Column: University of Wisconsin Flexible Option Degree Program

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The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents announced this month that Dr. Raymond Cross, the current president of the UW Colleges and UW Extension had been chosen to serve as the next UW System President. One of Dr. Cross’ most recent projects has been the creation and launch of the University of Wisconsin’s Flexible Option Degree Program. There are many people who have some college credits, but who did not graduate or who have gained meaningful experience in their field of work who will benefit from this program. In fact, the state estimates that there are 700,000 Wisconsinites who have some college credit but who did not graduate from college. These individuals now have the opportunity to complete their college education by displaying mastery of competencies in their field. 

system.jpgThe UW Flex Option program is the first of its kind. It allows students to earn credit for the knowledge and skills they have gained while working, in the military, or in other stages of their lives. It is different from a traditional college degree in that it systen.jpglets students go to school at their own pace and judges them on what they know and are able to do rather than on the time spent in a classroom. The program is a partnership between the UW System campuses and the UW Colleges Extension.

Instead of creating specific classes for Flex Option students, faculty from the different campuses have identified specific competencies, or skills and knowledge, which they believe are necessary for a UW degree. Students can progress through programs by passing tests that demonstrate mastery of these competencies. There are a number of specific degrees that are currently available through the Flex Option program, such as a bachelor’s degree option for registered nurses, a bachelor’s degree in Information Science and Technology, a Business and Technical Communications Certificate as well as associate degrees in Arts and Science in fields like biology, chemistry, math, computer science, engineering and exercise science and athletics. Many of the flex option programs offer on-line classes, but some programs also require clinical or hands-on experiences.

Like any UW degree, there are specific graduation requirements including general education requirements and elective requirements specific to each degree. Some of these requirements may be fulfilled by transferring eligible credits from another college or program or by passing competency tests through the associate degrees offered.

This innovative program is especially designed for motivated non-traditional students who can use previous college credit, work experience and prior knowledge toward a college degree. Since most of the courses are online, and the system is based on competencies and assessments, students can move at their own pace, balancing work, family and school. Tuition is based on three month subscription periods. During these three month periods, students can complete as many competencies and assessments as they wish for $2250 or can sign up to complete a single competency set per period for $900. Students do not have to wait until the beginning of a traditional college semester to start a course.

Credits earned under the flexible option program may transfer to other universities the same way traditional UW credits do. Each university sets its own criteria for which credits to accept so it is important to check with the university to which you wish to transfer credits to determine which ones will transfer. To learn more about the UW Flex Option, sign up for their e-newsletter at or call 1-877-895-3276.

Innovative programs like the UW Flex Option help Wisconsin’s workforce by encouraging individuals to pursue a degree and learn new skills. I look forward to working with Dr. Cross as the new president of the University of Wisconsin System on more pioneering ideas for our state.