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As of 2021, Wisconsin ranked 21st in terms of population among the 50 states. Wisconsin also houses the most dairy farms in the nation and is second only to California in the number of dairy cows and total milk production. Advanced manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, information technology, life sciences are five key industries in Wisconsin.
The best community colleges in Wisconsin use open-admission policies, and many are relatively affordable. Students with a high school or GED diploma generally earn admission without needing to submit ACT or SAT scores. Major cities like Madison are home to employers from various domains, including healthcare, life sciences, agriculture, manufacturing, and IT.
Why Study in Wisconsin?
Prospective students can choose from 27 different community colleges in Wisconsin. These colleges offer more than 500 programs throughout the state, awarding associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates through the Wisconsin Technical College System. About 250,000 students enroll each year.
As of November 2021, Wisconsin's unemployment rate was 3.0% — well below the national average of 4.2%. Retail trade growth in the state has returned to its pre-pandemic conditions and many other industry areas are rebounding. The median household income in Wisconsin in 2019 was $61,747 — slightly below the national median of $62,843.
Cost of Living
As of 2021, Wisconsin ranked near the middle of the pack in terms of affordability — it was the 22nd most-affordable state to reside in. Grocery, housing, and transportation costs are all slightly below average, whereas utility costs in Wisconsin are slightly higher than average.
Cultural and Community Offerings
Wisconsin houses numerous community art, cultural, and heritage organizations, including Big Top Chautauqua, Folklore Village, and the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts. With over 30 urban and rural gallery art studio tours, Wisconsin maintains a burgeoning creative side.
The state also celebrates its rich cultural and ethnic past through annual festivals in Milwaukee, including Summerfest, Germanfest, Irish Fest, and multiethnic festivals such as the Holiday Folk Fair.
Wisconsin experiences a continental climate. The state's winters suit a variety of winter sports, while its warm summers attract many vacationers each year. Winters are cold and snowy, and temperatures may even drop to -30 degrees Fahrenheit each year.
Top Degree Programs in Wisconsin
Featured Online Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
Wisconsin Employment Outlook
The Department of Workforce Development projects that Wisconsin will add almost 250,000 new jobs between mid-2020 and mid-2022 — an increase of 8.2%.
According to these projections, the leisure and hospitality industry should experience an increase of almost 50% as pandemic-related restrictions continue to ease. In addition, the trade, transport, and utility industry is projected to experience 9% growth. The education, health services, and construction sectors are all projected to experience 5% job growth.
5 In-Demand Wisconsin Jobs
Registered nurses work on the front lines of healthcare. They identify patients' needs and ensure that people receive the proper treatment by evaluating medical plans.
- Median Annual Salary (2020): $73,540
- Job Outlook (2018-2028): 8%
Paralegals and legal assistants use their analytical, communication, and organizational skills to carry out complex legal operations, assisting attorneys and other law professionals. Tasks may include research, investigation, and administrative work.
- Median Annual Salary (2020): $48,390
- Job Outlook (2018-2028): 4%
Industrial machinery mechanics work with the internal parts of complex industrial machinery. They maintain machines and instruments and identify potential damage.
- Median Annual Salary (2020): $55,550
- Job Outlook (2018-2028): 8%
Electricians undertake installation and maintenance for various systems, including wiring, control, and lighting systems. They may also make repairs.
- Median Annual Salary (2020): $64,220
- Job Outlook (2018-2028): 8%
Food service managers mainly perform two tasks: provide a satisfactory dining experience for patrons and ensure profitability for the dining establishment. They also supervise and direct food service staff.
- Median Annual Salary (2020): $50,070
- Job Outlook (2018-2028): 5%
Popular Career Paths in Wisconsin
Best Accredited Community Colleges in Wisconsin
Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team
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Best Community Colleges in Wisconsin
Moraine Park Technical College
Three convenient campuses located in Fond du Lac, Beaver Dam, and West Bend -- along with smaller regional centers in Jackson and Ripon -- make Moraine Park Technical College (MPTC) an accessible option for residents seeking top community colleges in Wisconsin. The institution enrolls approximately 17,000 credit and noncredit students each year across all five locations.
MPTC offers programs for more than 100 career pathways in high-demand fields such as agriculture, education, health sciences, manufacturing, and public safety. The college offers 25 associate degrees, technical programs, and certificates in online and blended formats.
Graduates who do not become employed in their program's field or a related field within six months of graduation can take up to six additional credits at no cost.
Prospective students must provide an application, a $30 fee, and high school transcripts. Candidates must complete placement testing unless exempt through prior learning, a GPA of 3.25 or higher, or excellent ACT scores.
Southwest Wisconsin Technical College
Southwest Wisconsin Technical College (SWTC) provides education and training opportunities relevant to the needs of students, employers, and the local community. The rural campus, located on U.S. Highway 18 in Fennimore, offers on-site housing, sports and recreation, and more than a dozen student organizations.
The college organizes certificates and associate degrees into 13 career clusters including business management and administration, health sciences, hospitality and tourism, and manufacturing. Additionally, SWTC delivers an individualized technical studies degree and a transfer-ready liberal arts degree.
SWTC maintains articulation agreements with numerous colleges and universities to help maximize credit transferability. Students can also take advantage of SWTC's online, evening, and weekend options, while distance learners can earn seven different associate degrees entirely online.
Applicants must submit transcripts and a $30 processing fee. The school encourages prospective students to apply early, as some programs at this popular Wisconsin community college fill quickly.
Lakeshore Technical College
With a main campus in Cleveland and two regional centers located in Sheboygan and Manitowoc, Lakeshore Technical College (LTC) serves more than 10,000 credit and noncredit students each year. Learners can participate in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, leadership and professional development training, student organizations, and cultural conversation events.
LTC offers more than 70 one- and two-year associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates in addition to a variety of continuing education programs. A majority of credit-seeking students attend on a part-time basis.
The most popular associate degree options at LTC include accounting, business management, human resource administration, and nursing. Distance learners can earn 10 associate degrees (requiring 60-64 credits) and seven technical diplomas (requiring 24-30 credits) completely online.
All applicants must pay a fee of $30. Prospective students must select a program, submit all applicable transcripts, and fulfill placement testing requirements by submitting ACT scores or taking the ACCUPLACER exam.
Waukesha County Technical College
Approximately 23,000 students attend Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) each year, creating one of the most active and vibrant community colleges in Wisconsin. WCTC offers more than two dozen student clubs, service-learning opportunities, and short-term study abroad experiences through two campuses located in Pewaukee and Waukesha.
WCTC offers academic programs across four schools: applied technologies, business, health, and protective and human services. Students can pursue a two-year associate of applied science, a hands-on technical diploma, a short-term certificate, or an apprenticeship that combines coursework and paid, on-the-job training.
Six accelerated dual-degree options -- including a cybersecurity specialist/network specialist pathway and a human resources/leadership development pathway -- prepare graduates with marketable skills for multiple industries.
WCTC admissions require an online application, a $30 fee, and any applicable transcripts. Prospective students must demonstrate math, reading, and writing skills through a qualifying high school GPA, ACT scores, prior college coursework, or placement testing.
Fox Valley Technical College
Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) is a public institution serving more than 50,000 residents of Appleton and the Fox Cities area each year. Several regional education centers expand and supplement the academic services offered by the main campus located in Grand Chute. FVTC also maintains transfer agreements with more than 30 four-year institutions.
Students can choose from over 200 associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificate programs across 15 disciplines, including information technology, manufacturing, aviation, and agriculture. Online students can complete 37 of those programs without ever stepping foot on campus.
A flight school and nationally recognized public safety training center help FVTC stand out from other community colleges in Wisconsin. Notable academic offerings in aircraft maintenance, aircraft rescue and firefighting, emergency medical services, and law enforcement provide extensive hands-on training using state-of-the-art simulations.
Applicants to FVTC must complete a short admissions form and skills assessment, provide applicable transcripts, and pay a $30 fee. Additional requirements may apply for certain programs.
Nicolet Area Technical College
Nicolet College offers programs to residents of approximately 4,000 square miles including Onelda, Vilas, and Forest counties. With a main campus in Rhinelander supplemented by multiple learning centers, this public two-year technical college enrolls just under 2,000 students each year, 84% of whom attend classes part time.
Students can choose from more than 70 associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates at Nicolet. Available formats include day, evening, and online courses. Learners can also save money by fulfilling their general education requirements through an associate of arts degree or an associate of science degree.
Other academic options at Nicolet center around careers and feature disciplines like business, culinary arts, information technology, and trades. Twenty-three programs feature one or more transfer agreements with four-year institutions.
Prospective students must complete an application, submit official high school transcripts or a GED/HESD certificate, and complete required placement assessments.
Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College
Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) enrolls approximately 3,000 students across four campuses in Ashland, New Richmond, Rice Lake, and Superior. Each location offers a variety of options for outdoor recreation as well as arts and cultural activities.
WITC offers programs in more than 60 career areas. Students can also choose from over 100 associate degrees and certificates in fields such as early childhood education, farm operation, marine repair, and nonprofit leadership. Twenty-six programs offer 100% online completion options.
Academic advisors can guide students toward fulfilling the transfer requirements for various four-year institutions. All campus locations offer student organizations, events, and dining options. The Ashland campus hosts traditional residence hall housing through a partnership with nearby Northland College.
Admission to WITC requires an online application and a $30 fee. Placement testing and additional requirements apply for certain programs. New students can complete orientation online or in person.
Gateway Technical College
One of the largest community colleges in Wisconsin, Gateway Technical College (GTC) serves more than 20,000 students each year from three main campuses in Elkhorn, Kenosha, and Racine and six regional education centers.
GTC offers over 70 associate degrees and technical programs across more than a dozen areas including architecture, communication and design, human services, and veterinary science. Nineteen fully online options include a transferable associate degree in the foundations of teacher education.
On-campus students can participate in clubs and organizations, internships, service learning, and study abroad experiences. GTC maintains nearly 50 transfer agreements with four-year colleges and universities.
Prospective students should specify a preferred start term and desired program of study on their application. Applicants must submit a $30 fee, applicable transcripts, and scores from placement tests.
Chippewa Valley Technical College
Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) serves an 11-county area, with a main campus in Eau Claire and eight individual education centers. Students can participate in more than 50 clubs, study abroad opportunities, and campus events.
CVTC offers programs across 11 career clusters. Students can choose from 35 certificates, 110 associate and technical programs, and 13 apprenticeships in fields such as dental hygiene, digital marketing, animal science management, and paralegal studies.
A flexible associate of science in liberal arts serves as an excellent choice for university-bound students who want to fulfill general education requirements and/or explore a variety of interests while they study. Distance learners can complete 12 programs entirely online.
Prospective students must submit a completed application and a $30 fee. Academic requirements vary by discipline, but many CVTC programs require no entrance exams or test scores.
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) serves nine counties with three campuses in Green Bay, Marinette, and Sturgeon Bay, as well as five additional regional learning centers. With more than 40,000 students each year, NWTC's annual enrollment ranks among the largest of all community colleges in Wisconsin.
NWTC offers more than 200 associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates in fields such as digital arts, energy, human services, and STEM. A general studies certificate -- available at every NWTC location -- allows students to complete freshman-level university courses before transferring to a four-year school as a sophomore.
Flexible learning options include 39 online programs and accelerated eight-week course sessions.
Prospective students must submit an application and official transcripts and pay a $10-$30 fee. Learners can seek more than 600 different scholarships through the NWTC Educational Foundation.
Milwaukee Area Technical College
More than 35,000 credit and noncredit students attend Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) each year, pursuing more than 170 associate degrees, technical diplomas, certificates, and continuing education options. The college delivers day, evening, and weekend courses at four campuses in Milwaukee, Oak Creek, West Allis, and Mequon.
Notable academic offerings include a diploma and associate degree in TV/video studio production. These programs provide hands-on experiences at Milwaukee PBS and two HDTV stations serving southeastern Wisconsin residents.
Other opportunities include transfer- and career-ready pursuits in business, creative arts, health sciences, liberal arts and sciences, and technology. Online students can complete 17 programs without any on-campus visits. MATC offers childcare services for children of students, staff, and faculty at all locations.
Prospective students can apply online, through the mail, or in person. Applicants must provide high school transcripts and a $30 fee. Certain programs may feature additional admission requirements.
Western Technical College
Based in La Crosse, Western Technical College attracts approximately 8,000 degree-seeking students and 16,000 continuing education learners each year. This two-year vocational school offers on-campus dining services, four NJCAA athletics teams, a wellness center, and several program-specific clubs and organizations.
Western offers more than 100 programs across 16 academic clusters, including education and training, finance, information technology, and marketing. Some of the newest offerings at Western include a technical diploma in animal science, a certificate in framing and construction, and an associate degree in automation systems technology.
University-bound students can pursue a transferable associate of science in liberal arts to satisfy general education requirements for most four-year majors. Western delivers a separate engineering pathway for aspiring engineering bachelor's degree students.
Like other community colleges in Wisconsin, Western practices open enrollment, meaning the school accepts every qualified applicant. Prospective students must submit an application and transcripts, pay a $30 fee, and fulfill skills assessment requirements.
Mid-State Technical College
Wisconsin Rapids, WI
With a history stretching back to 1902, Mid-State Technical College is one of the oldest community colleges in Wisconsin. Today, this two-year technical school hosts four major campuses in Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield, Stevens Point, and Adams.
Mid-State offers more than 60 programs of study, including an extensive selection of career-focused associate degrees and technical diplomas. Two university transfer degrees -- an associate of arts and an associate of science -- fulfill general education requirements for students interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree.
Other available fields of study include agribusiness, court reporting, digital marketing, entrepreneurship, and nursing. Distance learners can complete eight programs entirely online. Stevens Point campus students enjoy access to residence hall housing through a partnership with the University of Wisconsin.
Admission requirements include an application, transcripts, and a nonrefundable $30 fee. Prospective students can apply online or send in a paper application. Generally, applicants must complete placement testing.
Blackhawk Technical College
The main campus of Blackhawk Technical College (BTC) spans 80 acres between Beloit and Janesville. Students can also take classes at a campus in Monroe, the Advanced Manufacturing Training Center in Milton, the Center of Transportation Studies in Janesville, and various other locations in the area.
Approximately 14,000 students pursue more than 65 program options in diverse career areas such as the culinary arts, business management, transportation, and law and public safety. BTC offers flexible learning options to fit every schedule, including day, evening, online, and weekend classes.
Flexible start programs allow students to enroll at anytime during the first 12 weeks of a semester. BTC also maintains dozens of degree-specific transfer agreements with public and private four-year institutions.
Prospective students can secure admission by providing a completed application, $30 fee, and official transcripts. BTC determines students' placements using ACT, SAT, COMPASS, or ACCUPLACER scores.
Northcentral Technical College
Northcentral Technical College (NTC) boasts a more than a century-long history of supporting learners and local businesses. NTC offers over 190 programs, including two-year associate degrees, one- and two-year technical diplomas, and short-term certificates.
Located in Wausau, the main NTC campus is supplemented by eight additional locations including a one-of-a-kind wood technology center. This campus prepares students for careers in the woodworking and forest products industries.
Also of note is NTC's agricultural center, which houses the only working dairy farm and learning laboratory in the state's technical college system. A total of 15 broad areas of interest feature in NTC's academic catalog, and nearly 90 programs offer online completion.
Admission procedures vary by program. In addition to a completed application and nonrefundable $30 fee, applicants generally have to provide transcripts, test scores, and other materials.
Frequently Asked Questions About Community Colleges in Wisconsin
Community colleges often offer a more affordable pathway toward a four-year degree. They generally charge lower tuition rates than four-year universities. If they plan well, students can save significant amounts of money by transferring community college credits toward a bachelor's degree.
Furthermore, community colleges help students who earn a certificate or associate degree directly enter the workforce in a relatively short period of time.
With a 2021-22 in-state tuition rate of roughly $4,500, Madison College is one of the most affordable community colleges in Wisconsin. The school offers over 190 programs and also provides many financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
While not all colleges are free in Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin Madison offers free tuition for students from low-income households through the Bucky's Tuition Promise program. Students who come from families making less than $56,000 may receive free tuition for four years.
The University of Wisconsin Madison is one of the hardest colleges to get into. UW's acceptance rate typically ranges from 50-60%, and it was roughly 57% in the fall 2020. However, students seeking admission to community colleges usually only need a high school or GED diploma.
In general, incoming students must be residents of Wisconsin for at least 12 months before enrolling to qualify for in-state tuition.
Feature Image: Walter Bibikow / DigitalVision / Getty Images