Veterans are getting a little help when it comes to evaluating their education choices post-military thanks to US News & World Report. The "king of college rankings" is adding a new horse to its stable: a list of online programs that are best when it comes to serving veterans' unique academic needs.
Analysis shows that the market for vets who are seeking higher education opportunities is growing in record numbers – funded by the post-9/11 GI Bill – and landing some of that business could pay big benefits. Because vets tend to be older and are typically balancing family and job obligations along with their schooling, many are giving online education, which provides flexibility that traditional schooling doesn't, a serious look.
According to Eric Brooks, a data research analyst at US News, the publication looked at how well the online programs served the needs of vets, like providing support to those enrolled in more than one school, graduation rates and graduates' debt loads. Each program was judged not only on how well it does by its military veteran students but also by its overall quality.
Online programs are convenient for nontraditional students juggling work, school and family, but they may have specific benefits for former and current military members.
Service members are particularly transient, often moving from base to base. Distance learning programs allow troops to study anywhere, be it Kentucky or Afghanistan. Online programs also allow students to study at any time of day – a perk for veterans accustomed to working unconventional hours.
Exactly how unconventional is demonstrated by Raymond Lee, an army vet who served in the first Gulf War. He says that even now after more than a decade out of the army, he regularly wakes up at 3 in the morning. While this would be a huge hindrance were he enrolled in a traditional college program, the schedule doesn't interfere at all with his MBA program at Kaplan University.
Despite the various benefits of online degree programs, veterans and service members should also be aware of their potential drawbacks.
Some veterans, for example, say they learn better when they have face-to-face interaction with peers and instructors. Others want the camaraderie and networking that come with student veterans groups.
Pace University located in downtown Manhattan in New York City was found to have the best online bachelors degree program for veterans, followed by Brandman University, Bellevue University and Regent University.