Editor’s note: For returning adult learners, a major benefit of the competency-based UW Flexible Option is the ability to accelerate progress using existing knowledge. Flex student Dan Fitch is an exceptional case. Having completed a whopping 33 credits in a single three-month subscription period, he saved an estimated $7,500 in tuition and 9 months’ time (compared to traditional programs) in just his first subscription period alone. This is his story.
When Dan Fitch took a temp job with the Wisconsin Legislature in 1998, he thought it would be just that: temporary. Now, 16 years later, Fitch, a software developer, has worked his way through the ranks from a general software administrator to a senior programmer. He handles everything from creating websites with custom developments to apps for various departments around the legislature. While the lack of a college degree hasn’t held Fitch back, he says it’s time to take that next step, earn his degree, and broaden the opportunities to use his talents.
“I’m actually very interested in computational neuroscience. There aren’t many degree programs for this area of study,” Fitch says. “The online Information Science & Technology degree program best matches my skill set and would allow me to compete my degree. My goal is to then consider a master’s degree that would focus more on neuroscience or biology.”
A truly flexible program
Fitch’s fascination with computers began at an early age. Shortly after leaving college, he found work in the computer industry with a dot-com company before returning to Madison to work for the legislature. While he walked away from a traditional college education early in his life, he notes he didn’t completely close the door on earning his degree. In fact, he says, he’s been searching for the right program to meet his education needs for some time.
“I’ve been looking all over for a program I felt would work for me,” Fitch explains. “I’ve considered similar self-study programs, technical colleges, possibly returning to UW-Madison for on-campus classes. I even completed a year of online courses through UW before starting Flex, but I needed something more. Then I read about UW Flexible Option in the Wall Street Journal and the more I learned, I thought it would be well suited to my needs.”
Fitch says one of his greatest concerns about UW Flexible Option was whether the program would truly be flexible enough—fears that were quickly put aside once he spoke to his Academic Success Coach.
“The big advantage with Flex is that I can go at my own pace. It’s a huge advantage,” Fitch says. “I don’t have to schedule my life around making it to class or waiting for the next assignment to post. It is much more tailored to my life. That flexibility is key.”
Speaking of Academic Success Coaches, Dan really appreciates his. “My coach always has my back. He is good at suggesting what might work well with my current class load and where I need to go with the program.”
Get a UW Flexible Option Degree Guide
Download an introductory guide (PDF) to the self-paced, competency-based UW Flexible Option programs, including details about costs, admission requirements, and more.
33 credits in three months
Not interested in wasting any time, Fitch says he’s taking an aggressive approach to completing his degree, hopefully finishing the program in a year. “It’s ambitious, but I want to get it done,” Fitch says. “I’m very motivated.”
He’s not kidding. Fitch completed an incredible 33 credits in just one three-month subscription period—the equivalent of one full, conventional academic year. The UW Flexible Option offers students the opportunity to complete their education through two paths: a three-month, all-you-can-learn subscription period for a flat rate of $2,250, or a single-competency subscription option for $900.
“For a self-powered learning experience, Flex is the best investment.”
“I don’t even want to think about what that would cost me through another program. This is an especially great deal with early classes, where you are reviewing information you know,” Fitch says. “For a self-powered learning experience, Flex is the best investment.”
Indeed. Compared to an average full-time student who might take 12 credits per semester at an average cost of $300 to $400—or more—per credit, Fitch saved more than $7,500 in tuition and approximately nine months’ time just in his first subscription period alone.
A new kind of self-powered learning
Fitch is excited about the new method of learning he’s experiencing through the competency-based program.
“While most of the introductory courses aren’t necessarily material that is new to me, it’s still thought-provoking. I enjoyed writing assessment essays for my information ethics course,” Fitch explains. “I’m really looking forward to the higher-level courses as well. Flex allows me to show what I know to move on and prove I’m ready for the next level.”
“Flex works really well for me after being in the IT field professionally for so long. Some of the introductory courses, I’ve blazed through them. I just have to prove that I know it and I’m done, which is awesome.”
He says he’s also learning some unexpected new skills and ways of thinking.
“I’m learning a lot about informational architecture and cataloging, which I always had a hard time understanding the science behind,” says Fitch.
While Fitch, who also plays in two bands—Soundless and Tyranny is Tyranny, in addition to his full-time job and schoolwork—says he is happy with his current job, he is focused on completing UW Flexible Option for the sake of earning his degree and opening new doors of opportunity. It’s an experience Fitch says wouldn’t have been possible with another program.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do this any other way,” Fitch explains. “If I had to do it with normal online classes, this would take me more than five years while working full time. If I did on-campus, I would have to quit my job. The UW Flexible Option is the only way I could make this commitment to earning my degree while moving forward in my current job and growing toward something more.”
To find out more about the UW Flexible Option and whether this competency-based education option is a good fit for you, call a friendly enrollment adviser today at 1-877-895-3276 or email email@example.com.
More Flexible Option student stories
Busy IT Specialist and Bass Player Still Finds Time to Earn His Bachelor’s in Information Science and Technology Degree