Created in 1998, UW Colleges Online began by offering three popular courses online; 60 students enrolled. Three years later in April 2001, UW Colleges Online received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Today we enroll about 2,000 students per term and offer more than 125 courses at any given time. Students can also earn the UW Colleges Associate of Arts and Science degree entirely online. The Associate of Arts and Science degree is the foundation for many college majors and for the bachelor’s degree.

UW Colleges Online is a program of UW Colleges, a single institution that offers a freshman- and sophomore-level liberal arts education and consists of 13 regional campuses. The campuses are owned by the counties and/or municipalities where they are located but are a fully integrated unit of the University of Wisconsin System.

UW Colleges was created in its current form after World War II when the Board of Regents adopted a formal policy encouraging counties and municipalities to provide land and buildings for use by the University of Wisconsin. At that time, the campuses were part of the UW-Extension.

Starting in 1971 when a merger joined the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin State University systems into a single University of Wisconsin System, the campuses became part of the UW System operating as a single institution. The campuses adopted the University of Wisconsin Colleges name in 1997.

The most recent organizational change occurred in 2005 when the Board of Regents placed the UW Colleges and UW-Extension under a single chancellor and administration, although the two institutions have separate provosts and retain their individual identities and missions.