By Barbara Young —

The self-paced University of Wisconsin Flexible Option, offered at many University of Wisconsin System schools, is becoming more accessible to working parents and other non-traditional students. The United States Department of Education has given approval to award federal financial aid to the Associate of Arts and Science degree offered in the UW Flexible Option format.

Previously, students enrolled in competency-based educational programs did not have access to the same kind of financial aid options available to students enrolled in traditional programs.

The program is based on a competency education program, allowing students to work at their own pace to gain work related skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. Now, with the help of the expanded financial aid, more people than ever will be able to enroll in these courses and gain degrees through UW colleges.

“The UW System is pioneering an innovative, new pathway for the vital goal of expanding college access,” said UW System President Ray Cross.

This is the first program of its kind to receive approval to award financial aid through these means.

“We can now award aid for innovative educational programs that directly serve a wider range of students across the nation,” said Aaron Brower, interim chancellor of UW Colleges and UW- Extension.

“This is a big deal. We’ve now created a direct pathway for other institutions who wish to award aid for competency-based education. We are very grateful to the Department of Education for taking this bold move with us,” explains Brower.

The success of the AAS program’s approval is spurring on other UW colleges to seek federal financial aid for students. University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee is following the same procedure to apply for aid for students currently enrolled in its four UW Flexible Option programs.

“UW Flexible Option programs are designed to meet areas of strong student demand, economic growth and workforce development needs,” said Regent Vice President Regina Millner. “Giving students enrolled in these UW programs access to federal financial aid ultimately benefits both the students and the state.”

For more information on UW Flexible Option financial aid programs visit


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