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.
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/
This list of the 20 best accredited 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.
As of 2018, Capella University was home to over 37,000 students, 17 percent of which were in the United States military. With two distinct learning formats for distance learning, service members and their families can enjoy true flexibility in their online education. Guided Path is available for all programs and works as most distance programs do, with weekly set deadlines. Flex Path is available for select bachelor's and master's degree programs and allows students to work at their own pace, take as many classes as they like and pay a flat-rate tuition for each 12-week billing period. Financial aid for veterans is generous at Capella, with numerous scholarships and tuition discounts available.
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.
At Colorado Technical University, commitment to the military runs deep -- in fact, the founder and first president of the school was an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who wanted to help veterans transition back into civilian life. As one of the most military friendly online colleges in the nation, CTU has been offering distance learning since 1995, and its program options cover a wide variety of areas that might appeal to military members, such as business administration, computer science and criminal justice. Enrolled students can take advantage of the Military and Veteran Resource Community, which helps connect students with job fairs, employers and resources.
San Diego's largest nonprofit institute of higher education, National University was founded in 1971 by retired U.S. Navy Captain David Chigos, so it's no wonder it makes our list of best online colleges for military students. The school offers one-month classes designed specifically for busy military members and their families, thus allowing exceptional flexibility in earning a degree. These classes can help students complete degree programs offered online, on-campus or on dozens of military bases. Military tuition discounts are available at NU and can be a great benefit for students; the NU Veteran Center, which helps students ease the transition from military to civilian life, may also be of service.
Established in Parkville, Missouri in 1875, Park University has been assisting service members, veterans and their families for decades, offering programs online and through numerous military installations. The university's Global Warrior Center is the place to go for help with everything from educational questions to transitioning back into civilian life.
Online programs are available through three colleges at Park: Liberal Arts and Sciences, Management and Education and Health Professions. Customized education plans help those currently serving to meet their obligations to their school and their country; veterans and family members alike can take advantage of the university's flexible learning.
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.
The Rogue Community College Veteran Services Department houses a wealth of information for those in uniform. It begins with plenty of help with admissions, then the "Boots to Books" program, which helps veterans access and understand their benefits and educational opportunities. The school's Veterans Resource Center is full of further information, including finding financial aid for veterans, disability and careers services, a variety of helpful forms, and ways for veterans to get involved in their community. The Student Veterans Association and the RCC SVO Veterans Club are great ways to help veterans connect over their shared history, current education and more.
Now known as Purdue University Global, this institute of higher learning offers a wealth of educational opportunities for all five branches of the Armed Forces. Tuition discounts may be available for those who serve, including the National Guard and Reserves, as well as spouses. Some programs combine military experience for credit with as few as six courses to complete an associate degree; others require more time but offer greater flexibility, helping even those who are serving in busy overseas missions to complete their education. Scholarships and other financial aid for military members and veterans are available; there are also trained counselors who can help with planning schedules and financial obligations.
Founded in 1971 by the Reverend Jerry Falwell, Liberty University's online courses are structured in 8-week segments, with eight start dates during the year. This flexibility helps those who are overseas or otherwise engaged in military work to fit education into their busy schedule. The university's online programs run the gamut from undergraduate certificates to doctoral degrees, and the asynchronous learning format gives the process maximum flexibility. Numerous academic resources are available to help Liberty's online students succeed in their chosen fields, including an online writing center, live webinars, one-on-one tutoring at no additional charge, career services and more.
The private, nonprofit Union Institute & University boasts several benefits that make it one of the best online colleges for veterans, including partnerships with the Community College of the Air Force Air University (CCAF) and the CCAF General Education Mobile Program (GEM). Scholarships and stipends designed just for military students help make the bottom line easier to handle.
Union's online programs in the criminal justice management and emergency services management fields may be of particular interest to students in the service. However, many other programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate level, including an online Master of Arts in literature and writing or the unique online Ph.D in Martin Luther King Jr. Studies specialization.
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.
A school that has won multiple accolades for being a veteran friendly college, Bellevue University starts military students with an evaluation of their potential credits based on military service at no additional cost. From there, six-week courses start every month, offered at preferred military pricing.
Faculty and student advisors are there to help with academics, while other support services round out the experience with career counseling, housing assistance (if applicable), mentoring, tutoring and more. Bellevue's dedicated Vet Services Team can help students find military education benefit programs they qualify for, as well as other forms of financial aid for veterans.
Over 13 percent of the student population at Granite State College was made up of service members and veterans in the 2018-19 school year, and it's not hard to see why. With open admission, eight start dates and six-week classes, GSU makes it easy for those who are on the go to complete their education while still maintaining the high standards of military service. GSU also ranks as one of our best online colleges in New Hampshire, due to the quality of its online education. The school hosts several programs specifically for veterans, such as the Air University Associate-to-Baccalaureate Cooperative and the General Education Mobile Program.
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.
In addition to being one of the best online colleges in Arizona, the University of Phoenix is one of the most veteran friendly colleges on our list. Military representatives at UOPX are expected to keep up-to-date on current military culture and vocabulary, and they can help with navigating transfer of credit for military training as well as applying for military financial aid. The university also offers special tuition rates for service members and their immediate family, as well as various methods of personal support for those in the Armed Forces, such as mentorship, mental health services, community engagement and career services.
A private Christian research university, Regent University's dedicated Military Resource Center is filled with information worthy of top military friendly colleges. Through this center, students can find information on tuition costs, opportunities for their spouses, financial aid for veterans, and even a "test drive" of an online course before committing.
Students can choose from eight-week and 15-week courses as they pursue their degree online at the graduate or undergraduate level. Academic resources are in no shortage at Regent either, with tutoring, academic advising, dedicated scholarships, psychological services, career services, job training and so much more.
Not only is Fort Hays State University the most affordable online university in Kansas, it's also a military friendly college that taught its first classes at an abandoned army post in 1902. Through its Virtual College, the university promotes a rich online environment with dozens of online degree programs as part of its endeavor to offer service members the flexibility they need and deserve.
Resources available include academic and admissions advising, confidential alcohol and drug counseling, career services and career exploration programs, specialized scholarships, personal counseling and more. Students can explore the opportunities by choosing their branch of service and contacting the appropriate departments that oversee their particular benefits.
Designated a Senior Military College by the Department of the Army, the University of North Georgia features the unique Corps of Cadets, a program for aspiring military leaders who want to go into the service with a degree in hand. The university is also well-suited to assist veterans who are not part of the Corps of Cadets. Through the department of Distance Education and Technology Integration, far-flung military students can begin or continue their education through flexible means.
Undergraduate core courses are offered online through eCore; all other online courses are hosted by UNG Online. The Student Veterans of the University of North Georgia is a great place for current and former serving military members to find further information on the programs and courses they're interested in.
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."
A sprawling community colleges with over 15,000 students as of the 2018-19 school year, San Juan College in New Mexico is an excellent place to pursue an online associate degree program in order to help achieve your goals. The unique San Juan College Veteran Ally Program helps SJC staff, students, families and communities understand and relate to military culture, thus helping foster sense of belonging for the hard-working men and women of the Armed Forces.
The SJC Veteran Center can help military members benefit from the school's various resources, including in-depth information on what to expect from the distance learning components of each class. Other students services available include career services, tutoring, connections to the Veterans Upward Bound program and more.
Perhaps you need some help choosing between two of the colleges in our ranking, or perhaps you're interested in a college that isn't on our list. Before you make a decision, it can be wise to contact the school(s) and ask them some questions about their policies and resources. Here are some key questions you might want to ask:
In case you are interested in a school that's not on our list, be sure to also find out whether or not the school is accredited by a legitimate accreditation agency for its area. All of the schools displayed in our ranking hold official accreditation, and you should make sure that any schools you find through your own research do as well. To learn more about accreditation and why it matters, check out our article "What is College Accreditation?"