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Colleges where our veterans succeed

University of South Florida (5)
University of South Florida (5)
Nancy Griesemer

Despite the very real challenges they face transitioning to civilian life, veterans are putting up some amazing college completion numbers. In fact, they are earning degrees at rates that aren’t very different from the rates of traditional students who attend college full-time and without any interruptions.

St. Mary's College of Maryland earned a spot on the U.S. News list of best liberal arts colleges for vets.
Nancy Griesemer

And most are completing in about the same time as their peers, according to a report released by the Student Veterans of America (SVA), the National Student Clearinghouse, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Americans have invested substantial dollars in giving our veterans an opportunity to further their education and this report shows many positive signs that they are doing just that,” Wayne Robinson, SVA president and CEO said in a statement. “The majority of student veterans accessing their GI Bill benefits are completing degrees and showing unparalleled determination to do so, despite many unique barriers.”

The Million Records Project analyzed data from one million randomly-selected veteran students and compared it with overall enrolment and completion records maintained by the Clearinghouse. They found that nearly 52 percent of the veterans who began their GI Bill benefits between 2002 and 2010 earned a postsecondary degree or certificate by June 2013—a completion rate similar to traditional college students and greater than other nontraditional students.

Not only were their graduation rates better than anticipated, but many student veterans also went on to pursue higher level degrees: about 31 percent of those who initially earned a vocational certificate, 35.8 percent of those who earned an associate degree, and 20.8 percent of those who earned a bachelor’s degree went on to earn another degree at a higher level.

More than one million student veterans have used or currently use benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which has received more than $30 billion from the Department of Veteran Affairs since 2009. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the pool of undergraduate student veterans is growing on college campuses and currently numbers around 660,000 or three percent of undergrads nationwide. About 215,000 of these are military service members on active duty or in the reserves.

To help veterans make decisions about were to spend their education dollars, two very different news organizations using two very different sets of criteria have recently developed lists of the best colleges and universities for vets.

Using only numerically ranked schools from the 2014 edition of the U.S. News Best Colleges, U.S. News lists Penn State, Tulane, University of Texas-Austin, Syracuse, and Texas A&M as the top five national best universities for veterans. The top five liberal arts colleges are Muhlenberg, Lewis & Clark, Hillsdale, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and Albion College.

The only local universities to make the U.S. News best universities for veterans list are Catholic University (24), George Mason University (28), and Virginia Commonwealth University (39).

Coming from a somewhat different direction, the Military Times probes everything from the availability of a veterans office to academic support and graduation rates. Their top ten ranking is as follows:

  • D’Youville College
  • University of Nebraska Omaha
  • Concord University
  • Rutgers University
  • University of South Florida
  • University of the Incarnate Word
  • Western Kentucky University
  • Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
  • Florida State University

Local schools earning a spot on the Best for Vets list include Old Dominion University (30), George Washington University (61), and Towson University (85).

The important take-away for veterans is that they don't have to look too far to find lots of wonderful opportunities to earn degrees and succeed at rates comparable to the traditional college-going population.