MENASHA - The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will become the first school in the UW System to offer a so-called flexible degree, in which students will be able to earn college credit for knowledge already gained through work or life experience.
At a press conference Wednesday detailing the flexible degree option, University of Wisconsin System officials say it is designed to make higher education more accessible and affordable, while at the same time, maintaining high standards.
"Today, we're here to demonstrate that the UW System continues to embrace new technology and new educational methods in ways that bridge the distance between campuses and learners," said UW System President Kevin Reilly.
Originally unveiled in June, the program will allow UW System students to earn credits towards a degree for already things they may already know. Reilly says the option is to primarily serve adults who have some college credit or expertise that need to earn a college degree for professional purposes or their own personal interest.
System officials say it's an important moment in the history of the system and education as a whole.
"This is the 21st century face of the Wisconsin idea," said Reilly.
Students can take assessments, showing proficiencies in of areas of study that may have been learned elsewhere, like in the military. Competencies in those areas of study, which are designed by UW faculty and industry experts, are then built towards completing specific courses in a degree. Course work can be done online and at a student's own pace.
"We're excited for them because it will enable them to make strides towards finishing those degrees," said UW-Fox Valley dean and campus executive officer Martin Rudd.
Rudd says colleges, like UW-Fox Valley in Menasha, will offer core classes for general education and liberal arts. Those degrees can then be used elsewhere in the UW System towards a flex option degree at other four-year programs offering them.
Rudd says the flex program shouldn't be confused with placement exams, credit transfers or current online courses.
"Students can come in and take the courses that are a part of the flex degree and show that they have competencies through assessments and the work they do," said Rudd.
The flex program is even appealing to Governor Scott Walker, who never completed his higher education.
"The program areas we're looking at initially were not in the areas that I studied in college," explained Governor Walker at an event in Green Bay Tuesday night. "But eventually, as it becomes open and broadened in scope, I'm one of the thousands of people who would be in the same boat, would, eventually if it worked out, take advantage of that."
So what flex degrees are offered?
UW-Milwaukee will start flex degree programs which will include degrees in nursing and diagnostic imaging as well as a Bachelor of Science in Information Science and certificate in communication.
The cost has yet to be worked out, but university officials expect it to cost less than a traditional four-year degree.
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