Best Colleges for Veterans

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Best Colleges for Veterans Badge

America’s veterans have fought for freedom across the globe, getting sent to armed conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, as well as to more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Even veterans who don’t see direct combat can be sent to far-off bases or military installations in Qatar, Germany, Kosovo or Israel, all at a moments notice.

But as difficult as their tours of duty can be, there is also a challenge facing them once they return home. When your everyday struggles switch from 5 am P.T. sessions and emergency preparedness drills to grocery trips and homework assignments, the disconnect between military and civilian life becomes far more clear.

This is especially true for student veterans, who face the dual challenge of transitioning out of military life and transitioning into academic life. There are entire books written about the difficulties facing kids leaving for college and offering countless tools and remedies for these woes, and very few of these books start with, “Once you leave Afghanistan…”

And so because veterans face such a unique set of challenges when starting up their academic careers, it’s important that the school veterans attend have the proper resources and support systems to make this transition as easy as possible. Veterans are well-trained and capable problem solvers, but they’re also used to working as a team: finding the right team of student veteran supports can be integral to these students’ academic experiences.

Many colleges offer supplementary scholarships through programs such as the Yellow Ribbon Fund, as well as Veteran-specific spaces complete with TVs and even pool tables, where vets can simply hang out, meet or even study. But overall what the most successful schools do is setup a vet-friendly culture at their school, which only happens through a holistic approach that engages the administrators, the student body, veterans, service members, and of course their families.

Sometimes this means slathering on the BBQ sauce at a welcome meeting for vets before the semester starts, other times it is simply engaging local VA hospitals or Veterans groups to help breed vet-friendliness into the broader campus culture. Each school has its own unique way of doing things, but at the end of the day the only thing that matters is that the school’s student veterans believe that they are part of a broader, campus team, and that the school does in fact have their six.

Of course, many veterans are trying to hold down a job and support a family, so a residential college program might not be ideal. In that case, they should take a look at College Choice’s ranking of the Best Online Colleges and Universities, where they can learn about the very best flexible, online program available.

What Are the Best Colleges for Veterans?

College Choice looks at a number of factors including institutional excellence, student satisfaction, and return on investment to develop rankings. Institutional excellence combines statistics such as graduation rates, student-to-faculty ratios, and endowment sizes to judge each school’s ability provide an excellent education for each student. Student satisfaction measures how happy current and former students felt with the programs and services offered by their school. And finally return on investment looks at the financial benefits students are likely to receive from their education, weighted against the costs of attending. In the end, we believe these schools represent the 50 Best College for Veterans.

  1. University of South Florida
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of South Florida is a large, public university located in Tampa, FL. South Florida has around 50,000 students, more than 2,000 of whom are veterans. The Office of Veteran Success, located on the school’s main campus, employs student veterans who assist fellow veterans with anything they may need. The success of the office has resulted in USF being rated the #1 four year college for veterans by Military Times EDGE magazine in their “Best for Vets: Colleges 2017” ranking.  One of these successes includes when USF helped to create the first ever VetSuccess program with the VA in May of 2009, helping to recognize their mutual responsibility to helping veterans transition into college life and the civilian workforce.

    Academic Offerings

    USF has 14 different colleges, which combine to offer more than 180 different undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs. There is an honors college for high-achieving students, as well as the Innovation Education program, which encourages continuing education through certificates, distance and online learning, workforce development learning and other supplementary educational programs.

    Undergraduates at USF pursue a diverse cross-section of majors, but most commonly students will end up in programs focusing on:

    • Biomedical Sciences
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • Business
    • Criminology

    Masters degrees are available in a wide range of subjects, as well as professional degrees in areas such as medicine, pharmacy, physician assistance, and physical therapy.

    Notables

    As part of the VetSuccess program that it helped to create, South Florida is able to staff a full-time Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor on-campus, as well as a part-time VetCenter counselor there to provide counseling services to qualifying veterans and dependents. USF boats an 83% retention rate and 68% graduation rate for its veteran students, which showcases their ability to support students in the tough transition from the military back to school. The Veteran Achievement Center (VAC) is a space located on campus that is intended to help veterans connect with one another socially and to find academic support, and including furnishings ranging from standardized test guides to longue chairs and a 60” plasma TV. USF offers a “Strategy for VetSuccess” class specifically for veterans, which fulfills a dual objective of providing student veterans with knowledge on pertinent university and VA topics, as well as the practical application of that knowledge through unique in-class experiences.

  2. Rutgers University-Camden
    Location

    Camden, NJ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Rutgers University-Camden is one of the regional campuses of the Rutgers University system. It is a public research university located in Camden, NJ, and maintains an academic staff of around 254 professors, who teach a population of around 6,000 students. Camden has a Veterans Services office, which helps student veterans to connect with one another, as well as to apply for and coordinate the benefits that they are entitled to at the university.

    Academics

    Rutgers University-Camden consists of five separate undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, including the College of Arts and Sciences, University College, Graduate College, Rutgers School of Business, and the School of Law. The College of Arts and Sciences also offers a highly selective Honors College for high achieving undergraduate students, and which offers challenging academic programs including seminars, junior and senior years projects, and extra curricular activities. Undergraduate students have a large number of degree options to choose from, but many students choose to pursue:

    • Nursing
    • Business Administration
    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Accounting

    Graduate degrees offered include 3-year and 4-year JD programs, MBA, PMBA, and PMAc degrees from the school or business, as well as nursing degrees from the Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden.

    Notables

    Every few years, Rutgers-Camden hosts the Jeremy Kane Memorial 5K Run, which serves to honor Jeremy Kane, a Marine reservist who was enrolled as a student at Camden before being killed in action on January 23, 2010. Funds raised during the run go to fund the Jeremy Kane Memorial Scholarship, which goes directly to a number of student veterans each year. In 2014, four veterans each received $750 awards from the scholarship fund.

  3. Stockton University
    Location

    Galloway, NJ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Stockton University is a public undergraduate and graduate university located in Galloway, New Jersey. Around 8,000 students attend the school each year, and there are around 300 academic staff members working at the university. Veterans’ affairs at the school are organized through the Office of Military & Veterans Services, which was created in January of 2009. The office offers a wide range of support services and seeks to connect veterans through Stockton’s Student Veterans Organization.

    Academics

    Stockton’s academic faculty and programs have been recognized by organizations such as The National Science Foundation, the Pulitzer Prize committee, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning. Stockton offers traditional undergraduate programs, as well as graduate studies and continuing learning programs. Popular undergraduate offerings include:

    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Health Professions and Related Programs

    In addition to its undergraduate offerings, Stockton has popular graduate programs in pursuit of:

    • M.S. in Nursing
    • M.A. in Education
    • MBA

    Stockton also offers less traditional graduate studies programs in subjects such as American Studies, Holocaust & Genocide Studies, and an M.S. in Social Work.

    Notables

    The Student Veteran Organization is a student group on campus that, according to its webpage, “is a unified body of diverse individuals who are able to communicate and share experiences which are needed to provide a foundation of support.” They also specifically emphasize the importance of their support network in the difficult process of transitioning from military to civilian/academic life. Members meet on the first & third Thursday of each month, as well as during special events sponsored by the organization.

  4. San Diego State University
    Location

    San Diego, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    San Diego State University is a public research university located in San Diego, CA: it is both the largest and the oldest institution of higher education in San Diego county.  In the early 2000s, SDSU maintained a “Walk-Up Window” for veterans in the Registrar’s office, but in July 2008 the growing student veteran population helped to found and open the school’s Veterans Center, which was the first Veterans Center in the California State University System. Just over 9 years later, the office itself has grown to an area of more than 4,000 square feet, with over 20 VA work study students working for and with their fellow veterans.

    Academics

    San Diego State has a large number of both graduate and undergraduate programs available for students, divided within schools such as the Fowler College of Business, the Weber Honors College, the College of Professional Studies & Fine Arts, and the College of Education, among others. SDSU also has schools of accountancy and hospitality/tourism management, as well as smaller, focused schools with specialties in subjects such Exercise and Nutritional Science, Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, and Theatre, Television, and Film. Among these options, the most popular for undergraduates tend to be:

    • Business Management
    • Marketing
    • Health Professions and Related Programs
    • Psychology
    • Engineering

    Its large swath of colleges and schools also allows SDSU to offer a wide range of graduate degrees, including:

    • Master’s in Fine Arts in Studio Art
    • Master’s in Arts in Anthropology
    • Master’s in Arts in Political Science
    • Doctorates in  Chemistry, Engineering, Public Health, and Geophysics

    Notables

    SDSU offers a number of programs and rewards aimed at supporting its veteran population, including offering course credit for completion of basic training. On campus, there is a war memorial etched with the names of 239 former SDSU students killed in action during World War II, as well as the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. There is a Student Veterans house on campus, where veterans, active duty and reservists, spouses and dependents can all congregate for food, activities, napping or even networking. The house also hosts a number of workshops, meetings, and events relating to veterans’ issues throughout the year.

  5. Lewis University
    Location

    Romeoville, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    San Diego State University is a public research university located in San Diego, CA: it is both the largest and the oldest institution of higher education in San Diego county.  In the early 2000s, SDSU maintained a “Walk-Up Window” for veterans in the Registrar’s office, but in July 2008 the growing student veteran population helped to found and open the school’s Veterans Center, which was the first Veterans Center in the California State University System. Just over 9 years later, the office itself has grown to an area of more than 4,000 square feet, with over 20 VA work study students working for and with their fellow veterans.

    Overview

    Lewis University is a private university located in Romeoville, Illinois, which offers both undergraduate and graduate programs for its 6,800 students. The school has an association with both the Roman Catholic tradition, as well as with the Brothers of the Christian Schools, also known as the Lasallian Brothers. Veterans do not have to pay application fees to apply to Lewis, and neither do Service Members’ families. Veterans access benefits through the Office of Veterans Affairs and Recruitment, which operates on campus to support and assist veterans with whatever needs they may have.

    Academics

    Lewis University’s academics are divided into five colleges: Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Nursing and Health Professions, and the School for Continuing and Professional Education.  Lewis offers more than 80 undergraduate majors, which includes options for Air Force ROTC through the Aerospace Studies program and the Army ROTC through the Military Studies program. Outside of these areas, students at Lewis also tend to take an interest in:

    • Nursing
    • Criminal Justice
    • Business
    • Aviation/Airway Management
    • Psychology

    Lewis also offers graduate degrees through each of its four main colleges, a small sample of which would be:

    • M.S. in Chemical Physics (Arts & Sciences)
    • M.A. in Educational Leadership (Education)
    • M.B.A. (Business)
    • M.S.N. (Nursing)

    Notables

    Lewis University has received accolades as a military friendly school from publications such as Military Timesand GI Jobs, as well as from organizations such as Student Veterans of America and Vet Ally. The Office of Veteran Affairs and Recruitment office offers the Military Education and Resource center as a welcoming atmosphere designed to deliver textual, virtual, and human resources to veterans and their families. Lewis University is a global educational partner with the Department of Defense, and works to provide high-quality, affordable education throughout the world: Lewis offers active-duty service members reduced tuition rates, which combined with tuition assistance can significantly lower the cost of their Lewis education.

  6. Texas A & M University-College Station
    Location

    College Station, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Texas A&M University is a coeducational public university located in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M has one of the largest student bodies in the United States, with just over 60,000 total students. Texas A&M was originally founded as a military academy in 1876, and proudly claims to have served student veterans since 1919. Veteran’s services are run through the Veterans Services Office, which helps serve a veteran population of more than 3,800 student veterans, reservists, active duty military and dependents. Texas A&M has even had eight Medal of Honor winners as former students.

    Academics

    The large student body at A&M and the school’s sizeable endowment have helped to create a massive number of colleges and degree programs which students may pursue at College Station. Texas A&M has 19 colleges and schools, which offer a total of 130 undergraduate degrees, as well as 268 graduate and professional degree options for study. While its hard to narrow down such a large group, some of the most common majors chosen by Aggie students tend to be:

    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Agriculture
    • Biology

    College Station also offers graduate programs through 15 colleges and locations, including its campuses in Galveston and Qatar. Graduate students can pursue courses of study in law, engineering, geosciences, business, education, agriculture, architecture, and of course public policy/government at the Bush School of Government and Public Service (named for the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush).

    Notables

    Veterans services are offered through three main sources, starting with the TAMU Veterans Resources website, which is the school’s online resources and includes links to veterans resources on campus. The Military Admissions Office is specifically devoted to helping veterans and their dependents gain admission to Texas A&M. And finally the Veteran Resource & Support Center is a welcoming space on campus for student veterans, who are looking for either in-person advice on how to access benefits or who simply wish to connect with other veterans or service members on campus. There are also workshops and social events offered at the VRSC throughout the academic year. There are also awards given out for Student Veterans of the Month, Student Veteran of the Year, and Student Veteran Supporter of the Year.

  7. Eastern Kentucky University
    Location

    Richmond, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Eastern Kentucky University is a regional, comprehensive university located in Richmond, KY: around 16,000 students attend EKU annually, and there are around 700 academic faculty members employed there. Eastern Kentucky has the Office of Military and Veteran Affairs to help veterans access their benefits and to structure the transition from military to academic life. For four out of the past five years, EKU has been ranked in the top three Best for Vets colleges in the nation by Military Times. GI Jobs Magazine has also ranked EKU as a top military-friendly university on six separate occasions.

    Academics

    EKU has six colleges on campus: Business and Technology, Education, Health Sciences, Justice and Safety, Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences. Undergraduate students may pursue a wide range of studies, ranging from Aviation and African-American studies to Police Studies and German Studies. Military-associated students might be interested in majors such as Globalization and International Affairs and Veterans Studies, as well as the Military Leadership minor. Some of the most popular majors at EKU include:

    • Homeland Security
    • Law Enforcement
    • Health Professions and Related Programs
    • Business
    • Education

    There are also a large number of Masters degree programs available at Eastern Kentucky, including programs in Chemistry, Creative Writing, Criminology, and Music.

    Notables

    In 2010, Eastern Kentucky University began Operation Veteran Success, which involved a series of initiatives to make their campus more friendly and helpful to campus. Some of the most successful portions of this campaign have been their elimination of admission fees for undergraduate veterans or dependents, as well as the in-state-tuition for all out-of-state veterans nationwide. EKU also created an orientation course specifically for veterans, so that veterans know what support systems they have for making the transition back into civilian, student life. Veterans also receive priority registration, book vouchers and access to the Books for Boots exchange library; there are also active Vets club and Vet-2-Vet sponsorship program chapters at East Kentucky.

  8. Florida State University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Florida State University is a public research university located in Tallahassee, FL. FSU is the oldest, continuous institute of higher learning in the state of Florida, having been founded in 1851. More than 40,000 students attend Florida State annually, and of those students many thousand are veterans or active-duty service members. To respond to the needs of this large population, Florida State runs the Student Veterans Center, which helps veterans through each step of their FSU education, from the admissions process all the way through post-graduation networking and career searching.

    Academics

    Florida State offers degrees and programs through 16 colleges and more than 110 centers, labs, facilities, and institutes. The school offers more than 129 undergraduate majors and 231 graduate degrees, in areas including traditional options such as education, medicine, and business, as well as more unique options in fields like physician assistance, dance, and hospitality. A large number or Florida State undergraduates tend to major in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Psychology
    • English language/literature

    FSU offers graduate programs including business, classics, accounting, communication, history, finance, and many others. There are also professional degree programs in law, medicine, social work, nursing, and business administration. Florida State also offers doctoral programs, in a range similarly diverse to its graduate programs.

    Notables

    In addition to the Student Veterans Center, Florida State has also organized the Florida State University Veterans Alliance, which connects FSU resources for veterans into a centralized hub, so that each veteran can more easily pursue the benefits and resources that best fit their own, personal needs. The Alliance is comprised of the SVC, the Collegiate Veterans Association, the Veterans Student Union, Veterans Alumni Society, Students for America’s Military, Veteran’s Liaisons, Operation Family Caregiver, an Entrepreneurship Boot camp for Veterans with Disabilities, and the Veteran Friends and Family Group. In addition to these resources, the Veterans Alliance also incorporates veteran-centered research in psychology, engineering, and medicine, as well as scholarships for veterans throughout a diverse range of disciplines.

  9. California State University-San Bernardino
    Location

    San Bernardino, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    California State University- San Bernardino is a public university located in San Bernardino, CA, and has an enrollment of 21,000 students. US Veterans Magazine, The Military Times, and Military Friendly have all recognized CSUSB as one of the best colleges for veterans in the country. The Veterans Services Center, of VSC, veterans are provided with the support, resources, and information needed to make their journey successful. As part of their introduction for veterans, San Bernardino offers a CSUSB Veterans Success Center Handbook on their website, so that veterans know exactly how to begin accessing the services and benefits available to them on campus.

    Academics

    San Bernardino offers academic programs through six different colleges: Arts and Letters, Business and Public Administration, Education, Natural Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Extended Learning. San Bernardino is the only CSU campus that offers programs in Arabic Language and Islamic history. They also have a Center for Developmental Disabilities, which has a clinical training program for students looking to provide supports for autistic children, their parents, and siblings.

    Popular majors at Cal State SB include:

    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Law Enforcement, Firefighting, and Related Services
    • Health Professions and Related Programs

    CSUSB also offers more than 40 masters programs, including traditional English and Social Science programs, as well as innovative programs in Entrepreneurship and Creative Writing.

    Notables

    The VSC offers a Veterans Support Group every Tuesday evening, where veterans can connect with one another, discuss issues they may be having relating to their academic experiences, and organize resources to help counteract some of those problems (many vets also simply enjoy the social aspect of hanging with other veterans). Every semester, the VSC organizes a resource fair, where all of the resources available to veterans are brought together into one location. The Student Veterans Organization on campus is a community organization that attempts to provide social connections for veterans and to aid veterans, service members, and their families in their academic and career pursuits. The SVO does this primarily through volunteering, at events such as the Fontana High School JROTC Drill Meet or the Marine Corps Ball.

  10. Colorado State University-Fort Collins
    Location

    Fort Collins, CO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Colorado State University is a public university located in Fort Collins, CO: of the 38,000 students who attend the school, more than 2,000 are either veterans or active-duty service members. The Military Times ranked CSU fourth in the nation in its annual “Best for Vets” ranking in 2017. CSU boasts a 64.5% six-year graduation rate for student-veterans, which puts it in the top tier of schools nationwide in this category. Colorado State also offers the Dave and Gail Liniger Student-Veteran Scholarship program, which helps to bridge the gap between how much of a veterans’ education is paid for by the GI Bill and the real cost of attending school.

    Academics

    Colorado State University-Fort Collins hosts eight schools on its campus: Agricultural Sciences, Health and Human Services, Business, Engineering, Liberal Arts, the Warner College of Natural Resources, the College of Natural Sciences, and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Fort Collins also offers online degree programs, including a Bachelor’s in Economics and a Master of Business Administration. In terms of on-campus students however, the most popular courses of study are:

    • Business
    • Biology
    • Engineering

    Graduate programs are also offered in a wide range of subjects, including psychology, fish, wildlife, and conservation biology, statistics, chemistry, and many others.

    Notables

    The Dave and Gail Liniger Student-Veteran Scholarship is awarded to over 300 student veterans, so that as many students as possible have excess to an education at CSU. The Colorado State Business School was also rated by The Military Times as one of the Best Business Schools for Vets in 2016. CSU has a connection with the SALUTE Veterans National Honor Society, which is the only group in the country committed to recognizing both the service and the academic achievements of student veterans. There is also a Student Veteran’s Organization on campus, which serves as a welcoming body of like-minded people whose personal and academic successes are top priorities. This year the SVO is hosting Operation Bear Hug, which aims to raise awareness of the high rate of suicide amongst veterans.

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