By Eric Dehm
Every year, Military Times releases its list of the top schools for military and veterans. It’s a helpful list when it comes to planning your post-military career.
But it doesn’t tell the whole story.
The list specifically succeeds in explaining how much tuition is covered by programs like the GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon program, and perhaps more importantly, whether vets who enroll at a school tend to actually graduate. In addition to those factors, the methodology used for figuring out which are the “best” schools for vets looks at everything from accreditation to extracurriculars.
However, all information provided is done on a voluntary basis by the schools, so if your school of choice (or alma mater) isn’t included, it’s because they chose not to, for whatever reason. This means doesn’t include many schools, including some that are providing fantastic service to vets.
Here are the leaders in four categories of the schools that are included.
4 year schools
While D’Youville is a private school, the rest of the top 5 are public, and that trend sticks for the rest of the list with around 80% of the schools being public schools. All but one of the rest are private schools, with the lone exception being New York City’s for-profit Berkleye College coming in at No. 133.
- D’Youville College – Buffalo, N.Y.
- University of South Florida – Tampa, FL
- Armstrong State University – Savannah, GA
- Rutgers – New Brunswick, NJ
- The University of Kansas – Lawrence, KS
Many veterans decide to start their post-service academic careers by attending a two-year school, for instance, a community college. The costs of a two-year program are often substantially lower than their four-year counterparts with tuition to many, if not most, being entirely covered by the GI Bill.
- Central Community College-Nebraska – Grand Island, NE
- Tarrant County College Trinity River Campus – Fort Worth, TX
- Northwestern Michigan College – Traverse City, MI
- Clackamas Community College – Oregon City, OR
- Tidewater Community College – Norfolk, VA
Career & Technical Colleges
The list of Career and Technical colleges, which appeal to many categories of vet including those leaving the service with technical expertise, or that want to turn what was a hobby into a career, but might lack the accompanying certifications.
The courses of training are often hyper-focused on the industry students target for employment, and some are significantly shorter in length than their four- and two-year counterpart. Out of the Times list of 24 schools, one is private, one is for-profit and the rest are public.
When it comes to these schools, Savannah (GA) Technical College leads the pack.
- Savannah Technical College – Savannah, GA
- ECPI University – Virginia Beach, VA
- Fayetteville Technical Community College – Fayetteville, N.C.
- Gwinnett Technical College – Lawrenceville, GA
- St. Cloud Technical & Community College – St. Cloud, MN
Online & Non-Traditional Schools
This is perhaps the fastest growing, and most dangerous, segment of higher education: the online colleges.
Online schooling can be of great benefit to a veteran who has a family to take care of, or a full-time job, or any one of numerous obstacles that make getting to a classroom difficult at best, impossible at worst. Being able to complete your education online allows you to fit it into your schedule.
On the other hand, because of their Internet-based nature, it also means little to no physical interaction with the school. This can lead to significant problems for vets and non-vets alike. The threat is so great that the FTC has had to issue guidance on what to watch out for when it comes to so-called “diploma mills” and other college-related scams, with a focus on online programs.
On the Military Times’ rankings, University of Maryland University College tops the list. UMUC, a partner of ConnectingVets.com, has moved up six spots from a year ago.
- University of Maryland University College – Adelphi, MD
- Liberty University – Lynchburg, VA
- Central Texas College – Killeen, TX
- Excelsior College – Albany, NY
- Regent University – Virginia Beach, VA
What does it all mean?
While the variety and depth of these lists make them a fantastic resource for veterans, we must take into consideration that it’s just one resource, and an incomplete one at that.
There are hundreds of schools not included on the list, many of which are a great fit for veterans. As just one example, I attended and graduated from both Norwalk (CT) Community College and Hofstra University in New York. These schools are nowhere to be found on the list, however I can personally vouch for the efforts of both institutions to assist me and my fellow student veterans during my time on their campuses.
In the end, student vets should take the list for what it is: good guidance on schools that may, or may not, be on their target list and how those schools tend to work out for veterans. But remember, your school not being on the list isn’t necessarily an indictment of their ability to take care of vets who attend their school.
To find a school that is the right fit, consult the list — but also consider finding a fellow veteran who went there and whether there’s a Student Veterans of America chapter on campus that can provide further guidance.