2021 Best Online Colleges in Wisconsin
| Doug Wintemute & Megan Whitenton
Are you ready to discover your college program?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Wisconsin houses 65 nonprofit colleges and universities, including 32 public schools and 33 private schools. Many of the colleges in Wisconsin offer online education, including the 26-campus University of Wisconsin System.
The growing access to education comes at a time when more jobs require a college degree. According to the Wisconsin-based research organization Forward Analytics, about a quarter of the jobs in Wisconsin required an associate degree or higher in 2012. However, 38% of new jobs created from 2012-2018 required a two-year degree or higher.
With so many schools in Wisconsin to choose from, prospective students may find it challenging to narrow down their options. In this guide, we explore the best accredited online colleges in Wisconsin.
Why Study in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin has some of the largest and most prestigious schools in the country. These institutions of higher education offer programs at all levels and in high-demand fields. Graduates commonly go on to pursue careers in fields such as business, biohealth, and food and beverage, according to industry reports.
Through Wisconsin Educational Opportunity Programs and Promoting Excellence for All initiatives, the state aims to better prepare young students for higher education and offer various training avenues for adults from all backgrounds.
Wisconsin also provides access to numerous funding resources to help college and university students afford their education.
Despite the effects of COVID-19 on the state economy, Wisconsin's unemployment rate was significantly better than the national unemployment rate (3.9% vs. 5.9%) as of June 2021. In particular, industries like mining and logging, professional and business services, manufacturing, and leisure and hospitality have rebounded significantly between 2020 and 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue projects that the overall economy will return to pre-COVID-19 employment levels by early 2023. Wages in the state should continue to grow at near average levels through 2021 and beyond.
Cost of Living
The relatively low cost of living in Wisconsin makes it an attractive place for students to live and study. According to Best Places, the state features an overall cost of living that is about 10% below the national average, offering relatively affordable housing, transportation, and grocery costs.
Wisconsin's median house price of $188,100 was more than $40,000 lower than the national median, as of 2021. However, some Wisconsin cities, including Madison, do feature a higher-than-average cost of living.
Cultural and Community Offerings
Wisconsin has much to offer students and families who are considering moving to the state. For example, the state holds numerous global cultural events throughout the year, showcasing various communities. Many state schools run outreach and local programs that connect students with communities surrounding campus.
Featuring lower-than-average crime rates and comprehensive community services, the state's goal is to try to ensure that its residents have access to a safe and supportive community.
Home to warm summers and cold winters, Wisconsin offers various seasonal activities for residents and visitors. With the shores of two Great Lakes — Michigan and Superior — the state typically experiences cooler springs and warmer falls than most surrounding areas.
The climate is ideal for many staple crops — one of the reasons why Wisconsin boasts such a robust agricultural industry. Rain falls in the state at lower-than-average rates, though it snows more than average.
Top Online Degree Programs in Wisconsin
Featured Online Programs
Wisconsin Employment Outlook
Wisconsin has recovered from early COVID-19 job losses better than many other states, according to the BLS. The state's biggest industries include transportation, healthcare, and production occupations. Wisconsin's average annual wage of $48,850 is about $4,500 below the national average.
In March 2021, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development projected the addition of around 243,500 new jobs over the next 18 months. Although many of these positions would be replacing those lost during the pandemic, workers in Wisconsin should see positive employment opportunities in the coming years.
5 Wisconsin Jobs in Demand for 2021
Annual Mean Salary in Wisconsin (as of May 2020): $94,900 | State Job Outlook: 26.2% growth from 2018-2028
Software developers create software and applications to meet consumer and organizational needs. They work with the end user, programmers, and testers to develop effective solutions. They also may assist in the implementation and maintenance of applications.
Personal Care Aides
Annual Mean Salary in Wisconsin (as of May 2020): $26,150 | State Job Outlook: 21% growth from 2018-2028
Personal care aides assist people with various conditions and illnesses, helping them with everyday tasks, planning services and appointments, and finding connections to the community. They may also offer basic medical services, such as taking patient vitals and helping administer medication.
Market Research Analysts
Annual Mean Salary in Wisconsin (as of May 2020): $61,450 | Job Outlook: 18.8% growth from 2018-2028
Market research analysts look at demand and consumer appetite for products and services. They also may gather information on market conditions, investigate forecasts and models, and assist in launch and pricing strategies. They may create surveys, research strategies, and charts and presentation materials while completing their duties.
Annual Mean Salary in Wisconsin (as of May 2020): $92,550 | State Job Outlook: 14.2% growth from 2018-2028
Management analysts help organizations improve their operations and profitability. These professionals may analyze organizational information, production methods, and employee performances to find solutions. They then present their findings in various ways and may help with the reorganization process.
Annual Mean Salary in Wisconsin (as of May 2020): $56,350 | State Job Outlook: 12.8% growth from 2018-2028
The construction industry encompasses laborers, equipment operators, and skilled tradespeople. These individuals include carpenters, electricians, and masonry workers. Professionals may be involved with new construction, remodeling, or extraction. They can work on a building side, in administration, or in materials handling.
Popular Career Paths in Wisconsin
2021 Best Accredited Online Colleges in Wisconsin
At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.
Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.
Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team
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UW-Madison is Wisconsin's largest postsecondary institution, enrolling more than 45,000 students on its 938-acre campus and online. The university ranks among the best online colleges in Wisconsin, with diverse online offerings. These include more than 60 fully online programs and degrees in fields like education, science, and engineering.
Students can choose from a variety of online bachelor's, master's, and professional degrees. Many programs deliver all coursework asynchronously. Comprehensive technology, career, and academic support services are available for online students.
Distance learners can apply to online programs in the fall, spring, and summer. The university offers a set, per-credit tuition rate for online coursework, regardless of residency. UW-Madison Online also offers enrollment coaches and academic advisors to assist students.
On the western border of Wisconsin, UW-La Crosse enrolls nearly 10,500 students. The university boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio of 19-to-1. It also has an 86% retention rate of first-year students who return the next year. Students can choose from more than 130 academic programs.
UW-La Crosse offers seven online bachelor's completion and master's degree programs. Students can complete an online BS in health information management and technology or health and wellness management. Master's programs explore cybersecurity, data science, healthcare administration, information technology management, and recreation management.
Distance learners also can pursue professional development and continuing education coursework online in subjects like policing and health education and behavioral health.
UW-La Crosse offers competitive tuition rates, Army credentialing assistance programs, and a scholarship for military spouses.
UW-Whitewater ranks among the best online colleges in Wisconsin due in part to its diversity and value. Before the application process, prospective students can test drive Canvas — the university's digital learning management system.
Once enrolled, students can choose from more than 10 online bachelor's degrees in majors like education, communication, marketing, and political science. More general programs explore applied arts and sciences and liberal studies.
UW-Whitewater also offers online master's degrees in subjects like business, education, environmental safety, and technology.
UW-Whitewater's distance learners pay set tuition rates for most online programs, no matter where they live. Faculty deliver most online courses asynchronously, with no campus visits or in-person requirements.
UW-Oshkosh operates three campuses in Wisconsin —Fond Du Lac, Oshkosh, and Fox Cities — along with an online division. The university enrolls nearly 9,800 students, 44% of whom are the first in their family to attend college. UW-Oshkosh offers more than 250 programs across four colleges, including online graduate and undergraduate degrees.
UW-Oshkosh emphasizes flexibility among its online programs. Students can choose to complete courses 100% online or by mixing in some hybrid, evening, and/or weekend courses on campus. UW-Oshkosh offers more than 20 bachelor's, master's, and collaborative programs online in majors like education, nursing, and cybersecurity.
Online students enjoy the same learning assistance services as on-campus learners. Resources include online tutoring, disability accommodations and counseling support, and a student technology center.
UW-Oshkosh charges set, per-credit tuition rates for online graduate and undergraduate coursework, no matter where students live.
One of 13 schools in the University of Wisconsin System, UWRF operates on a 303-acre campus near Minneapolis-St. Paul and enrolls nearly 6,000 students. UWRF offers more than 70 programs across four academic colleges, including online degrees and certificates.
UWRF offers five bachelor's degree completion programs and three certificates through online and hybrid learning. Online majors include applied computing, health and wellness management, and sustainable management. Teachers and professionals can also pursue various continuing education opportunities online at UWRF.
Fully online students can choose from full-time and part-time enrollment options. UWRF's bachelor's degree completion programs target students who already hold an associate degree.
Established in 1968, UW-Parkside emphasizes customizable degrees, small classes, and personalized attention from instructors. UW-Parkside enrolls nearly 4,500 students in dozens of degree, certificate, and pre-professional and special training programs.
Through UW-Parkside's online programs, students can choose from majors in fields like business, arts and sciences, healthcare, and information technology. The university also offers two competency-based, self-paced online programs through the UW Flexible Option.
Distance learners can access tutoring, academic advising, and disability services. Instructors may choose to administer courses synchronously or asynchronously through the Canvas learning management system.
More than half of all UW-Parkside students take at least one course online.
An early pioneer of distance education, UW-Platteville launched its distance learning program in 1978. The university also offered Wisconsin's first fully online degree in 1999. UW-Platteville now operates three physical campuses and an online division, enrolling more than 2,500 students annually.
Students can choose from more than 30 online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs. UW-Platteville offers associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees in majors like business, engineering, healthcare, technology, and arts and sciences. Students also can pursue individual courses online.
UW-Platteville charges set, per-credit tuition rates for online coursework, no matter where students live. Online students may enroll at the beginning of the fall, spring, or summer semesters.
UW-Platteville delivers online courses through Canvas and offers support resources like tutoring, academic advising, and career and professional development services.
UW-Green Bay encompasses four physical campuses and an online division, offering a variety of graduate and undergraduate programs entirely or partially online. High school students also can pursue individual online courses for college credit. UW-Green Bay ranks among the fastest-growing and best online colleges in Wisconsin.
The university offers online associate and bachelor's degrees in fields like business, organizational leadership, nursing, and public administration. Students also can pursue a variety of graduate programs, including an online MS in cybersecurity and an executive impact MBA with a hybrid delivery option.
UW-Green Bay delivers most online coursework asynchronously, although hybrid programs may include some synchronous sessions. Online students pay a special, per-credit tuition rate based on their course load (regardless of their state of residence). Rates may differ for programs delivered through UW-Green Bay's Marinette, Manitowoc, and Sheboygan campuses.
UWSP operates three campuses in central Wisconsin. The university also houses a nature reserve and three off-site field stations for environmental studies, forestry, and aquaculture programs.
UWSP's academic offerings include more than 20 online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs. UWSP offers a comprehensive online self-assessment tool for prospective distance learners.
Once enrolled, distance learners can choose from online bachelor's and master's degrees in diverse specializations, including education, healthcare, technology, and environmental studies. UWSP also offers an associate of arts and sciences online. Other program options include an online RN-to-BSN completion program and an Ed.D. in educational sustainability.
Distance learners can access an IT service desk, a tutoring learning center, and Canvas assistance. UWSP accepts applications on a rolling basis.
CUW students can earn their degree online or in person by attending campuses on either side of Lake Michigan — in Ann Arbor, Michigan, or Mequon, Wisconsin. Additionally, this Christian university offers hybrid programs through regional learning centers across the state.
Distance learners can choose from dozens of graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs. Many degrees offer a choice of fully online or hybrid coursework. Major areas of study include business, education, nursing, health professions, and arts and sciences. CUW also delivers a variety of accelerated degrees and continuing education programs online.
CUW assigns a personal academic advisor to online students upon enrollment. Instructors may administer coursework in a self-paced or cohort format, depending on the program.
CUW offers a set, per-credit rate for online coursework and a variety of scholarships tailored to distance learners.
Frequently Asked Questions About Online Colleges in Wisconsin
Many of the 65 nonprofit colleges in Wisconsin offer online programs, including the University of Wisconsin System. The system's campuses are joined through an e-campus, offering over 150 degree programs.
Yes. Some of the best online colleges are in Wisconsin, such as the University of Wisconsin, Viterbo University, and Maranatha Baptist University. The state offers hundreds of online programs and thousands of individual courses.
According to NCES, the average total cost for Wisconsin students at a public, four-year, in-state college was about $17,000 in 2018-19. That was more than $3,000 lower than the national average. Online colleges in Wisconsin may offer even lower true program costs by reducing on-campus room and board and other expenses.
Identifying the cheapest online colleges in Wisconsin depends on many factors, including the program, the field of study, and the applicant's residency status. Among the University of Wisconsin locations, however, the lowest average tuition rates belong to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Fox Cities.
Prospective income-eligible students who attend the University of Wisconsin may qualify for Bucky's Tuition Promise. This program provides up to eight consecutive semesters of free tuition for learners who have a household income of less than $60,000.