UW–Madison launches UW–Madison Online, first fully online bachelor’s degree

a woman studying in her living room

The University of Wisconsin–Madison introduces a new initiative to increase access to education — UW–Madison Online. The program’s first fully online bachelor’s in consumer finance and financial planning* will start in fall 2020, with more bachelor’s degree options to follow in the coming years.

UW–Madison Online increases opportunities for students who can’t attend in person and want to balance work, family or other obligations. The online undergraduate degree in consumer finance and financial planning is designed for people who have earned some college credits or an associate degree and want to complete their bachelor’s.

Increasing access through a fully online bachelor’s

UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank has talked about the importance of strengthening educational outcomes and increasing access. The addition of a fully online undergraduate degree program by 2020 helps accomplish this. UW–Madison Online and the online Bachelor of Science in Consumer Finance & Financial Planning expands on the university’s mission to reach students across the state and around the world, allowing more people to reach their potential and their goals.

“Online options expand access and allow us to bring a UW–Madison degree within reach for more nontraditional undergraduates,” Blank says. “Consumer finance is a degree that is surging in popularity nationally. UW–Madison has the #2 ranked personal finance program in the country, and this online program taps into that.”

Provost John Karl Scholz says the long-term goal is to grow UW–Madison’s online presence in a way that advances its public mission to remove barriers to a college degree for more Wisconsin students while maintaining excellence, a hallmark of the UW–Madison campus.

“We have a real opportunity to help people build a better future for themselves and improve degree attainment in the state of Wisconsin,” Scholz says.

Holistic approach

Eligible students can ask questions and apply for the first UW–Madison Online program now. Students can start the fully online bachelor’s program in fall 2020, spring 2021, summer 2021 and beyond. All program courses are online so students can learn from anywhere in the world. UW–Madison Online degrees are designed to be flexible, so students can choose their course load and keep career and family commitments.

The UW–Madison School of Human Ecology (SoHE) serves as the home for the first UW–Madison Online degree. SoHE is building on its long tradition of expanding access to education and equipping graduates with a holistic approach to their lives and careers. The SoHE consumer finance and financial planning degree is ranked #2 in top colleges for financial planning by WealthManagement.com.

“The School of Human Ecology is a natural place to launch this online degree, and we are proud to lead on this initiative,” says SoHE Dean Soyeon Shim. “UW–Madison Online builds on our offerings for people wherever they are in their educational journey, and in their life.”

Rewarding career in a growing field

A unique hybrid of financial planning and consumer finance, this fully online bachelor’s degree is interdisciplinary, hands-on and practical. It prepares students for a rewarding career in a rapidly growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 15 percent growth in personal finance careers from 2016 to 2026. All graduates who complete certain courses leave fully prepared to sit for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam, which SoHE students pass at a rate well above the national average.

UW–Madison is not new to the online arena. For more than 20 years, the university has offered online master’s degrees and certificates. Professional Degrees and Certificates currently has 83 certificates, master’s and doctoral degrees available as flexible options for working adults—27 of them online. In the 2018-19 academic year, nearly 3,500 students were enrolled in these programs with nearly 1,000 online students. Online enrollments have grown 69 percent in the past five years. UW–Madison also offers a bachelor’s degree in nursing that is primarily online through the BSN@Home program, a partnership with University of Wisconsin System.

UW–Madison Online plans to add two to three degree options each year to increase the number of fully online degrees available.

*In fall 2021 the Board of Regents of UW System voted to change the BS in Personal Finance as a named-option under the on-campus program administration to the BS in Consumer Finance & Financial Planning.