The University of Wisconsin System gets approval to give federal financial aid to some students in a competency-based flexible option degree program. Adults who started college but never finished have a new, affordable opportunity to earn a UW degree at their own pace — through the UW Colleges Flexible Option program.
UW System President Ray Cross explains, it’s a result of a landmark financial aid option approved last week by the U.S. Department of Education. “There are in excess of 750,000 adults in Wisconsin that fit that criteria — somewhere between 750,000 and a million,” and he says, “There are 31 million in the United States, so that’s a pretty sizable number.”
Cross says Wisconsin needs those individuals — workers — to obtain their degrees so they can help generate growth in the economy. He says there’s a need to fill the so-called “talent gap.” Cross says, “It isn’t in every discipline; it’s in select disciplines.” He says, “The state is clearly short on talented workers in specific areas.”
Aaron Brower, interim chancellor of UW Colleges and UW-Extension, says the highest demand is for workers is in the areas of healthcare, information technology (IT), and business. He says this is a big deal and others will look at the UW as a model. “We’ve now created a direct pathway for other institutions who wish to award aid for competency-based education.”
This funding approval by the federal government allowing aid to students enrolled in competency-based education is the first of its kind for a public higher education system in the country, according to Cross. The flexible degree concept was introduced in June 2012. The first group of students started in January.