Costs and Funding

The 15-month master of science degree in Environmental Conservation (with options in Environmental Conservation and Environmental Observation and Informatics) offer students a remarkable graduate education and professional training at a cost value less than traditional two-year residential graduate programs.

Tuition and Fees

The tuition rate for the MS-Environmental Conservation is $1,000 per credit for all students, or $32,000 total in tuition for the entire 32-credit, 15-month MS program. Student segregated fees are in addition to the $1,000 per credit rate. Student segregated fees are approximately $2,342 for the entire program.

If you have any questions about tuition or fees, please contact Program Director Nathan Schulfer at

Amounts are for tuition and fees only.

International students will also be charged a $100 fee for each semester in our programs, or $400 total for the entire degree.

We strongly encourage all students to apply for our tuition assistance award, and to seek additional sources of grants, scholarships, or school loans. Because of the accelerated and immersive nature of our program, professional program students are not eligible for campus assistantships. All students, including international students, can apply for paid hourly work positions on campus.

Tuition Assistance

The Nelson Institute Environmental Professional Program options offer financial awards to applicants to help reduce their tuition costs. All applicants to the MS program (for either the Environmental Conservation or Environmental Observation and Informatics option) are encouraged to apply for tuition assistance.

In particular, we encourage candidates of color, historically underrepresented candidates, indigenous and/or First Nations candidates, and first-generation college students to apply. We acknowledge tuition assistance awards will not cover the entire cost of tuition and all applicants are encouraged to seek additional funding sources.

Tuition Assistance Awards

We are pleased to offer several named tuition assistance awards. You may be eligible for multiple named awards, but ultimately all successful applicants will only receive one award. Please indicate your award eligibility by checking the boxes when asked on the tuition assistance application. Tuition assistance awards are reviewed along with your program application. If you are eligible for one of our named tuition assistance awards, please speak to why you are eligible for those specific awards in your tuition assistance application.

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"General" Environmental Conservation and Environmental Observation and Informatics Student Awards

Everyone is encouraged to apply for tuition assistance. The “general” tuition assistance award will be automatically selected unless you indicate eligibility for one or more of the following named tuition assistance awards.

Traditionally Underrepresented Student Award

We want to support underrepresented students that are interested in conservation work and provide you with affordable access to higher education and professional opportunities. This named award supports all applicants that meet the eligibility requirements as an Advanced Opportunity Fellow (AOF). AOF eligibility is determined based on your Graduate School program application, and we request you select this named award on our tuition assistance application.

Applicants should meet one or more of the following criteria (as outlined in  the UW-Madison AOF eligibility criteria):

  • Students from the following racial/ethnic groups:
    • African American or Black
    • American Indian or Alaskan Native
    • Hispanic/Latino
    • Southeast Asian, Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia
    • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • Economically disadvantaged individuals not belonging to one of these minority groups
  • McNair students: students who participated in a Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program
  • First-generation college students who participated in one of the following TRIO programs:
    • Upward Bound
    • Talent Search
    • Educational Opportunities Centers
    • Student Support Services
  • First-generation college students who graduated from the PEOPLE Program
  • UW–Madison bachelor’s degree recipients who were in the FASTrack or BANNER programs

Community Environmental Scholars Program (CESP) Alumni Award

Environmental Professional Programs embrace the value of CESP to link environmental passion with a commitment to community. This named award is in support of UW-Madison graduates who engaged in the CESP program at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. In your application, please speak to the impact CESP has had in informing your approach to professional environmental conservation.

Outstanding Wisconsin Student Award

This named award is in support of exceptional students who are residents of the state of Wisconsin for tuition purposes. Wisconsin holds a deep legacy of conservation and appreciation for nature which we seek to advance through financial support for Wisconsin applicants. In your tuition assistance application, briefly share your conservation experiences in Wisconsin and if you hope to participate in Wisconsin conservation efforts during your career.

Outstanding International Student Award

Environmental Professional Programs embrace a globally diverse cohort. This named award is in support of exceptional international students, particularly those that intend to bring their learning back to their home region to the benefit of their ecological and social communities. In your tuition assistance application, briefly speak to how this award will help you create change and make impact in your home region.

Please fill out and submit the online application by December 1 to be considered for a financial tuition assistance award.

Apply for a tuition assistance award

Non-Tuition Costs and Living Expenses

You will incur non-tuition living expenses while in the program. The following is a summary of typical expenses and their estimated costs. This information can be used as a guideline for your personal planning and budgeting.

International applicants should read our additional information for international students and visit the International Students page of the UW-Madison Graduate School website for more information about anticipated costs.

Expense Estimate Notes
Student health insurance plan (SHIP) $112–$184/month You must have health insurance when enrolled. SHIP is one option available to all students. The monthly fee depends on your age. More information can be found on the SHIP website.
Living expenses (room, board, books, transportation, clothing, and personal items) $1,000–$1,275/month The monthly cost is highly dependent on living situation and personal budgeting.
Textbooks and software $500 maximum for the entire program Required and recommended texts will be sent with enrollment information once admitted. While campus computers are available, you may also need to purchase a laptop computer to use for coursework.
Travel to Madison $500-$2,000 Costs will vary based on the location. Airfare to and from Madison is not provided for international students.
International visa processing costs and fees $380 Admitted international students will need to apply for, and be approved for a F-1 visa. Costs for securing a visa are not covered by the program (this includes the application processing fee and SEVIS fee)

Additional Options for Financial Support

Since the Environmental Professional Programs tuition assistance does not cover the full tuition cost, you are encouraged to apply for additional financial aid in the form of UW-Madison scholarships, fellowships, and external awards. The following is more information about to help you in identifying options for financial support.

Note that students enrolled in the Nelson Institute Professional MS Programs are not permitted to accept graduate assistantships (including teaching assistantships and research assistantships), traineeships, or other appointments that would result in a tuition waiver.

If you are looking for a research-oriented graduate program with eligibility for assistantships, see the Environment and Resources MS and PhD program in the Nelson Institute. Please note this program has different admissions criteria and deadlines, and a different person to contact with questions.

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You may be eligible and competitive for external (non-UW-Madison) fellowships to support your graduate studies. Available fellowships and criteria change year-to-year, so searching online for those that fit your interests and background and talking to mentors and colleagues is the best approach.

One place to start your search is the UW-Madison Graduate School database of fellowships.

International applicants, we recommend contacting the U.S. Consulate in your home country. They can provide guidance and resources for financial support for your graduate studies in the U.S. Visit the Education USA website for more information about your local office.

Fellowships our students have received:


Scholarships are small sums (hundreds to thousands of dollars) of money you do not have to pay back. Scholarships are often very specific in their requirements (e.g. residency, program of study, background), therefore, it is recommend that you search for scholarships that fit your background and goals. In addition, deadlines vary throughout the year and we encourage you to apply for scholarships before and after applying and enrolling in the program.

There are many scholarship databases and ways to find scholarships through online searches and professional societies. Below are some resources and examples that may help you get started.

Federal Loans (U.S. Students Only)

Financial aid in the form of federal grants, loans, and work-study funds may be available to you through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Office of Student Financial Aid provides information and assistance about applying for financial aid. FAFSA applications must be completed each year. Because the Nelson Institute Professional MS programs span two academic years, aid for the full program requires two FAFSA applications.

If you were awarded an Environmental Professional Program Tuition Assistance, the award applies to the full 15-month program. Therefore, if you apply for aid through FAFSA, you should distribute you award amount over the two applications to reflect the financial assistance you will receive each year.

Part-Time Employment

All enrolled students can obtain part time employment. Domestic (U.S.) students can work with the UW-Madison or any other off-campus employer. International students can obtain part-time (20 hours per week) employment with UW-Madison only (see the UW-Madison student job center).

You are encouraged to seek out opportunities independently through local job boards and professional networks. Job boards that can be useful for your search are:

Domestic (U.S.) students, in addition to federal loans and grants, the FAFSA also evaluates if you are eligible for work study, which is a part-time employment program where the costs are shared between an employer and the federal government. If you would like to be considered for this type of financial aid, you must note this in your FAFSA.

Graduate Application Fee Waiver

Applying to the programs requires a one-time application fee of $75. This fee allows you to apply for up to three programs. The Graduate School offers fee grants to eligible individuals. Please see the full information on the Graduate School website.

If you do not meet the requirements for the Graduate School fee waiver, but the application fee is a burden for you and impacts your ability to apply, please contact the program coordinator to request a fee waiver. The coordinator will communicate with you via email about how a fee waiver will be issued to you once you have completed, but not yet submitted, the online program application.

Additional Information for International Applicants

After you are admitted by the UW-Graduate School to the Environmental Conservation MS (in either the Environmental Conservation or Environmental Observation and Informatics option) you will be required to submit proof of funding to process a student visa application with the U.S. Department of State. The International Student Services office will communicate with you about that process and the documentation required.

Additional information about the cost of attendance and showing sufficient funds can be found on the UW-Madison Graduate School website. Please read the information presented on the web page carefully.

If you received Environmental Professional Program tuition assistance, the award amount will be subtracted from the amount of money you need to show to the Graduate School.

UW-Madison Offices of Support