Making a college degree more attainable

The following post was jointly written by Chancellor Blank and Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Karl Scholz. 

UW-Madison has been a residential university since its founding. Most undergraduate students move to Madison or live nearby in order to attend classes (at least when there’s no pandemic.) While we offer a number of online professional masters’ programs designed for students who can’t pursue a residential experience, until recently we have not offered online undergraduate degrees. This is now changing.

Many people start college at a younger age but do not finish. At some point in their career, they realize that they need that college degree in order to pursue the job that they want next. But older students often have families and jobs. They cannot move here and are not able to attend school full-time. In Wisconsin, more than 600,000 people have earned some college credit but no degree. This number expands eight-fold to 5.2 million residents when including neighboring states (Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana and Iowa).

To meet the needs of potential students who want to complete their degree but cannot be a traditional residential student, we launched UW–Madison Online. UW–Madison Online removes barriers, bringing a sought-after UW–Madison bachelor’s degree to those working professionals and others who can’t make it to campus due to family, work or other obligations.

In 2020, we started with a pilot Bachelor of Science (BS) in Personal Finance through the School of Human Ecology (SoHE). Applications opened this month for another online SoHE program in Consumer Behavior and Marketplace Studies, resulting in a BS in Retailing & Consumer Behavior. We also just announced three online degrees from the Wisconsin School of Business: Bachelor of Business Administration degrees in Human Resources, in Management and in Marketing.

All these and future UW–Madison Online degrees are rigorous, meeting the standards of our world-class institution. Highly motivated students take courses from top instructors, all online. We’re leveraging lessons learned through the pandemic as well as our decades of online teaching and learning in the Professionals Degrees & Certificates program – to create premium quality instruction and student experience in the digital realm.

We’re proud to be partnering with the business community in designing and engaging students in these online degrees. For example, through companies like American Family Insurance, we’re offering tuition scholarships for working professionals to enroll in our BS in Personal Finance. These industry partnerships ensure we’re meeting the needs of employers across the state and fully equipping our graduates to launch or advance their careers.

We anticipate adding additional UW–Madison Online degrees in the next few years, covering different academic areas. The result will be a select number of online degrees that offer great educational opportunities to adult students returning to school.

Ultimately, this effort extends the invitation to be a Badger across the state and beyond our borders to nontraditional students. In today’s virtual world, it’s time to do this. You don’t have to be here with us on campus to acquire a University of Wisconsin–Madison degree, take it into the world and benefit your family and community.

Please visit to explore what UW–Madison Online has to offer.

OnLINE, Wisconsin!