Best Colleges for Veterans Methodology

This article will outline the College Factual Best Colleges for Veterans Rankings, the goal of which is to help veterans and active duty service members to identify colleges that are likely to be supportive of them and their unique needs. To accomplish this, we look at 19 different factors across the following areas of excellence.

  • Veteran Affordability
  • Veteran Population
  • Veteran Flexibility
  • Veteran Policies
  • Veteran Resources
  • Overall College Quality

You can read our summary of what makes these rankings different, or you can read on to learn about how we created them.

Factors We Consider in the Ranking

Veteran Affordability

The Post 9/11 GI Bill provides some generous education benefits, but that doesn't mean it covers the full cost of all colleges.  Cost is an important consideration to veterans and their families, so we look at a number of factors to help determine how affordable a college is to a veteran.  We differ considerably from other rankings in our calculations in that we try to calculate the actual cost to veterans after not just GI Bill benefits, but also considering residency status, full/part time status and yellow ribbon benefits.  Furthermore, we look not just at whether or not a college falls above or below the benefit cap/maximum but instead look at how much they fall above or below it as there are often wide variances among schools.

  • Housing Costs Covered? - We calculate the percentage of the colleges reported estimated room and board expenses that are covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill Housing Allowance benefit.
  • Veteran Tuition and Fees Covered? - We calculate the percentage of tuition and fees that are covered by both basic GI Bill Benefits as well as Yellow Ribbon Program benefits.  We do this for both in-state and out-of-state students.  For out-of-state students we factor in whether or not the school is a public college in a state that allows non-resident veterans to pay in-state tuition.
  • Active Duty Tuition Covered? - We calculate the percentage of the per credit cost at the college that is covered by the active duty Tuition Assistance program (TA) cap for both in-state and out-of-state (non-resident) students. For out-of-state students we factor in whether or not the school is a public college in a state that allows non-resident veterans to pay in-state tuition.

Veteran Population

A college with a very small veteran population is not likely to invest as much in serving that group.  As the size of the veteran population at a college increases, the amount of resources and services available to veterans tend to also increase.  A large veteran population also increases the odds that faculty members will be familiar with dealing with veterans and that, as a veteran, you will be surrounded by like minded students you can better relate to.

  • Size of Veteran Population - To determine this we look at the number of GI Bill recipients at the school as reported by the VA.
  • Percentage of Veteran Population - What percentage of the school is made up of veterans (GI Bill recipients).  The larger the percentage the more that school focuses on serving veterans.  This metric also helps to make sure that schools with smaller overall populations that do focus on serving veterans get credit (something that would not occur if only the raw number of veterans at a school were considered).
  • Existence of ROTC - Having a ROTC presence on campus is small sign that a college is military friendly and that there will be greater acceptance and understanding of current and former service members on campus.

Veteran Flexibility

Veterans and active duty service members often need more flexibility than the average student in order to succeed in college.  Much of that flexibility is a function of the colleges policies (see next section), but there are some specific elements that we have called out that help to provide the flexibility many students need.

  • Accepts American Council on Education (ACE) College Credit Recommendations - ACE is the leading organization that makes recommendations for college credit based on training received while in the military.  A college that has committed to accepting their recommendations is more likely to grant credit for military training and thus reduce the credits required for a veteran to graduate with a degree.
  • Percentage of Students taking Online Classes - As much as 80% of active duty service members take their classes online and a large number of veterans prefer that format of classes as well.  The more available a college makes distance learning options to its students the better. For an indicator of this we calculate the % of undergrad students that take at least one class online.  While not a perfect indicator, the more students that take some level of online classes at the school the more likely the school is to better support such options.

Veteran Policies

There are several government agencies that have published guidelines on how colleges can better serve our current and former military personnel.   Colleges may sign a document committing them to adopt these recommended policies to support our veterans and active duty service members.  With adoption of any one of these policies usually comes a large collection of policies to help veterans succeed, ranging from generous acceptance of credits from prior education or life experiences to fair payment and withdrawal policies.  For more details on what this means to you we encourage you to take a look at the "Veteran Support" profile in the "Student Life" section of each college you are considering (see example).

Membership in each of the organizations below earns a college points toward our ranking:

A college that has committed to following the standards set forth by the above organizations has committed to better serving members of our military.  If you are a student at a college that has claimed to follow these standards and doesn't, we encourage you to submit a complaint to the VA GI Bill Feedback System for veterans or to the DOD Postsecondary Education Complaint System for active duty service members.

Veteran Resources

Colleges committed to serving veterans don't just change their policies to accommodate veterans, they go beyond that by providing actual resources for them.

  • Veterans Office - An office at the college that is dedicated to assisting veterans is an important resource at a college and those that have one stand above those that don't.  We are still working on completing our list of colleges and their veterans offices.  If we missed your college we apologize.  Please let us know by contacting us and we will happily correct that.
  • Student Veterans of America Chapter - This student (veteran) run organization has a chapter on well over 900 college campuses nationwide and can be a great resource for veterans to get together and help one another.
  • VetSuccess On Campus (VCOC) - This somewhat new and expanding program from the VA helps veterans on some campuses "through a coordinated delivery of on-campus benefits assistance and counselingleading to completion of their education and preparing them to enter the labor market in viable careers" [1].

Overall College Quality

Many other veteran rankings look only at veteran specific factors, ignoring whether or not the quality of the actual education a student will receive is a good one.   We do not agree with this approach and instead include a factor that gauges the overall quality of the school as a whole.  To accomplish this, we rely on our Best Colleges Rankings.

You can learn more about the methodology behind these rankings by clicking here.

Calculating the Ranking

The sections above describe the factors we use.  The following section gives a summary of these factors.

FactorImportanceRanking Metric Used

Veteran Affordability

Housing Allowance Covered?Med% of room and board costs covered

% of Full-Time In-State Costs CoveredMed% of costs covered by full Post 9-11 G.I. Bill benefits for full-time in-state students

% of Full-Time Out-Of-State Costs CoveredLow% of costs covered by full Post 9-11 G.I. Bill benefits for full-time out-of-state students

% of Part-Time In-State Costs CoveredLow% of costs covered by full Post 9-11 G.I. Bill benefits for part-time in-state students

% of Part-Time Out-Of-State Costs CoveredLow% of costs covered by full Post 9-11 G.I. Bill benefits for part-time out-of-state students

Veteran Population

Number of VeteransMedNumber of GI Bill recipients at the school

% of VeteransLow% of student population made up by GI Bill recipients

Army ROTC?LowWhether or not school has Army ROTC

Navy ROTC?LowWhether or not school has Navy ROTC

Air Force ROTC?LowWhether or not school has Air Force ROTC

Veteran Flexibility

Accepts ACE Credits?HighWhether or not the school follows ACE credit acceptance guidelines

Percentage Distance LearnersLow% of undergrad students taking at least one online class

Veteran Policies

Principles of Excellence?MedWhether or not school is Principles of Excellence college

SOC Member?LowWhether or not school is Servicemembers Opportunity College member.

DOD MOU?LowWhether or not school signed Department of Defense Memorandum of Understanding.

Veteran Resources

Veterans Office?MedWhether or not school has a dedicated veterans office

SVA Chapter?MedWhether or not school has a Student Veterans of America chapter

VetSuccess on Campus?LowWhether or not school participates in VetSuccess on Campus program.

Overall College Quality

Best Colleges RankingHighThe rank of the college in the College Factual Best Colleges ranking, which indicates overall college quality.