By BVS Staff
As the United States nears two decades of non-stop global conflict, approximately 1.3 million men and women serve the U.S. military each year. Many of these active-duty service members, along with a large percentage of the 21.8 million living veterans, have put off attending college until after honorable discharge, or at least until they have served multiple tours. Fortunately, the United States has a number of programs in place to assist these military students, including the Yellow Ribbon Program, which reduces the out-of-pocket tuition costs for anyone who enlisted after 9/11.
But many military students and veterans are in need of more than just government-backed tuition breaks. Health services, scholarships, flexible academic schedules, and a supportive, pro-military on-campus culture are just a few of the extra things that make a college a good choice for any military-affiliated student.
The schools on this list represent the 30 best military-friendly colleges in the United States. While we’d agree there are certainly more than 30 colleges at which a veteran or active-duty military student would find success and support, we created this list based on the following methodology:
Four-Year College: First, we only considered four-year colleges and universities. While community colleges and technical schools can be an excellent choice for some, we ultimately concluded those belong on a different list.
Financial Opportunities: We searched specifically for schools which (a) have a strong relationship with Veterans Affairs and other government groups which deal with the Yellow Ribbon Program and other financial benefits for military, and (b) have additional financial opportunities for military students and/or offer military-only scholarships and grants.
Academic Flexibility: Whether active duty or a veteran, many military students need academic flexibility. Keeping this in mind, we looked for schools with such offerings as self-paced programs (either online or on campus) and academic credit for active duty and/or training.
Health Services: Military students often need more than just academic support, and the schools on this list all have some type of service that caters to the emotional needs of vets and active-duty military students. While these services often come in the form of counseling, they also include veteran student organizations.
General On-Campus Respect for Military: Finally, additional financial opportunities, academic flexibility, and available health services don’t mean as much if the campus does not enjoy a certain level of respect for the military. Therefore, we carefully chose schools that have proven themselves to be a good environment for military students.
Armstrong State University
With only around 7,000 students, Armstrong State University may be on the smaller side, but that hasn’t stopped it from being widely recognized as one of the best military-friendly colleges. In fact, Military Times ranked it the fourth best college in the country for veterans, citing Armstrong’s top-notch Veterans Affairs Office and Military Resource Center. Veteran students can receive academic credit for their military training, and the school’s affiliation with the Yellow Ribbon Fund ensures plenty of financial opportunities. Additionally, Armstrong is home to the Armstrong Green Zone, a groundbreaking program which specially trains the university’s faculty and staff to further assist veterans and other military-affiliated students with anything they may need as they transition from the military life to the academic life.
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, Ohio
It should come as no surprise that Military Times calls Bowling Green State University the very best college in Ohio for military students. The university has an easy, streamlined process for all incoming military students, and is uniquely set up for those who are still actively serving or who are in a military reserve unit. This process includes allowing options such as easily withdrawing from a class, or finishing requirements for a class on an accelerated schedule. A Veterans Affairs clinic is located near the campus for the convenience of the university’s many veterans, while the university itself has a strong working relationship with both the Ohio Veterans Services and the United States Department of Veterans Services.
California State University — San Bernardino
San Bernardino, California
We aren’t the only ones who recognize CSU San Bernardino as one of the best military-friendly colleges; US Veterans Magazine, The Military Times, and Military Friendly have all included this state university on their lists of the best schools for veterans, too. Upon enrolling, military students and veterans are given a useful handbook which details all of the services available to them. These services include Tuesday evening Veterans Support Groups, a veterans resource fair, and various volunteer opportunities specifically for veterans.
Colorado State University Global Campus
Greenwood Village, Colorado
Of the Colorado State University system’s 38,000 students, just over 2,000 are active-duty military or veterans. And with many of those military students choosing to pursue their degrees via the university’s accredited online program, it’s no wonder Colorado State University—Global Campus is one of the best military-friendly colleges in the country. Nearly 65% of student veterans graduate with a degree within six years, giving CSU—Global Campus one of the best graduation rates for vets. This is partly due to the university’s association with the SALUTE Veterans National Honor Society, a national organization dedicated to seeing veterans succeed academically. Additionally, each year CSU—Global Campus awards more than 300 veteran students with the Dave and Gail Liniger Student-Veteran Scholarship, a fantastic additional resource to help pay for school.
Drexel University is becoming the chosen university of more and more veterans and military students. Indeed, according to Drexel’s Office of Veteran Student Services, upwards of 800 veterans and military dependents choose Drexel each year. As Drexel students, they have access to a number of on-campus pro-military organizations and events, including the Yellow Ribbon Fund, the Drexel Veterans Association, the Drexel Veterans Task Force, the Drexel Veterans Alumni Network, and the annual Veterans Day Tribute, among others. Drexel has three campuses located in Philadelphia.
Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University boasts an extremely successful Operation Veteran Success, which has taken on a series of initiatives that have made the school one of the most military-friendly colleges in the country according to such publications as Military Times and GI Jobs. These initiatives include waived application fees, lower in-state tuition for all veterans, priority registration, access to the Books for Boots textbook exchange program, on-campus veteran clubs, and a specialized orientation specifically to assist veterans in their transition to academic life.
Florida State University
Military students and veterans at Florida State University have access to the Student Veterans Center, a specialized department trained to help with everything from admissions through the post-graduation career search. Additionally, FSU boasts a Veterans Alliance, which acts as a sort of centralized resource for veterans. Through the Alliance, veterans have access to health resources as well as scholarships. The Alliance is also composed of a range of other helpful services, including Veteran’s Liaisons, the Collegiate Veterans Association, Students for America’s Military, the Veterans Student Union, Veterans Alumni Society, Operation Family Caregiver, Veterans with Disabilities, and the Veteran Friends and Family Group, among others.
New York, New York
Fordham University is a private Jesuit university with a strong reputation for being military friendly. The Fordham University Veterans Initiative helps military students with all support relating to finances and academics, while other campus programs exist to advise military students with flexible schedules, internships, and even yoga classes. Finally, though there is a national cap on VA benefits, Fordham, a supporter of the Yellow Ribbon Fund, has increased its commitment to cover all tuition for any veteran serving after 9/11.
Fort Hays State University
Fort Hays State University has a military background itself; it was founded in 1902 on land that was once a military outpost. Thus, perhaps it’s not so surprising that it’s included on our list of the 30 best military friendly colleges. Of course, the real reason we’ve included it has less to do with the history of its land, and more to do with the fact that has a long list of programs designed to help its military students succeed. Besides offering several scholarships and financial programs aimed specifically at members of the military, Fort Hays State University participates in 8 Keys to Veteran Success, a national program that supports veterans and their families as they transition back into the real world and towards a career. For active-duty students, the university boasts an impressive selection of more than 50 online degree programs that can be customized to the student’s time and interests.
Lewis University is a Roman Catholic college of about 6,800 students. Military Times, GI Jobs, Student Veterans of America and Vet Ally have all listed Lewis among their best colleges for military students, and it’s not hard to see why. Military students and their families are not required to pay application fees to the university, and once enrolled have access to the school’s Military Education and Resource Center. Active duty military members have the added benefit of a reduced tuition rate.
Northern Arizona University
With more than 100 degree programs, the vast majority of which are also available online, Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona is almost certain to have any program for which a military student may be looking. For first-time students, the university hosts a Student Veterans Success Orientation, while once on campus, students have access to the helpful Veterans Success Center. In terms of tuition, the university offers lots of options, including tuition deferment, the Yellow Ribbon program, and the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance program.
Old Dominion University
Virginia’s Old Dominion University is one of the largest schools in the state, as well as one of the best military-friendly colleges in the country. Reservists and active duty service members have the option of pursuing a degree from Old Dominion via its Military Distance Learning office, which also walks students through online registration, all placement tests, counseling, and just about anything else they may need.
Quinnipiac University in Connecticut is another school that is consistently included on Military Times Magazine’s list of the best colleges for veterans. Such a reputation is partly due to Quinnipiac’s pro-military on-campus culture, plus a solid support system that includes a Student Veterans Organization, through which vets can socialize and network with others. Additionally, veterans enrolling in Quinnipiac with funding from the Yellow Ribbon Program will have a portion of their funds matched by the university.
Rutgers University — Camden Campus
Camden, New Jersey
Camden is one of Rutgers University’s regional campus, and one of the best military-friendly colleges in the country. This particular campus stands out for a number of reasons, including its Veterans Services Office, which provides support for veterans and active-duty military in the form of mentors. The university also hosts a 5k run every few years in honor of Jeremy Kane, a Marine reservist and Camden student who was killed in action in 2010. The run not only brings awareness to Camden’s military student population, but also raises money for the Jeremy Kane Memorial Scholarship.
San Diego State University
San Diego, California
San Diego State University has a long and proud history as one of the best military-friendly colleges. This is made apparent by the university’s on-campus war memorial, on which is engraved the names of nearly 250 students killed in conflicts such as World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Current students can receive personal or academic support through the Veterans Center (the first of its kind in the California State University system), or socialize with other active duty military, reservists, or veterans and their families at the Student Veterans House. This unique organization provides a place for military students to network, eat, or just hang out, and often organizes workshops and other social events.
South Dakota State University
Brookings, South Dakota
South Dakota State University, the largest of its kind in the state, employs an on-campus Veterans Affairs Office to assist military students and their family members with guidance on everything from tuition support to help transitioning back into civilian life. Speaking of tuition support, South Dakota State University has a ton of options for vets and other military students. These include scholarships through the Pat Tillman Foundation and the Navy Seal Foundation, plus the Michael Goodale Scholarship. The on-campus Veterans Resource Center also organizes a number of social events for military students, including speaking engagements, social hours, and a book club.
Galloway, New Jersey
Stockton University is a smaller public school with a student population of about 8,000. Like most schools on our list, Stockton has an Office of Military & Veterans Services which supports veteran students in a number of ways. The university also has a Student Veteran Organization, a student-led, on-campus group made up of “diverse individuals who are able to communicate and share experiences which are needed to provide a foundation of support.” Such a group provides invaluable support for students transitioning back into civilian life after serving in the military.
Syracuse, New York
Like nearly every other school on our list of the best military-friendly colleges, Syracuse University offers its military students an Office of Veteran and Military Affairs. But unlike most schools, Syracuse also offers an Institute for Veterans and Military Families, a unique organization which offers a long list of support programs for both service members and their families. As if that’s not impressive enough, Syracuse University is also working towards a National Veterans Resource Complex — the first of its kind in the U.S. — that will drive innovative academic, research, and community service programs for veterans.
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas
Texas A&M University has been taking good care of its military students since 1919. The nearly 4,000 veterans, reservists, and active-duty military currently enrolled at Texas A&M have the support of the Veterans Services Office, which assists with everything from the application process to registering for classes. Throughout the school year, various military-specific workshops and social events are put on the calendar, and military students are also eligible for awards like Student Veteran of the Month, Student Veteran of the Year, and Student Veteran Supporter of the Year.
Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University is a popular choice amongst veterans and active-duty service members, not least because of its extensive list of offered degree programs, including medicine and law. The university offers many of these degrees online — a convenient path for many service members. For those opting to pursue their degree on Texas Tech’s campus, the TechVets Boot Camp occurs at the start of each semester and helps new military students adapt to the life of a civilian and student.
Troy University has enjoyed a reputation as one of the best military-friendly colleges since the 1950s, so military members choosing to pursue a degree at Troy should know that they’ve chosen well. The university partners with all five major branches of the Armed Forces to provide active-duty students and veterans with the very best in assistance. Some of these programs include the Navy College Distance Learning Partnership, the Enlisted Education Program (Army), Green to Gold initiatives (Army), the U.S. Marine Corps Leadership Scholar Program, and the Bachelor Co-operative degree (Air Force). In addition, Troy runs a TROY for Troops center to help both on-campus and online military students with everything from course registration to counseling.
University of Alabama
Deployed students have access to Bama by Distance and its 60 online degree programs, while on-campus students have full access to even more options. The university is home to an Office of Veteran and Military Affairs, through which students can receive assistance with counseling, health services, and even a free textbook rental program. Furthermore, military students in their first year at University of Alabama are partnered with an Army Education Counselor who assists with admission, class registration, tuition, and other important steps.
University of Maryland — University College
Veterans, National Guard personnel, and military dependents receive a reduced tuition rate at University of Maryland—University College, while reservists and those on active duty may receive even more assistance from the university’s Tuition Assistance program. Furthermore, as students pursue their undergraduate or master’s degree, either online or on-campus, they may be able to receive college credits for any military training programs completed, including Defense Threat Reduction University, College of the American Soldier, Marine Corps Career College, or Joint Forces Staff College.
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Not only is the University of Michigan one of the best universities in the country, it’s also one of the best choices of college for military students and veterans. Michigan’s military-friendly campus has been recognized by Military Times, Military Advanced Education Magazine, and the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency for its many programs meant to help veterans transition to academic and civilian life. These include a Student Veterans Council; military-specific representatives in the offices of admissions, registration, housing, counseling, and psychological services; and the Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (P.A.V.E.) Program.
University of Nebraska Omaha
University of Nebraska Omaha is home to an extremely successful Office of Military and Veterans Services. This helpful on-campus organization employs a full-time Veterans Affairs employee, and aims to assist student veterans with whatever they may need, including benefits, tuition assistance, and academic advisement. Student veterans can receive additional support through the Student Veterans Organization, which offers weekly gatherings, support groups, and a counseling service.
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Regardless of their home state, all active-duty military and veterans pay in-state tuition at the University of North Dakota. On top of that, each student is assigned a Military Education Officer, a specialist who walks them through everything from degree options, to course requirements, to career opportunities. Even students who are currently deployed can count on their Military Education Officer to assist them with registering for classes, and anything else related to school. Such personalized attention is quite impressive, as is the fact that University of North Dakota offers dozens of programs — 60 of which can be completed online — in subjects such as engineering, aviation, forensic psychology, space studies, teaching, nursing, and more.
University of South Florida
More than 2,000 of University of South Florida’s 50,000 students are veterans, so students affiliated with the military should know they are in good company here. The university’s Office of Veteran Success employs student veterans who are able to help their peers by answering questions or providing assistance. This helpful organization is just one of the many reasons that University of South Florida has topped the list of four-year colleges recommended to veterans by Military Times Edge magazine.
Webster Groves, Missouri
Military students looking for an especially good deal on college should take a serious look at Webster University. The school offers a number of financial programs and opportunities, including the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, the Reserve Educational Assistance Program, the National Call to Service Program, and the Montgomery GI Bill. Additionally, Webster is one of only 94 schools in the country which employs a full-time VetSuccess counselor. This counselor assists students with anything they may need, from academic and psychological help to communicating with the university and other organizations.
Western Illinois University
Not only will any honorably discharged veteran be given a place at Western Illinois University, one of the best military-friendly colleges in the country, but they’ll also receive academic credit for their service and various types of military training. Western Illinois University’s campus is extremely veteran-friendly, and boasts a Veterans Club, a Veterans magazine, and myriad in-house scholarships aimed specifically at those who have served their country.
Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Military students at Western Kentucky University have the benefit of the WKU Office of Veterans Affairs on campus, an organization that serves as middleman between students and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The office deals with everything from enacting G.I Bill benefits to setting up tuition deferment, and anything else that an active-duty student or veteran may need. Western Kentucky University has long been recognized as one of the best colleges in the country for veterans. Military Times Edge magazine almost always includes it in its ‘Best for Vets 4-Year College’ list, while U.S. News & World Report also includes it on its list of the best online colleges for veterans.