Online Colleges Ranked, Competing for Veterans


US News has released their third annual rankings of the best online college programs for veterans. The rankings include online bachelor’s degree programs and master’s degree programs in the fields of business, engineering, nursing, education, and computer/information technology. This year, they also rated graduate-level criminal justice programs and MBAs.

Pennsylvania State University-World Campus was rated #1 in online bachelors’ for veterans, with Daytona State College and Western Kentucky University close behind, and placed in the top 10 in five graduate degree categories. Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business tied for the top MBA program and came in first place for its general business programs. Last year’s number one winner, Central Michigan, is now in 12th place, noted Lori Falce of the Centre Daily Times.

President Eric Barron of Penn State said:

We are proud to serve those who have served our nation. At Penn State, we have developed multiple programs geared toward the distinct needs of our service members. We have one objective and that is to provide an education where and when our veterans need it so they can re-enter the workforce and succeed.

737 online university programs were examined. To make it into the final running, the school had to be in the top 75% of the 2015 Best Online Program rankings, also by US News. Then, the schools must have programs in place to reduce the cost of college for veterans, writes Jenny Amante of iSchoolGuide, like being certified for the GI Bill and taking part in the Yellow Ribbon Program, or offering in-state tuition for out-of-state veterans at public schools. Melissa McCleery of Onward State notes that Penn State also opened priority registration to veteran students in spring of 2014.

These rankings have particular importance due to the numbers of veterans that choose online schooling, like many other adult learners, for its convenience and flexibility. In 2013-2014, 11% of online students on average were veterans, writes Devon Haynie of US News. Some even begin their degrees while on active duty.

Walter Tillman, director of programs for Student Veterans of America, said:

Oftentimes, especially for those on active duty, distance-learning solutions are great options. It gives you the flexibility to take courses when it’s convenient. It helps you have the experience of taking courses if you are raising a family or working.

Other veterans might not feel comfortable in the typical college culture due to differences in age and life experience, but still seek degrees. Ginny Newman, assistant director of defense sector education, said:

Veterans tend to be typical adult learners. They are older and they need flexibility and convenience. Online, they don’t need to travel, they could relocate, they could have families. An online education suits their needs.