If you’re a veteran who’s going back to school, or still active duty looking to get your degree, veteran benefit programs can be confusing. There are a lot of considerations in your choice of schools.

But how do you know which not-for-profit schools provide the best veteran- and military-friendly programs for students?

CollegeRecon identifies the 17 key veteran benefits programs that are available on campuses to assist veterans and active-duty military. These benefits are available at community colleges, colleges and universities.

  1. BAH – The Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) payments you receive for the Post 9/11 GI Bill are based on the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates for an E-5 with dependents. The Department of Defense adjusts the BAH every calendar year (or January 1) based on changes to housing costs across the country. BAH rates for online colleges, schools, or distance learning programs is $754.50. BAH is not paid during summer or winter breaks, but Spring Break counts. Dropping courses can negatively affect BAH payments.
  1. Campus SVA Chapter SVA chapters are student-veteran groups that have formed on college and university campuses to provide peer-to-peer networks for veterans who are attending those schools. The chapters are designed to be advocates for student veterans, and to help bridge the campus-to-career transition.
University of Houston SVA Chapter

University of Houston SVA Chapter (Courtesy: LinkedIn)

  1. Full-Time Veteran Counselor On Campus – A full-time veteran counselor is on campus to offer support and assistance for any array of student-veteran issues. These counselors will assist veterans in a number of ways, including helping them determine which services they need to succeed, and then directing how to engage them.
  1. Signed VA Principles of Excellence – Educational institutions participating in the Principles of Excellence program agree to follow a set of guidelines pertaining to student-veteran issues. Examples of these guidelines include: Providing students with a personalized form covering the total cost of an education program and designating a point-of-contact for academic and financial advising.
  1. Club/Association for Veterans – These institutions offer student-veteran clubs and associations on their campuses.
  1. Veterans Upward Bound Program – The Veterans Upward Bound Program is designed to motivate and assist veterans in the development of academic and other requisite skills necessary for acceptance and success in a program of post-secondary education. The program provides assessment and enhancement of basic skills through counseling, mentoring, tutoring, and academic instruction in the core subject areas.
Veterans Upward Bound Program

Veterans Upward Bound Program (Courtesy: MCC-Penn Valley)

  1. 8 Keys To Veterans’ Success – The 8 Keys to Veterans’ Success are steps that postsecondary institutions can take to assist veterans and service members in transitioning to higher education, completing their college programs, and obtaining career-ready skills. Schools participating in the 8 Keys to Veterans’ Success pledge to make a real investment in their veteran students. This program should be a difference maker if the institution has followed through with their promise. Unfortunately no one polices the program to ensure the school is adhering to the program’s standards.
  1. Offers ROTC Program – The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is one of the best opportunities for you to get an invaluable experience while you earn a college degree. When enrolled in ROTC you learn and develop leadership skills and prepare for a career as an officer in the U.S. Military. You will learn first-hand what it takes to lead others, motivate groups, and how to conduct missions as a military officer.
  1. ACE Credit For Military Experience – The ACE Military Evaluations Program evaluates formal military training in terms of academic credit, allowing thousands of military personnel to earn credit for college-level learning acquired in the military. Your Joint Service Transcript (JST) may be sent as an official document to colleges and universities, at the student’s request, for use in the credential evaluation process.
  1. Follow ACE Standards For CreditACE’s Military Guide presents credit recommendations for formal courses and occupations offered by all branches of the military. All recommendations for credit approval are based on ACE reviews conducted by college and university faculty members who are actively teaching in the areas they review.
  1. Awards Credit For CLEP Exam – The CLEP exams allow veterans to receive college credit by earning qualifying scores on any one or more of 34 assessments, allowing them to move directly into higher-level courses, saving time and money.
  1. Awards Credit For DSST ExamDSST (formerly DANTES) are also credit-by-examination tests. Whereas CLEP tests are almost exclusively used for lower-level credit at regionally accredited institutions, DSST’s are available for both upper and lower level credit.
  1. In-State Tuition Extended For Active Duty – These institutions charge active duty veterans, regardless of their actual state of residence, no more than the in-state tuition rate for a resident of the state.
  1. Approved For TA FundingMilitary Tuition Assistance (TA) is a benefit paid to eligible members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Congress has given each service the ability to pay up to 100% of the tuition expenses for its members. Each service has its own criteria for eligibility, obligated service, application process and restrictions. This money is usually paid directly to the institution by the individual services.
Which Colleges Have The Best veterans Programs?

(Credit: Wilkes University)

  1. Yellow Ribbon Program – Tuition & fees may exceed the amount the Post 9/11 GI Bill will pay if you are attending a private school, or are attending a public school as a nonresident student. Institutions participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program make additional funds available for your education program without an additional charge to your GI Bill entitlement.
  1. Scholarships For Military – Apply for a military specific scholarship at these institutions to help drive down the cost of your education.
  1. Reduced Tuition For Military – These institutions offer tuition discounts for members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The Key Factor: Credit for Military Training

Not all institutions are going to adhere to all of these categories or participate in every student-veteran benefits program. However, I do think that receiving credit for military experience is the most important consideration when searching for a college or university to attend.

If veterans or military personnel are able to acquire credit for military training, they are already helping to drive down another important factor, the price of an education. More credits acquired equals less courses to take for that particular degree.

Use your military experience to graduate early

Use your military experience to graduate early (Credit: AState.edu)

In our ranking, earning credit is the most important factor when searching for a college or university as a veteran or military personnel.

How can this list better serve you?

Getting your degree is one of the best decisions you can make, no matter your age or expertise. It can also be the hardest decision (I know this from experience). There are thousands of higher education institutions in the U.S., and you have to choose just one.

This list is a good place to start. Finding the right school that fits your needs is a daunting task. Having somewhere to start, or even just a list to begin from, can help you begin the process.

It’s important to note that you can find schools based on numerous factors. If you look only at veteran support programs on campus, you’ll have a very different list than US News and the other ranking websites. Balance out your needs, criteria, and veteran preferences. And don’t be afraid to chuck it all and pick the school that just feels right, regardless of veteran friendliness.

If you are eager to begin conversations with admissions counselors at different institutions you can search for schools on CollegeRecon and look for the handy orange oval that reads “Connect with this school.”

CollegeRecon provides pre-written messages that you can modify with your own information. When you send it, your message will be delivered directly to the admissions team at the school and the conversation has begun!

Remember, none of the college and university ranking lists are meant to make your decision. They are just baselines against which to measure other schools in your search. YOU have to make your own decision no matter how difficult it may be.

 

(Featured Image Courtesy: UNC Asheville Magazine)