. All students receive free access to Microsoft 2013 software or a significant discount on a student version. Maranatha’s learning vision combines a biblical worldview with scientific inquiry and critical thinking.

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7 Concordia University-Wisconsin 64.89 4/5 59% Mequon, WI

Concordia, one of the online colleges in Wisconsin, offers more than 40 degrees in 10 academic domains. Bachelor’s degrees are specifically designed for new and transfer students, as well as those looking to complete their undergraduate degree. Online instructors bring innovative ideas on education, as well as industry experience, to the virtual classroom. Concord University-Wisconsin is associated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and offers programs in partnership with Concordia University-Ann Arbor, with about 2,400 online students enrolled annually.

Concordia also offers a Digital Influencer Academy for professionals who are looking to build their personal brand. Concordia University is a member of the Competency-Based Education Network (CBEN) and works with 30 other institutions in the U.S. to pioneer learning innovations in higher education.

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8 University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point 60.80 3/5 60% Stevens Point, WI

USWP offers undergraduate degrees designed to accommodate the needs of working adults. As one of the most popular Wisconsin online colleges, UWSP has alumni living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Courses are asynchronous but fast-paced, and several degrees can be completed in as few as 18 months. Some degree programs include a final capstone experience, while others encourage but do not require internships.

UWSP uses the D2L learning management system for its virtual classroom. Any required texts can be rented online and shipped directly to students for only the cost of shipping. UWSP’s Tutoring-Learning Center also provides personalized online tutoring sessions. Career advising services include resumé and cover letter review and job search preparation. Students in online bachelor’s programs are also eligible to participate in study abroad programs and apply for study abroad scholarships.

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9 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh 59.89 3/5 50% Oshkosh, WI

UW-Oshkosh offers convenient online degree programs through its Division of Lifelong Learning and Community Engagement. A diverse set of undergraduate offerings from one of the best online colleges in Wisconsin includes aviation management and criminal justice. Students can earn prior learning credit towards their online degree credits through professional or military experience, as well as volunteer and community service, and can transfer up to 90 credits of qualifying college coursework.

Courses are accessed through the D2L learning platform, and students have access to a distance education orientation for online library services. UWO offers a competitive flat-rate tuition for its online undergraduate programs, making it one of the most affordable online colleges in Wisconsin. Many undergraduate programs can be completed in two years online. UWO also offers dedicated student support services for first-generation income specific students, including helpful financial resources and positive encouragement from mentors.

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10 University of Wisconsin-Platteville 58.41 3/5 52% Platteville, WI

UW-Platteville offers five master’s degrees entirely online in engineering, project management, organizational change leadership, integrated supply chain management, and criminal justice, along with bachelor’s degrees in business administration and criminal justice at a distance. Professional certificates are also available at the undergraduate and graduate level. Most online programs can be completed in two years. UW-Platteville is one of the longest-running Wisconsin online colleges to offer distance education services for over 35 years.

The D2L learning management platform drives the virtual classroom experience. UW-Platteville is one of a handful of universities worldwide to be accredited by the Project Management Institute (PMI), which sets global standards and provides resources for professional development programs in education. UW-Platteville does not require entrance exams for its online programs, and most program exams do not require proctoring. All online instructors have a master’s degree and many have a doctorate in their field of expertise. UW-Platteville currently enrolls around 8,700 students, including distance education learners, and is the fastest growing UW-system school.

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11 Viterbo University 58.30 3/5 53% La Crosse, WI

Viterbo University offers seven undergraduate online degree programs in high-demand areas. Students have access to free online tutoring through Smarthinking services and through one-on-one appointments for math, writing, and other content. Online courses are offered in an accelerated eight-week format, and many programs can be completed in about two years. Online students have the option to attend part- or full-time and benefit from personalized advising services.

As one of the highest-ranking online colleges in Wisconsin, Viterbo is a Franciscan university offering a liberal arts education. Viterbo’s core values of contemplation, hospitality, integrity, stewardship, and service are integrated into its curriculum and campus community. Located in La Crosse, close to the Mississippi River, Viterbo’s namesake is the town of Viterbo, Italy, which was home to St. Rose of Viterbo, a patroness of the order of sisters that founded the university.

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12 Lakeland College 56.82 4/5 46% Plymouth, WI

Included in our list of the best online colleges in Wisconsin is Lakeland College, with Lakeland Online providing students with a choice of 10 undergraduate degrees in the domains of education, counseling, or business administration. Lakeland’s “BlendEd” format allows all online students the choice of attending 100% online or attending some classes in person for a hybrid-style experience. Online courses generally have one required meeting every week over the course of a 14-week semester in the spring and fall, and 10 weeks during the summer.

Lakeland’s active social media presence through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube allows students to stay connected and interact with the campus daily. The school’s Career Readiness & Professional Development Center offers practice interview sessions on the phone and assistance in negotiating salaries and employment benefits. Lakeland enrolls close to 2,600 students in its online programs from 24 countries.

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13 University of Wisconsin-River Falls 53.98 3/5 54% River Falls, WI

UW-River Falls is one of 13 colleges in the UW system that ranks as one of the best Wisconsin online colleges. The school offers two online bachelor’s degrees: health and wellness management and sustainable management. As part of the UW-school system, online courses draw on resources from four other UW universities. Both of its programs can be started at anytime, and students can attend part- or full-time. Applicants are required to have an associate degree or a minimum of 60 credits of college-level experience, and a personal consultation helps ensure that students are transferring the maximum number of credits. Students pursuing the sustainable management degree are eligible for a number of program-specific scholarships.

The online course experience takes place through the D2L platform, with 24/7 technology help available via chat services. Students can also take advantage of the university’s career services and free unlimited tutoring.

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14 Marian University 51.82 3/5 51% Fond Du Lac, WI

One of the best online colleges in Wisconsin, Marian’s undergraduate degree programs are available in business, education, healthcare, and several other areas. A bachelor’s degree in homeland security, for example, prepares students to address internal security organization issues and apply strategic policies that help build strong communities and prevent terrorism. Most online courses are asynchronous and provide 24/7 access.

Marian is a Catholic university, offering cooperative and hands-on learning for over 80 years. An average student-to-faculty ration of 11:1 allows students to more closely interact with peers and professors. Students can live stream many of Marian’s athletic games, including men’s and women’s basketball, along with a variety of other live events like keynote speeches and cultural lectures. Students can also stay connected via the Sabre Voice online, a student-run online newspaper that engages readers with polls and streaming stories.

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15 Wisconsin Lutheran College 50.00 3/5 58% Milwaukee, WI

Wisconsin Lutheran offers an accelerated BS in business management and leadership, which can be completed in around 20 months. About 60% of students employed full time were promoted while enrolled in this program, and 100% of graduates reported being satisfied with their educational experience. Online application is free, and applicants must have some previous college credits and two years of professional experience. Students’ professional experience and other life experience may be eligible for conversion into prior learning credit. Wisconsin Lutheran offers one of the most competitive tuition rates of Wisconsin online colleges in this list, with rates including fees and books.

Located in Milwaukee and currently enrolling about 1,200 students across its on-campus and online programs, Wisconsin Lutheran's mission is twofold: to prepare students for professional careers and to serve as Christian leaders. Students can engage with the university through the college’s live streaming site, which offers virtual access to daily chapel services, fine arts events, and athletics games.

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16 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 49.66 3/5 43% Milwaukee, WI

Located in the heart of Milwaukee, UW-Milwaukee is an urban research university and ranked as one of the best online colleges in Wisconsin. UW-Milwaukee offers more than 30 degree and certificate programs online, with unique programs such as a bachelor’s in community engagement and education. Courses are asynchronous and accessed via the D2L learning platform.

UW’s flex degree is an even more convenient option that offers self-paced and competency-based completion for three bachelor’s degree options. Online faculty receive technology training to optimize an engaging and effective learning experience. UW-Milwaukee received the 2014 Excellence in Online Teaching Award from the Online Learning Consortium, which provides international best practices for online teaching. Students receive the same library privileges as students on campus, including live chat with a librarian and the ability to request and check out library books and have them mailed to their home.

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17 University of Wisconsin-Superior 49.66 3/5 35% Superior, WI

Students at UW-Superior will find a diverse selection of online undergraduate degrees at one of the top Wisconsin online colleges, with popular programs including elementary education and communicating arts. Most distance learning courses do not require proctoring for exams. Students eligible for financial aid may also qualify to receive an additional budget for a new laptop. A self-designed degree is also offered, with pre-designed programs like business communications, healthcare administration, and many others available. Courses are accessed via the D2L learning platform, with lectures captured through Kaltura software and Blackboard Collaborate for web conferencing.

UW-Superior enrolls an average of 590 online students annually, with over 44 countries represented across its entire study body of 2,600 students. The university has been recognized for five years running as a superior military school by G.I. Jobs Magazine.

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18 Cardinal Stritch University 48.52 3/5 43% Milwaukee, WI

Cardinal Stritch’s School of Continuing and Online Learning was launched in 2016, and now offers four bachelor’s degree programs online. These include respiratory therapy completion, business administration, management, and nursing. Courses are delivered through the user-friendly Canvas platform, with accelerated course formats of six to eight weeks allowing some degrees to be completed in around two years.

Each program has its own unique set of applicant requirements, including professional or service-based experience. Cardinal Stritch is one of the only online colleges in Wisconsin to offer virtual open houses, allowing students to preview a course online at anytime. Students are provided access to an online advisor and support, as well as an online writing lab, online tutoring, and other services.

Founded in 1937, Cardinal Stritch is a Franciscan University that was originally a teaching institution for the Sister of St. Francis of Assisi. Part of the college’s values entail embracing diversity and welcoming students of all different faiths and spiritual backgrounds.

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19 University of Wisconsin-Parkside 48.41 3/5 30% Kenosha, WI

UW-Parkside currently offers three undergraduate degree completion programs in business, health, and sustainable management. Professional certificates, including self-paced flexible options, are also available in various areas of management, as well as in sales and global skills. Degree completion programs require that applicants enter the program with previously met skills and general education course requirements, some of which may be transferrable from an existing associate or other bachelor’s degree coursework. Students have access to convenient services like the Online Advisor Chat, which offers live discussions with a representative from the Advising and Career Center.

One of the best online colleges in Wisconsin, UW-Parkside makes an effort to continually update its program offerings. Students can connect with the university through its active social media board, which features updates from all of its channels -- YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and several more -- all on one page. UW-Parkside is an MSARA member and authorized to provide degrees to students residing in other member states.

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20 Ottawa University-Milwaukee 45.23 3/5 40% Brookfield, WI

Ottawa University offers adult-oriented online bachelor’s degrees in a variety of fields, including addiction counseling with certification in Arizona and Kansas, law enforcement, and studies in Christian ministries. Programs like communication and psychology offer a range of concentrations and minors, allowing students to choose an area of expertise. Students can transfer up to 80 qualifying credit hours towards their degree requirements.

An online 4:1 student-to-faculty ratio offers a high level of personal attention and interaction with professors. Ottawa University offers one of the most comprehensive selections of scholarship opportunities for adult and online students among our ranked Wisconsin online colleges. These include several transfer scholarships in cooperation with local community college partners. Ottawa is a Christian university, named for the Ottawa Indian tribe, which the school’s founding Baptist missionaries began serving in the 1860s.

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More About Online Colleges in Wisconsin

As you can see, there are fantastic online opportunities right in Wisconsin. Many of these colleges and universities have developed specialized learning software and programs, specifically for online learning. That said, distance learning is still an adjustment for many. Thankfully, institutions like the University of Wisconsin offer trial courses and tests so you can see if the mode and environment work for you. No matter your goals, be it a 2-year, 4-year or master’s program, there’s an online program that’s right for you.

Browse our list of the best online colleges in Wisconsin for more insight into distance learning programs in this state.


In a 2012 report released by the NCES, the following was identified about online education in Wisconsin:

  • Out of a total of 294,234 degree-seeking students, approximately 17,559, or 6.0%, were enrolled exclusively in online courses.
  • Of that group, 53% were living in-state, with 13% out-of-state but still in the US.
Best Online Colleges in Wisconsin of 2016
Rank School Location
1 University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point Stevens Point, WI
2 University of Wisconsin – La Crosse La Crosse, WI
3 Maranatha Baptist University Watertown, WI
4 University of Wisconsin – Green Bay Green Bay, WI
5 University of Wisconsin-Stout Menomonie, WI
6 Wisconsin Lutheran College Milwaukee, WI
7 University of Wisconsin – Whitewater Whitewater, WI
8 Viterbo University La Crosse, WI
9 University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
10 University of Wisconsin – Platteville Platteville, WI
11 Marian University – Wisconsin Fond Du Lac, WI
12 University of Wisconsin – Parkside Kenosha, WI
13 University of Wisconsin – River Falls River Falls, WI
14 Lakeland College Plymouth, WI
15 University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Milwaukee, WI
16 University of Wisconsin - Superior Superior, WI
17 Ottawa University – Milwaukee Brookfield, WI