Are you an active duty servicemember or veteran who is considering continuing your education? Good news! Increasingly more colleges and universities are establishing programs and policies designed to help military and vets afford tuition, succeed academically and complete their degrees.
The Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 list is out and ranks the top schools that support active duty military and veterans. Schools were evaluated based on their answers to a 150-question survey as well information gathered by three federal agencies. Listed below are the five 4-year colleges that received the highest rankings. Whether you already have some college credits under your belt or are just getting started, these schools welcome military-affiliated students and are great places to pursue your higher education.
University of South Florida (USF)
Ranked the number one 4-year college for vets in the nation, the University of South Florida is committed to helping former military reach their goals. This Tampa-based school has an Office of Veteran Success which tracks the academic performance of vet students. If a student’s grades start to drop, they must visit the office for extra help and counseling, or else they will not be permitted to register for new classes. The office also assists with the servicemember-to-civilian transition process providing mentoring, career counseling, employment assistance, and help with accessing VA benefits and health services. A Vet to Vet Sponsorship program provides “veteran buddies” to support new veteran students during their adjustment to school.
In addition, the University of South Florida created a Pathways Program, which gives students information and instructions on how to apply for admission and how to use their GI Bill benefits. USF is also a participant in the Yellow Ribbon Program which allows degree-seeking out-of-state student veterans to pay in-state tuition.
Taking second place in the rankings is Rutgers University with New Jersey campuses in New Brunswick, Camden and Newark. This public university has an Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services which, according to its website, “is dedicated to ensuring a smooth transition and supportive environment for our students who have served in the United States Armed Forces, and their families, throughout their college careers.” Most of the people working at this office are former military. Among the resources available to student veterans are academic advisement and disability services.
The school also offers the Mini-MBATM which is a special business management program especially for military and veterans. In the program, veterans, transitioning military personnel and civilian employers come together so that all participants understand how the skills and knowledge gained through military training can be applied to the civilian workforce.
Servicemembers stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst can take advantage of a partnership program with the Rutgers-Camden campus. This gives active duty servicemembers an opportunity to pursue their education close to their home.
Rutgers is a Yellow Ribbon school and is also a part of the Service Members Opportunity Colleges (SOC) consortium which helps military students complete their degrees even when they have to move among duty stations.
In 1944, Syracuse University in upstate New York helped create the original G.I. Bill and the school’s legacy of supporting the military continues today. Its Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) is, according to its website, “higher education’s first interdisciplinary academic institute, singularly focused on advancing the lives of the nation’s military veterans and their families.” In 2015, more than 32,000 veterans, service members and military spouses participated in IVMP career preparation, entrepreneurship, and employment programs such as Onward to Opportunity, Veterans Career Transition Program, VetNet, Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, and many others.
Syracuse also has an Office of Veteran and Military Affairs that is dedicated to supporting and empowering the university’s military-connected students and veteran employees. The school is also home to the Defense Comptroller Program, the DoD’s School of Military Photo-Journalism and the National Security Studies Program.
This Yellow Ribbon school is taking its support of the military to an even higher level. It is in the process of establishing the National Veterans Resource Complex (NVRC) – the first facility of its kind in the United States. Set to open in the near future, the NVRC’s mission is to be “a class-leading exemplar of academic, government, and community collaboration – dedicated to advancing academic research, actionable programs, and community-connected innovation in service to the nation’s veterans and military-connected families.”
Coming in 4th in the Best for Vets ranking is Armstrong State University. This Savannah, Georgia school offers many benefits to active duty military, veterans, military spouses and their families including fee waivers, special scholarship opportunities, and credit for military training. It participates in the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, VA Vocation Rehabilitation, VA Work-Study Program and the Yellow Ribbon program.
Vets who are unsure about their VA benefits can turn to Armstrong State University’s Military Outreach Center where you can speak with a veterans affairs specialist who will help you take advantage of any available benefits. The school also provides a Military-Affiliated Student Lounge which is a designated space for veterans and military students, including those from nearby Hunter Army Air Field and Ft. Stewart, to network, study and relax.
Students who are transitioning from military to civilian life are given additional support through the Veterans Services Office. This office helps students with financial advisement, counseling, legal aid, VA claims assistance and more.
D’Youville College in western New York is frequently recognized for its dedication to veterans and the military-aligned student community.
The Yellow Ribbon institution has a dedicated Veterans Affairs Office which helps veterans and dependents secure any available benefits such as a Veteran Waiver Grant, the Montgomery GI Selected Reserve program, Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits, The Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty program, Veteran Tuition Awards, and Vocation Rehabilitation and Employment services. Run by a Vietnam Era Combat Veteran, the office also provides academic advisement, tutoring and mentoring by student veteran peers, counseling and more. There is even a student veteran lounge with Skype-equipped computers to help veterans connect with their military friends who may still be serving overseas.
Military who become deployed while enrolled in D’Youville College can take advantage of a generous leave of absence policy. If you receive orders, the school will work with you to plan your degree program and adjust your course schedule.
Today there are many higher education institutions that understand the unique needs of veteran and active duty military students. Financial assistance, flexible scheduling, and a variety of supportive programs and services, are making it more and more possible for military-affiliated students to continue their education.