State News

UW Flexible Option program expected to expand with little new state funding

Under Gov. Scott Walker’s partial vetoes to the state budget, the UW Flexible Option program will have to double the amount of courses they offer by December 2019.

Although Gov. Walker signed the two-year state budget into law over a week ago, the UW System is still figuring out how the budget affects one of its programs targeted at non-traditional students.

Walker passed the budget on Sept. 20 after he issued 99 partial vetoes to the previous edition of the bill. One of these vetoes stipulated that the UW System will need to double the number of courses offered through its UW Flexible Option program over the next two years.

The budget, however, did not include any new state funding for this expansion.

The Flexible Option offers online courses to non-traditional students, including working individuals or individuals with children. The program currently offers eight degrees and certificates.

Walker and his administration hope this expansion will encourage the UW System to make the Flexible Option program more of a priority moving forward.

Tom Evenson, a spokesperson for Walker, told the Wisconsin State Journal the decision was to help increase the state’s workforce.

“Walker is challenging the UW System to make the Flexible Option and college affordability higher priorities as we continue our work to help meet workforce needs,” Evenson said.

The Flexible Option program began in 2014, and the budget requires the program to expand from eight degree options to 16 by 2019. Cathy Sandeen, the chancellor for the UW Colleges and Extension, acknowledged in that it will be difficult to double the program’s offerings in two years, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Sandeen also mentioned that the program’s mandated expansion brings good news, namely in the form of the Legislature demonstrating its confidence in both UW Extension and Flexible Option program.

UW Extension was unable to respond immediately for comment.

Currently, it is unclear whether the UW System would help UW Extension fund the expansion.

Due to the young age of the program, there are few statistics available on student results or on the amount of money that the program has required up to now. The lack of statistics has made it difficult for predicting how expensive the addition of eight degrees will be. 

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