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20 Best Online Colleges for Veterans and Their Families in 2018

Jan 24, 2018
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Methodology:

Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following criteria:

  • Level of institution is either “Four or more years” or “At least 2 but less than 4 years”
  • At least 1% of students are taking at least some of the classes via distance education
  • Data is reported for all 15 ranking variables listed in the Methodology section

We ranked 1191 colleges on 15 criteria, using 2015-16 final data from the National Center for Education Statistics and 2016 data from the College Scorecard:

  1. Number of programs offered via distance education
  2. Percentage of students participating in distance education classes
  3. Average in-state tuition for undergraduate and graduate students
  4. Average out-of-state tuition for undergraduate and graduate students
  5. Total electronic library collections, including digital books, databases and media
  6. Availability of academic/ career counseling services
  7. Availability of job placement services for graduates
  8. Offers dual credit
  9. Offers credit for life experience
  10. Offers advanced placement (AP) credit
  11. Offers credit for military training
  12. Participation in the following services:
    • Yellow Ribbon Program
    • Point of contact for support services for veterans, military servicemembers, and their families
    • Recognized student veteran organization
    • Member of Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges
  13. Percentage of veteran undergrad students
  14. Average Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits for undergrads
  15. Average Department of Defense Tuition Assistance program benefits

All schools were scored on a 10-point scale for each of the points listed above. Individual data point scores were then multiplied by their respective weights, and the scores were added together, for a maximum possible score of 10 points.

Sources:

  1. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed December 2017, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  2. College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, Accessed December 2017, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/
  3. About Military and Veterans Education, ECPI University, Accessed December 2017, https://www.ecpi.edu/military
  4. Become a Chapter, Students Veterans of America, Accessed January 2018, http://studentveterans.org/chapter/become-a-chapter
  5. Defend Your Future, Grantham University, Accessed December 2017, https://www.grantham.edu/online-college-for-military-veterans/
  6. Department of Military Science, Sam Houston State University, Accessed December 2017, http://www.shsu.edu/academics/military-science/index.html
  7. Educating Those Who Serve, American Public University System, Accessed December 2017, http://www.apu.apus.edu/aboutus/military/active-duty-and-veterans.html
  8. Education and Training, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Accessed January 2108, https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asp
  9. Military, East Carolina University, Accessed December 2017, http://www.ecu.edu/military
  10. Military, Oklahoma State University, Accessed December 2017, https://business.okstate.edu/online/military.html
  11. Military and Veteran Benefits, Saint Leo University, Accessed December 2017, http://www.saintleo.edu/resources/student-financial-support-center/financial-aid/types-of-financial-aid/military-veteran-benefits.aspx
  12. Military and Veteran Services, Davenport University, Accessed December 2017, https://www.davenport.edu/military-veteran-services
  13. Military and Veteran Students, Penn State University, Accessed December 2017, http://admissions.psu.edu/info/future/military/
  14. Military and Veteran Students, Indiana Wesleyan University, Accessed December 2017, https://www.indwes.edu/about/veterans/
  15. Military, Veterans and Dependents, Old Dominion University Online, Accessed December 2017, https://online.odu.edu/military-veterans
  16. Non-Traditional and Veterans Student Services, Kansas State University, Accessed December 2017, https://www.k-state.edu/nontrad/
  17. Patton Veterans Project, https://pattonveteransproject.org/
  18. Principles of Excellence, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Accessed January 2108, https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/principles_of_excellence.asp
  19. Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, Distance Education Accrediting Commission, Accessed January 2018, https://www.deac.org/Student-Center/Servicemembers-Opportunity-Colleges.aspx
  20. SNHU Military Experience, Southern New Hampshire University, Accessed December 2017, https://www.snhu.edu/student-experience/military-student-experience
  21. Student Veteran Services, Northern Arizona University, Accessed December 2017, https://nau.edu/military-veteran-education/
  22. Veteran Benefits Services, Oklahoma State University Office of the Registrar, Accessed December 2017, https://registrar.okstate.edu/Veteran-Benefit-Services
  23. Veterans Academic Resource Center, University of Central Florida, Accessed December 2017, http://varc.sdes.ucf.edu/
  24. Veterans Resource Center, Sam Houston State University, Accessed December 2017, http://www.shsu.edu/dept/veterans-resource-center/
  25. Veterans Services, Texas A&M University, Accessed December 2017, https://veterans.tamu.edu/
  26. Veterans Services, UMass Lowell, Accessed December 2017, https://www.uml.edu/student-services/Veterans/
  27. Veteran Support Alliance, University of Oklahoma, Accessed December 2017, http://www.ou.edu/veterans/veteran_student_services.html
  28. Veterans, University of Cincinnati, Accessed December 2017, https://www.uc.edu/aess/vps.html
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online-colleges-for-veterans-and-their-families

It can be a long, hard process to transition from military service back to civilian life. Shifts away from regular military habits and changes to your once-familiar community and environment are just a few of the possible challenges. And of course, it's not just veterans who may struggle with these changes: spouses and dependents are also likely to be impacted by them. While it may be preferable to see an end to regular deployments and time apart from family, post-military life can also mean the end to a semi-predictable career path. But one potential step to consider -- one that can start you on a new path -- is enrolling in an education program. The focused structure of such a program may be a helpful middle ground for easing back into a civilian lifestyle, and earning a degree can open career options that might lend new purpose and direction to the future.

While earning an education fresh off a tour of duty -- at home or abroad -- can be an overwhelming prospect for someone who is already coping with so much change, the process can be made easier if the school you attend is able to assist your transition in some way. Furthermore, the ability to choose one's studying location -- for reasons of distance or time, for example -- can make an online program a particularly suitable option. As such, we have ranked 20 U.S. colleges that offer a quality online education as well as particular benefits for students who are or have been either directly or indirectly involved in the military.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that the College Finder tool and sponsored school ads on this page are NOT associated with military funding. All schools matched through the College Finder have sponsored their placement, and these placements have no connection to any government agency, the U.S. government, the U.S. Armed Forces or the Department of Veteran Affairs. U.S. government agencies have not reviewed this information. For more information about benefits offered by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, please visit this official U.S. government website: http://www.va.gov.

A Few Important Terms

It's important to understand the terms that are tied into higher education opportunities for veterans and military members. Five of these key terms are defined below to provide better insight into the potential options that might be available for you at specific schools. More information can be found at https://www.benefits.va.gov/

  1. The Post-9/11 GI Bill: This is an education benefit that is only available to military members who were on active duty after September 10, 2001. This benefit includes tuition and fee payments for attending a public school, a monthly housing allowance (MHA), and a yearly stipend of up to $1,000 for books and supplies. The tuition and fee benefits paid to a school on a student's behalf depend on the amount of time they have spent in service. A sliding scale is used to calculate the benefit, but a student generally reaches 100 percent of benefits after 36 months or more of service.
  2. The Yellow Ribbon Program: This program, a component of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, helps to cover tuition and fees at a private school. Funds through this program may additionally be used to offset out-of-state residency costs. However, schools must opt in to participate in the program, and the money available to veterans at each school may vary since funding is based on the agreement the school has set with Veterans Affairs (VA).
  3. Being an official "point of contact" for other veterans or members of the military: Under a set of principles of excellence that the VA has set for college education and training, a school can employ a person or persons as a point of contact (POC) to assist veterans on campus or enrolled in distance learning. The POC is generally a veteran who is now serving in a full- or part-time position at the school. This person usually works for a school's Veterans Services or Veterans Center and provides support to veterans or military members who are working on their college education.
  4. Recognized student veteran organization: A group of veteran students at a school can decide to form a veteran organization and take steps to become recognized on campus. This recognition varies from school to school because institutions have different guidelines for becoming recognized. However, school recognition is important to becoming an official chapter of the Student Veterans of America (SVA), a national nonprofit that provides resources for veterans as they work on their college education. Without school recognition, a veterans organization cannot become a chapter of the SVA.
  5. Servicemembers Opportunity College (SOC): This designation indicates that a college provides specific opportunities for active military members to help them complete a degree program, which can sometimes be difficult if they are transferred elsewhere. SOC schools simplify the process of servicemembers transferring credits for degree programs from other schools. Many SOC colleges also offer distance-based degrees, which can be convenient for military members who are frequently being moved around. Additionally, SOC schools are generally more likely than non-SOC schools to accept transfer credits that were earned by veterans or other servicemembers at another SOC school.

20 Best Online Colleges for Veterans and their Families for 2018

This list of the 20 best online colleges for veterans and their families was compiled using very specific metrics, such as the percentage of undergraduate students enrolled as veterans. Every school included on this list reported that they provide credit for military training, acts as a "Point of Contact" for Veteran Support Services, and are a designated Servicemembers Opportunity College (SOC). In addition, the majority of these schools are members of the Yellow Ribbon program. More information on our methodology for this ranking is available at the bottom of the page.

1. American Public University System, Charlestown, WV

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
4.6%$4,078$2,051

The American Public University System takes pride in making military students and veterans a priority, offering them textbooks and ebooks at no additional charge and covering certain technology fees with earned grants. The university's student body had the most significant percentage of veteran students in the 2016-17 school year out of all 20 schools included on this list, and there were also 300-plus veterans serving on the university's faculty during that time. A special scholarship program is even available for select military spouses who are enrolling in specific programs at the school.

2. Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
0.52%$7,109$2,650

Northern Arizona University, or NAU, has a student center available specifically for veterans that offers numerous resources, such as career and family coaching, which can also be used by the school's online learners. The subject of business is one of the college's particular specialties; NAU has a Veteran Student Center dedicated specifically to their W.A. Franke College of Business (a center known as the FCB VSC for short). NAU also has "New & Transfer Student Checklists" written for student veterans available for download from their website, offering advice on how to apply and enroll at the school.

3. Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, NH

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
1.29%$4,898$2,058

Southern New Hampshire University has an 80-year history of serving veterans, but that hasn't stopped them from embracing more modern-day learning innovations. More than 200 online programs are available to veterans and military staff choosing SNHU. Continued learning is the emphasis, with more than 90 prior credits acceptable toward undergraduate programs. Spouses of service members also can receive tuition savings. To top it off, military students can receive academic guidance from dedicated military advisors if desired.

4. Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, NH

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
0.76%$5,262$2,335

Saint Leo University has been offering degree programs right on military bases since 1973, and expanded its roster to include online education in the 1990s. The school's military resource center provides a wide variety of resources to students, and its Military Service Fund can also be of help when students face an unexpected crisis. In fact, depending on time and circumstances, short-term assistance may be available for a number of areas, such as help paying for rent or mortgage, medical bills, or car and insurance payments.

5. University of Cincinnati-Main Campus, Cincinnati, OH

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
0.61%$9,351$2,567

This university offers career exploration services, referrals for counseling and even job placement help for veterans and military students enrolled in its school programs. Tutoring also is available for veterans at no cost. Students who are called up for deployment while enrolled can pause their program and later re-start without any penalties. Additionally, the University of Cincinnati has full-time veteran counselors on staff to assist military students.

6. Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
0.49%$14,108$2,781

Old Dominion University not only offers programs and scholarships with military students specifically in mind, but also has a Military Connection Center set up to provide information on tuition, financing and more. The university recommends some of its online degree programs specifically for student veterans, among them its bachelor's program in electromechanical systems, its master's program in engineering management and its certificate program in project management.

7. Pennsylvania State University, Main Campus, University Park, PA

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
0.5%$16,296$2,553

Veterans enrolled at Pennsylvania State University, also known as PSU, can look for support through the school's Office of Veterans Programs, which employs nearly 20 student veterans. Even online veteran and military students can find help with mentorship, outreach, advising and more through this office. Furthermore, student veterans may be interested in Penn State's World Campus, which offers online education -- including a total of 125 degree programs and certificates -- for military students and their spouses.

8. ECPI University, Virginia Beach, VA

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
2.19%$14,024$3,602

More than 1,100 schools were evaluated for this study, but few are as consistently impressive across the board as ECPI University, which scored highly on all of our military-based metrics and several of our quality-based ones as well. This military-friendly university facilitates a vast number of programs online, ranging in discipline from cyber and network security to the radiologic sciences. Also impressive is the university's executive director for military education, who is actually a retired Navy captain.

9. Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion,IN

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
1.17%N/A$4,312

Indiana Wesleyan University is a private nonprofit university that earned sky-high marks on the majority of our criteria for quality. This Christian college additionally offers the possibility of tuition discounts for both military members and their spouses. As an added plus, a 10 percent tuition discount may be available to select student veterans who are either ineligible for certain benefits or who have exhausted their VA benefits.

10. Texas A&M University-College Station,Texas

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
0.26%$8,399$3,450

Texas A&M University was founded in 1876 specifically as a military academy. Little surprise, then, that it has continued to show dedication to members of the military, assisting active-duty members as well as veterans and their spouses. The university not only has a Veterans Admissions Office, but also a Veteran Services Office and a Veteran Resource and Support Center, all of which can offer support to military students.

11. Columbia College, Columbia, MO

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
2.29%$4,012$2,005

Columbia College stands out for running both a physical and a virtual veterans service center. This means that students enrolled in online education at Columbia College can take advantage of live chats with the veterans center staff, access remote desktop trouble-shooting, and even find live webinars and additional training. The school also awards its Col. Charles E. McGee Scholarship annually to help a military or veteran student reach his or her educational goals. Additional academic grants for military spouses can also be applied for through Columbia College.

12. Davenport University, Grand Rapids, MI

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
1.33%$10,120$2,806

Davenport University has a team of admission representatives, advisors and certifying specialists whose job is to help student veterans complete their education through a path of "minimal resistance." The school notes that it has 100 percent military benefits participation and offers a 20 percent tuition discount for military retirees, veterans, spouses and dependents up to age 24. Military leave also is readily available in the case of deployment.

13. University of Massachusetts-Lowell,MA

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
0.86%$8,127$1,991

This university offers career services, counseling resources and an online solutions center for veterans and active-duty military students. Through this solutions center, students can access tools for paying bills, registering for courses and even obtaining copies of transcripts. UMass Lowell also recently hosted an "I Was There" film workshop, run by the Patton Veterans Project, which allowed students to document their experiences while serving.

14. Oklahoma State University-Main Campus, Stillwater, OK

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
0.47%$6,817$2,060

The transition for veterans to student life can be challenging. This is one of the reasons Oklahoma State University has set up their Veterans Benefits Services Unit, with the goal of providing resources to on- and off-campus students from the convenience of one place. Eligible dependents may be able to find help at the Unit as well, up to and including available benefits for their situation. Moreover, military students enrolled in online courses in OSU's Spears School of Business may be eligible to receive a tuition and fee waiver.

15. University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus,OK

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
0.53%$7,667$2,189

Students enrolled at the University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus can find numerous scholarships that are available to veterans, active-duty military members and military spouses, including the Pat Tillman Foundation scholarship. Indeed, OU is a partner with the Pat Tillman Foundation, which can benefit military students and spouses who are applying to become Tillman Scholars. The university has also formed a group of support staff called the "Green Zone," a network that makes additional efforts to assist students who have served in the military.

16. East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
0.26%$4,401$2,262

At East Carolina University, also known as ECU, priority registration is given to active-duty students, veterans and reservists. That's not the end of ECU's resources for veteran students, as the institute also hosts a counselor from the nationwide VetSuccess on Campus program, making it the only campus in North Carolina to do so. Distance-learning students who head to campus for a lecture, a lab or some other need may want to check out the school's veterans lounge, a space to watch television, eat lunch and network with other veterans.

17. Grantham University, Lenexa, KS

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
1.97%$4,116$2,339

Grantham University was actually founded by a veteran more than 65 years ago. Today, it continues to provide opportunities to military students by offering low tuition costs and grants to help obtain new or used software and textbooks. More impressively, the school offers a Veterans Scholarship to select students, which reduces the cost of an undergraduate credit hour to $15 and the cost of a graduate credit hour to $75 for those who qualify.

18. Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
0.58%$7,901$2,207

The Veterans Resource Center (VRC) is an extensive resource for students who are veterans or active military enrolled at Sam Houston State University. Even better, online students can just pick up the phone or send an email to take advantage of many of the Center's resources. Online programs at SHSU run the gamut from sociology to sustainable agriculture, with degree levels from bachelor's all the way up to doctoral. There's also the school's Collegiate Veterans Association (CVA), which strives to help veterans and military students transition to college life and to ensure that "no warrior is left behind."

19. University of Central Florida, Orlando

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
0.53%$4,488$2,393

The Veterans Academic Resource Center (VARC) at the University of Central Florida is considered a one-stop solution for veterans resources, but the university also just released a downloadable resource guide that can help out as well. Other UCF online resources include tips for memorizing material and explanations about withdrawing from a class. Any online UCF student veteran who wants to visit campus can utilize the school's private study rooms located within the VARC, or attend academic workshops and presentations for course-related assistance.

20. Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

Percent of undergrad student body consisting of veteransAverage Post-9/11 GI Bill award amountAverage Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program award amount
0.55%$10,062$2,020

Kansas State's Veterans Center is a hub of information for military students, but these students also can stay connected by signing up for the Veterans ListServ mailing list or by following the university's Twitter feed at @KStateVSO. Moreover, in-state tuition rates are often available to out-of-state veterans and their spouses and dependents. Scholarships specifically for military members and spouses can also be earned at K-State, such as the Wounded Warrior Scholarship or the Education Opportunity Fund Scholarship.


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