Admission opens for UW flex degrees
- Article by: TODD RICHMOND
- Associated Press
- November 18, 2013 - 4:25 PM
MADISON, Wis. — University of Wisconsin officials launched their new online flexible degree program Monday, promising the initiative will help adults get college degrees and find better jobs faster.
Admissions to the program opened at midnight. It got off to a slow start — as of midday 35 people had submitted applications and another 29 had taken out applications, according to Jan Ford, director of student success for UW-Extension.
But UW officials have high hopes. About 4,000 people have signed up for e-updates on the program and 900 people have undertaken assessments since Nov. 11 to see if they might be good fits for joining the project.
UW dignitaries, including Extension Chancellor Ray Cross including System President Kevin Reilly, held a news conference-reception on the UW-Madison campus to celebrate the opening. Cross said only about 30 percent of Wisconsin residents have a degree; the program should help boost those numbers dramatically, he said.
"It's about offering that door of opportunity to more people," Reilly said.
Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican whose party has spent the last six months lambasting UW System officials for building massive reserves even as they raised tuition year after year, issued a statement praising the program.
"We're pioneering a new way to offer an affordable and quality education and this model allows students to adapt quickly to ever-changing industries and businesses," Walker said in the statement.
The program allows students to earn college credit by demonstrating knowledge gleaned from the workplace, military experience or coursework through a series of online tests. Participants work with advisers who can direct them where to learn material they don't know.
The program will begin at UW-Milwaukee and the UW System's two-year schools in January. UW-Milwaukee is offering the option in nursing, biomedical diagnostic imaging and information technology. The two-year schools are offering it for a number of associate degree programs, including biology, chemistry, computer science and engineering. More campuses are expected to offer flexible degrees later next year.
Students can pay $2,250 to take as many tests as they can squeeze into a three-month period. They also can spend $900 per test with no deadlines.
A handful of universities across the nation offer similar fast-track programs, but UW is the first to offer such an initiative at multiple schools, said Aaron Brower, UW-Extension interim provost and vice chancellor. UW officials hope to recoup the program's $15 million startup cost through tuition within five years, he said.
Officials invited Aaron Apel, 38, of Prairie du Sac, to Monday's news conference as an example of the type of student they're trying to reach. Apel, who performs IT work in the UW-Madison's registrar's office, got an associate degree in microcomputers in 1999 and always meant to go on and earn a bachelor's. But he and his wife had three daughters and he became too busy to sit in a classroom, he said.
Apel's flexible degree application appeared on a giant screen in front of the room. Apel made a few clicks and was accepted to UW-Milwaukee's IT program.
He told reporters later he applied because he believes the program will let him work at his own pace. He said he signed up for the three-month block and plans to work online after his children fall asleep at night.
"It's that chapter that's been left unclosed," he said of earning a four-year degree. "It's not going to be easy. But the benefits outweigh the costs."
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