Feds Open the Door to Funding UW System's 'Flex Option'

Sep 2, 2014

The U.S. Dept. of Education has agreed to award financial aid to students enrolled in one of the UW System's new competency-based programs.

Under the UW Flexible Option program, working adults who started college but didn't finish, can earn their degrees by proving they are competent in required subject areas. Those enrolled must pay for and pass competencies, when the student feels ready to take them.

Several campuses rolled out the program in January, including two-year schools and UW-Milwaukee. It has been offering several areas of study in the flex option, among them, nursing. But the students enrolled have not qualified for federal aid.

The Dept. of Education has now decided to award financial aid in one flex option - the Associate of Arts and Science degree. The decision is seen as paving the way for funding competency-based education.

UW System President Ray Cross calls the decision "a significant step forward." He says it will help nontraditional students and the system to "further develop the talent base of Wisconsin.”

UWM is now applying for federal financial aid for students in its four flex option programs.

Three other UW System campuses are developing similar programs including at Madison, Parkside and Stevens Point.

The UW System is the first public higher education system in the country to win federal aid for this new style of completing degrees.