Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Wisconsin

11 Min Read Published May 24, 2024
Milwaukee at sunset from the water

Anyone who wants to become a nurse knows they need to attend nursing school. However, they may not know that the nursing school they choose will have a huge impact on their future.

For example, if you want to find a position as a nurse in Wisconsin, the best thing to do is to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) in Wisconsin.

Not only will a BSN satisfy Wisconsin's requirements for a nursing license, but many hospitals and states are starting to require nurses to have a minimum of a BSN.  Also, the right BSN program can connect you to potential nursing careers.

Top 10 Nursing Schools in Wisconsin

This is a panel-reviewed selection based on a number of factors, including,

  • Reputation
  • NCLEX-RN pass rate
  • Tuition
  • Acceptance rate, when available
  • Only ACEN or CCNE accredited schools are eligible 

Our selection panel includes 4 Registered Nurses with over 55 years of combined nursing experience and 7 nursing degrees.

  • Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, CNS
  • Tyler Faust, MSN, RN
  • Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN, BA, CBC
  • Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN

Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 Wisconsin nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.

In-State Tuition
$7,361 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$16,074 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
Yes

As one of the top public schools in the region, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire provides an excellent education for the in-state tuition cost. Students pursuing a BSN have two options of study: on-campus in Eau Claire or at the Marshfield Medical Center in Marshfield. Both locations are staffed by UW-Eau Claire professors, so you can pick whichever site works best for you. UW-Eau Claire also has a high NCLEX pass rate, so any Wisconsin resident should consider applying. 

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 77%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 8%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $307
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $670
Contact Information:
  • Address: 105 Garfield Ave, Eau Claire, WI
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 80%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $62,012

 

In-State Tuition
$30,400 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$30,400 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
No

Viterbo University is a small, private school with just 2,521 students. However, with over 100 years of educating students, Viterbo is also one of the top schools in Wisconsin. The School of Nursing has a BSN and BSN completion program, and the traditional BSN has an impressive 100% job placement rate upon graduation. Nursing students also have the option to study abroad and still complete the degree in four years. Also, for a private school, Viterbo’s tuition is relatively low. 

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 72%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 21%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $895
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $895
Contact Information:
  • Address: 900 Viterbo Drive, La Crosse, WI
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 76%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $65,052

 

In-State Tuition
$33,550 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$33,550 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
No

A liberal arts school founded in the Catholic Dominican tradition, Edgewood College has an incredibly low 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an average class size of just 13. The small class sizes are likely part of the reason why Edgewood consistently sees every nursing student pass the NCLEX on their first try.

High school applicants with a GPA of 3.5 and an ACT score of 24 can gain guaranteed admission to the School of Nursing. The nursing program partners with more than 50 clinical sites for students, including four major hospitals in Madison.

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 99%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 11%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,053
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,053
Contact Information:
  • Address: 1000 Edgewood College Drive, Madison, WI
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 76%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $65,812

In-State Tuition
$9,273 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$37,904 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
Yes

Perhaps the best-known school in the state, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been educating students since 1848. Located on a 936-acre campus, nursing students who attend Wisconsin will enjoy a large school. 

You can earn a BSN in nearly any way in Wisconsin, though the traditional BSN is the most popular program. The traditional BSN is a 2+2 program, meaning two years of nursing prerequisite courses before entering the two-year nursing program. Admission is highly competitive, but those accepted will study at an excellent school. 

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 49%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 3%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $386
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,579
Contact Information:
  • Address: 500 Lincoln Dr, Madison, WI
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 94%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $64,769

 

In-State Tuition
$32,770 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$32,770 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
Yes

Concordia University is a private Lutheran college located in Mequon on the shores of Lake Michigan. The school focuses on service and giving back to the community, and students completed 31,289 service hours during the 2021-2022 academic year.

 Along with a beautiful campus, based only a short drive from Milwaukee, Concordia also offers students a low 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio and is ranked as the safest campus in Wisconsin. While the tuition is high, nursing students earn an average financial aid award of $16,603, cutting into the total cost of the program. BSN students also get access to a simulation lab and enjoy a high NCLEX pass rate. 

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 70%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 35%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,365
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,365
Contact Information:
  • Address: 12800 N Lake Shore Dr, Mequon, WI
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 78%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $62,154

 

In-State Tuition
$45,860 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$45,860 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
No

Among the top private schools in the region, Marquette University’s high tuition rate is well worth the education. Founded in the Jesuit tradition, Marquette has a prime location in downtown Milwaukee, so students can enjoy a city experience and large inner-city hospitals.

The undergraduate nursing program gives nursing students the chance to study abroad or earn an internship in Washington, DC. Marquette also has an honors nursing program, and students receive a BSN with Honors upon completing the degree. While this might not seem necessary, it can be very useful for students interested in advancing their education and applying to competitive graduate programs. 

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 87%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 4%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,135
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,135
Contact Information:
  • Address: 1250 W Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 89%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $62,885

 

In-State Tuition
$8,091 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$19,956 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
Yes

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is one of the largest schools in the state, home to 24,000 students. Roughly ¾ of graduates end up working in Wisconsin, which means UWM has an extensive alumni network for nursing school grads to tap into. Nursing options include a traditional BSN, an RN-to-BSN, and an RN-to-MSN. 

According to U.S. News & World Report, the nursing program consistently ranks in the top 15% of nursing schools with graduate programs. The traditional program connects nursing students with more than 160 clinical agencies, and students have the option to study abroad in areas such as Mexico, Kenya, South Korea, and China. 

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 86%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 14%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $337
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $832
Contact Information:
  • Address: 2200 E Kenwood Blvd, Milwaukee, WI
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 72%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $60,851

 

In-State Tuition
$6,422 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$13,995 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
Yes

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is a nationally recognized research school located in Fox Valley. Part of the larger UW system, Oshkosh offers quality education with a low in-state tuition rate.

The top nursing program at UW Oshkosh's traditional undergraduate nursing program has two options: a five-semester program or a year-round program with a hybrid of on-campus and online courses. From start to finish, students can earn their BSN in 3.5-4.5 years, depending on which option they choose. Most recently (2021), UWO  received the AAMN award for the best school in recruiting and retaining men in nursing.

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 89%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 9%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $268
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $583
Contact Information:
  • Address: 800 Algoma Blvd, Oshkosh, WI
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 68%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $59,556

 

In-State Tuition
$35,360 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$35,360 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
No

Founded in 1846, Carroll University is the oldest institution of higher education in Wisconsin. Carroll is known for its Pioneer Core, a general education requirement that ensures all students receive a well-rounded education. After completing the Pioneer Core, nursing students can begin their BSN core courses. Along with 160 hours of clinical experience, Carroll University connects nursing students with internships at local healthcare facilities.

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 72%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 2%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $610
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $610
Contact Information:
  • Address: 100 N East Ave, Waukesha, WI
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 75%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $61,317

 

In-State Tuition
$44,601 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$44,601 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
No

While it may not sound like it, Milwaukee School of Engineering is home to an excellent nursing program. The traditional BSN program began in 1995 and uses some of the newest technologies in laboratories and classrooms. An accelerated second degree for current BS or BA holders is also available. Upon graduation, 95% of MSOE students find a job in their field or continue on to graduate school. The cost is high compared to other schools, but the outcome of the nursing program may be worth it to some.

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 63%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 0%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $779
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $779
Contact Information:
  • Address: 1025 N Broadway, Milwaukee, WI
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 82%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $60,030

Show Me Wisconsin Nursing Programs

Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 

  • Wisconsin nurses earn an annual mean wage of $76,850. 

  • Wisconsin employs 62,860 nurses and employs more nurses per capita than the national average. 

Compared to the national mean wage of $77,600 for nurses, Wisconsin pays slightly lower than the national average. However, the cost of living in Wisconsin is slightly lower than the national average. 

Also, urban areas in Wisconsin have higher mean wages. For example, nurses in the Madison area earn an annual mean wage of $80,490, well above the national average. 

Areas with higher pay are also higher employers for nurses. So, if you find a job in a larger Wisconsin city, you may earn a higher-than-average salary.

Show Me Wisconsin Nursing Programs

Next Steps

After spending some time researching schools you’re interested in, the next step is to move forward with applications. It’s important to send in your application before the deadline — late applications could mean you have to wait another year to begin college! 

Here are the steps to applying for college:

Contact each school’s admissions offices. Schools sometimes have specific requirements you need to follow when applying. Admissions offices will tell you everything you need to know about the school’s application process, and they will be your point of contact if you have any questions during your application.

Check to see if you meet the nursing school requirements. Nursing schools often have additional, stricter requirements for admission than colleges, and admission into a college does not guarantee admission into nursing school. Some requirements can be completed while you’re in college, though, so ask each admissions office what you need to complete before starting college. 

Submit your application(s). After you’ve prepared your application materials, the final step is to send in applications! Remember, always apply to more than one school – who knows what scholarships might be made available after you’ve been accepted!

Materials to send include:

  • High school transcript (GPA)

  • ACT and/or SAT scores

  • College entrance essay(s)

  • Letter(s) of recommendation

Additional materials may also be required by a school or nursing program. Always keep track of everything you need so you don’t submit an incomplete application. 

Show Me Wisconsin Nursing Programs

Important Considerations When Comparing Schools

Every school offers something unique and special, and that can make comparing schools incredibly difficult. Fortunately, as long as you attend an accredited school, your future nursing career will be off to a good start. So, the best thing to do is pick the accredited school that works best for you.

When comparing schools, consider things like:

  • Annual tuition and total program cost

  • Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered

  • Cost of living on-campus or in the area

  • Distance from hospitals

  • School and nursing program acceptance rate

  • Length of the program (accelerated or traditional)

  • Type of program (traditional or online)

  • Program outcomes

  • School’s accreditation (regional and national)

Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation  

Accrediting bodies are government-recognized organizations that evaluate the academic quality of programs. When a school and/or program is accredited, it guarantees that the curriculum meets a minimum standard of quality. 

The two nursing accreditation organizations to look for are

If you earn a degree from an unaccredited school, you may have trouble securing federal financial aid and finding work as a nurse after graduation. 

Getting a License in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC) which means that nursing licenses in Wisconsin work in most other states (and vice versa). To be part of the eNLC, Wisconsin is required to meet certain standards for licensing nurses. 

To get a license in Wisconsin, you’ll need to:

  • Study at an accredited nursing school

  • Take and pass the NCLEX-RN

  • Pass a criminal background check, submit your fingerprints, and pay an application fee

  • Apply through the Wisconsin Board of Nursing

Every accredited BSN program satisfies the requirements to sit for the NCLEX, so completing your BSN puts you on track to becoming a licensed nurse.

References:

BLS

BestPlaces.net

Wisconsin Board of Nursing

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