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Only one program offered through the University of Wisconsin System's Flexible Option program netted money this year according to an update prepared for the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.

Net revenue of $37,600 for a professional certificate program in substance abuse disorders, offered through UW-Madison, will be shared by the campus and the UW-Extension Division of Continuing Education, Outreach and E-Learning, which administers the Flex Program.

The Flexible Option program brought in gross revenue of $2.8 million in fiscal year 2017.

University officials project, that if current enrollment trends hold, the Flex IT program offered through UW-Milwaukee will generate net revenue in 2018, and UWM’s nursing program in 2019.

The update on Flexible Option was prepared for delivery to regents at their meeting Thursday at UWM by Aaron Brower, UW-Extension provost and vice chancellor and David Schejbal, UW-Extension dean of continuing education, outreach and e-learning.

Gov. Scott Walker had proposed in his budget that UW be required to increase Flexible Options offerings by 50 percent by Dec. 1, 2019. The Joint Finance Committee is recommending that the number of offerings by increased by 25 percent.

There currently are five degree and three certificate programs.

Development of new Flex programs is expensive – and the budget includes no new funding, Brower noted when Walker released his proposal. “It takes $1 million and a year to develop a new program. And without additional money attached, we could only mount one at a time.”

Flexible Option, launched in January 2014, lets students demonstrate mastery of competency assessments — tests, projects, papers and on-site evaluations — developed by UW faculty.

The approach awards credentials for what students know and can do, rather than for completing a course of study.

The program grew 42 percent in fiscal year 2017, to 1,300 students total since its inception, officials reported.

Students pay a flat fee of $2,259 per three-month subscription period and may take as many assessments as they are able.

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Current degree completion programs are:

  • Associate of Arts and Science (UW Colleges)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing, RN to BSN (UW-Milwaukee)
  • Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences Diagnostic Imaging degree (UW-Milwaukee)
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Science and Technology degree (UW-Milwaukee)
  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree (UW-Extension)

Current certificate programs are:

  • Business and Technical Communications (UW-Milwaukee)
  • Project Management (UW-Parkside)
  • Substance Use Disorders Counselor (UW-Madison)

Enrollment in the UW-Extension’s business administration program, the first bachelor’s degree offered by Extension, is small with eight current students, according to the report.

University officials attributed that to the fact that the program is not yet accredited. Extension is working on the lengthy process with the Higher Learning Commission, a regional accrediting body. Hopes are for the program to become eligible for federal student aid by 2019, and become accredited in 2021.

Editors note: Language in this story was changed to clarify gross and net revenue in the Flexible Option program.

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