Accredited Colleges For Veterans

Learn why accreditation is critical to veterans pursuing civilian careers via continuing education. Find information and resources to help you better understand accredited colleges, universities, and programs.

More than two million soldiers are making the transition from military to civilian life after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of these veterans, close to 500,000, are taking advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and either attending college for the first time, finishing a degree they’d already started, or going back for advanced study. But veterans are no ordinary students. They face numerous challenges that range from rusty study skills, to being older than other students, to dealing with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Veterans need to select schools, not just based on the school’s expertise in whatever course of study they wish to pursue, but also based on how well the school creates a military-friendly environment. Here we provide a guide for what veterans should look for in a college, what types of financial aid options are available, and some useful lists of veteran-friendly schools.

WHY ACCREDITATION IS IMPORTANT

Attending an accredited institution is important for all students, but particularly for veterans taking advantage of their GI Bill benefits. College accreditation is an assurance that a school delivers a quality education. Most colleges are accredited regionally by one of six agencies:

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Regionally accredited institutions may also receive accreditation for a specific program, department or school. More than 40 specialized accreditation agencies review programs in a variety of disciplines, ranging from business to nursing.

Only accredited colleges and universities qualify for federal financial aid funds. That’s why veterans applying for GI Bill benefits, must ensure the school they want to attend is accredited. Consult the Veteran’s Affairs Finding a School web page for a list of approved colleges, universities, and other education and training programs.

STUDENT VETERAN SUPPORT NEEDS

While the average college student is between ages 18 to 24, almost 90% of student veterans are older than 25. Many are already married and have young families to support, and experience a decrease in income once they leave the military. They haven’t been in a classroom for many years, and are not used to studying. Some may be dealing with physical injuries and/or mental health challenges. They’re adjusting from military to college life. Many miss the troop camaraderie and suffer from a loss of identity. In short, veterans are not your typical college students.

A 2012 American Council on Education study titled “From Soldier to Student II: Assessing Campus Programs for Veterans and Service Members” surveyed 690 institutions, of which 62% currently offer programs and services specifically for veterans. Of these schools:

  • 84% provide counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder
  • 55% have staff trained to assist with physical disabilities
  • 37% provide transition from military life assistance
  • 54% said educating faculty and staff about the unique issues veteran face is a priority

Studies also show that veterans who attend colleges that offer them support are more likely to get better grades and to graduate than their peers. While not all colleges are able to fully meet the needs of veterans, many schools are making a concerted effort to help this population. A key indicator of a school’s commitment is whether they’ve dedicated a specific office and staff for veteran support services.

A Military Times Magazine survey of 650 schools found that 60% have a centralized office that serves student veterans. Such an office is likely to offer academic support services, serve as a liaison between the VA and its students, advocate for student veterans on campus, and help veterans connect with one another to form a social community. Veteran support services may also include help with navigating through the university’s infrastructure to, for example, successfully register for classes, communicate with the financial aid office, and obtain needed services.

Schools that serve a large population of veterans are more likely to offer such services. These schools also tend to have an administration that’s committed to student veteran success. The presence of a Student Veterans of America chapter at the school is also a good indicator of veteran support.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

When evaluating a school, veterans should consider where the college stands on transferring military training to college credit. The American Council on Education (ACE) reviews military service and training and assigns college credits accordingly. Colleges decide how many, if any, of the credits to accept toward fulfilling a veteran’s course requirements.

Another consideration is whether the college participates in the Veterans Upward Bound Program funded by the Department of Education. This is a non-credit granting program designed to prepare veterans to enter college, be successful, and graduate. It motivates and assists veterans in the development of academic and other requisite skills necessary for acceptance and success in college. The program provides assessment and enhancement of basic skills through counseling, mentoring, tutoring and academic instruction in core subject areas.

Housing can be an issue for veterans, particularly those studying at the undergraduate level. Many schools require underclassmen to live on campus. This is obviously not ideal for older, often married, student veterans. It’s important to check whether a school’s housing requirements are flexible, and whether options exist to accommodate older students with families.

ONLINE LEARNING OPTIONS

Many veterans work full-time and cannot afford to take the time off to dedicate to full-time, on-campus study. Today’s plethora of online course and degree options present an attractive option for these students. For one thing, the online learning student is typically older than the average college student. Some veterans may already be familiar with online learning. Because they can do so from anywhere in the world, many military personnel on active duty have already taken online courses. It then becomes a natural progression to continue to do so upon leaving the armed forces.

Online learning provides schedule flexibility for those who work full-time. Not having to be tied to a specific location can also be an important consideration for veterans returning from war who may not have yet decided where to set roots.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR STUDENT VETERANS

The most widely utilized veteran education benefit is the Post-9/11 GI Bill administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Like the original post-World War II GI Bill, it provides free education at public universities and up to a certain amount for private college tuition. To be eligible for the GI Bill benefits, a veteran must have served in active duty after September 10, 2001 for at least 3 months. Benefits can also be transferred to the veteran’s spouse or children. The GI bill will cover the following:

  • Full resident tuition and fees at public universities
  • Whichever is lower for private schools: actual tuition and fees, or a maximum $18,077 allowance per academic year. The maximum differs in AZ, MI, NH, NY, PA, SC, and TX.

 

If the school costs exceed the maximum amount payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, additional funds may be available through the Yellow Ribbon Program. This program allows participating schools to contribute a specified dollar amount toward the unmet expenses, which the VA will match, up to 50% of the difference.

To get the most value from their GI Bill benefits, veterans should look for schools whose tuition is at or below the VA cap. Some states also offer special benefits, such as Texas’ Hazelwood Act, which provides qualified veterans, spouses, and dependent children with up to 150 hours of tuition-free education at public institutions of higher education in Texas. The VA provides links to the Department of Veterans Affairs offices in each state.

Grants and scholarships for veterans are also available from a variety of schools and organizations. Like the GI Bill benefit, grants and scholarships are considered gift money that you don’t need to pay back. Applicants will generally need to meet certain eligibility criteria. Samples of grants and scholarships available to veterans include:

  • AFCEA Educational Foundation offers the $2,500 Afghanistan and Iraq War Veterans and the Disabled War Veterans Scholarships.
  • American Legion Auxiliary awards a variety of scholarships to both veterans and their dependents.
  • AMVETS awards scholarships to veterans and their dependents, based on academic excellence and financial need.
  • Army Women’s Foundation awards scholarships to female veterans and their children based on merit, academic potential, community service, letters of recommendation, and need.
  • Imagine America Military Award Program offers scholarships for veterans and other military students who decide to pursue career college training at a participating college.
  • Military Order of the Purple Heart Foundation awards scholarships to recipients of the Purple Heart medal who are also members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Spouses and children are also eligible.
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America provides financial assistance in the form of scholarships to Paralyzed Veterans of America members and their families
  • Pat Tillman Foundation awards yearly scholarships to help veterans and their dependents pay for college.
  • Troops to Teachers Program provide financial assistance to veterans pursuing a degree in teaching or education in exchange for a term of service in a high need school or community.
  • Veterans United Foundation awards 20 bi-annual scholarships of $2,000 to help veterans and their family members pay for tuition and books.

RESOURCES FOR STUDENT VETERANS

Department of Veterans Affairs – Yellow Ribbon Program
Federal Student Aid for Military Families
American Council on Education
Student Veterans of America

SCHOOLS TO CONSIDER

Veterans need to consider many factors when evaluating whether a school is right for them. Below we offer a list of Top Schools with Relaxed Residency Requirements for Veterans and a list of Top Schools with Great Veteran’s Affairs Offices.

TOP SCHOOLS WITH RELAXED RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS FOR VETERANS

COLLEGE VETERAN’S AFFAIRS URL CITY STATE
Arizona State University https://veterans.asu.ed Tempe AZ
Arkansas State University http://www.astate.edu/a/registrar/students/veterans/index.dot Jonesboro AK
Cameron University https://cameron.edu/veteran_affairs Lawton OK
Columbus State University http://va.columbusstate.edu/ Columbus GA
Eastern Kentucky University http://va.eku.edu/ Richmond KY
Fordham University http://www.fordham.edu/academics/veterans_initiative/index.asp New York NY
George Washington University http://services.military.gwu.edu/ Washington DC
Norfolk State University https://www.nsu.edu/student-affairs/ Norfolk VA
Northern Illinois University http://www.niu.edu/militaryservices/index.shtml DeKalb IL
Ohio State University http://veterans.osu.edu Columbus OH
Olympic College http://www.olympic.edu/Students/StudentServices/VeteransServices/ Bremerton WA
Texas A&M-San Antonio http://veterans.osu.edu/ San Antonio TX
Texas State University-San Marcos http://www.va.txstate.edu/ San Marcos TX
Texas Tech University http://www.depts.ttu.edu/diversity/mvp/ Lubbock TX
University of Nebraska -Omaha http://www.unomaha.edu/military/ Omaha NE
University of Kansas http://veterans.ku.edu/ Lawrence KS
University of Kentucky http://www.uky.edu/Veterans/benefits.htm Lexington KY
University of North Georgia http://ung.edu/veterans/index.php Dahlonega GA
University of South Dakota http://www.usd.edu/registrar/veterans-services/ Vermillion SD
University of Texas – Austin http://deanofstudents.utexas.edu/veterans/index.php Austin TX
University of Wisconsin http://students.wisc.edu/doso/vetsassistance.html Madison WI
Western Illinois University http://www.wiu.edu/student_services/veterans/ Macomb IL
Western Kentucky University https://www.wku.edu/veteran/ Bowling Green KY
Western Michigan University http://www.wmich.edu/military/ Kalamazoo MI
Wright State University http://www.wright.edu/veteran Dayton OH

25 Schools with Great Veteran’s Affairs Offices

COLLEGE VETERAN’S AFFAIRS URL CITY STATE
Arizona State University https://veterans.asu.ed Tempe AZ
Austin Peay State University http://www.apsu.edu/veterans-affairs Clarksville TN
Chadron State College https://www.csc.edu/veteranaffairs/ Chadron NE
Concord University http://www.concord.edu/veterans/ Athens WV
D’Youville College http://www.dyc.edu/veterans/ Buffalo NY
Eastern Kentucky University http://va.eku.edu/ Richmond KY
George Washington University http://services.military.gwu.edu/ Washington DC
Indiana University http://veterans.indiana.edu/ Bloomington IN
John Jay College of Criminal Justice http://jstop.jjay.cuny.edu/veterans/index.php New York NY
Northern Illinois University http://www.niu.edu/militaryservices/index.shtml DeKalb IL
Penn State University http://equity.psu.edu/veterans University Park PA
Ohio State University http://veterans.osu.edu/ Columbus OH
Rutgers University http://veterans.rutgers.edu/ New Brunswick NJ
St. Petersburg College http://www.spcollege.edu/veterans/ St. Petersburgh FL
Syracuse University http://veterans.syr.edu/ Syracuse NE
Texas State University http://www.va.txstate.edu/ San Marcos TX
Texas Tech University http://www.depts.ttu.edu/diversity/mvp/ Lubbock TX
University of Alabama http://vets.ua.edu/ Tuscaloosa AL
University of Kentucky http://www.uky.edu/Veterans/benefits.htm Lexington KY
University of Missouri http://deanofstudents.utexas.edu/veterans/index.php Columbia MO
University of Nebraska – Omaha http://www.unomaha.edu/military/ Omaha NE
University of North Georgia http://ung.edu/veterans/index.php Dahlonega GA
University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/student-affairs/veterans/ Tampa FL
University of the Incarnate Word http://veterans.uiw.edu/veterans-center San Antonio TX
University of Texas – Austin http://deanofstudents.utexas.edu/veterans/index.php Austin TX
University of Wisconsin http://students.wisc.edu/doso/vetsassistance.html Madison WI