UW-Milwaukee to offer four flexible-degree programs

MILWAUKEE -- The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will be 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.

About one in five Wisconsin adults lack a complete degree.  They may have earned some college credit, but may have stopped to work or raise a family.  The flexible option will allow those adults to finish their degrees at their own pace. 

"Like many in my generation, I decided that I was going to raise a family and get married," Tracy Hribar said.

For nearly 25 years, Hribar ran her husband's trucking business, but recently decided on a career change.  Her associate's degree in accounting, she learned, was not enough.

"I had to start from scratch.  My degree was too old and nothing counted," Hribar said.

Hribar, like many others, decided to go back at school full-time.  The flexible degree option, she says, will help adults like her obtain a bachelor's degree.

"If this option had existed, I could've went back to school 10 years sooner than I did," Hribar said.

UW System officials outlined the program over the summer. On Wednesday, they provided details about how the courses would work and which programs would be included.

UW-Milwaukee will begin offering degree programs this fall in nursing, diagnostic imaging and information science, as well as a certificate program in communications.

Students could bypass taking required classes by passing a series of assessments that demonstrate competency in that area.

"It allows them to define their path.  Between 750,000 and a million residents in the state of Wisconsin have some college training, but don't have degrees.  So what a great opportunity for us to serve particularly people who have been working for a number of years," UWM Chancellor Michael Lovell said.

UW-Milwaukee will be the first public institution in the nation to offer this type of education.  The programs will be offered in Fall 2013.

Several other UW campuses, including UW-Parkside, are also working to develop flexible degree options.  Those should be ready by Fall of 2014.