Best Colleges for Veterans Methodology

This article will outline the College Factual Best Colleges for Veterans Rankings, the goal of which is to help veterans to identify colleges that are likely to be supportive of them and their unique needs. To accomplish this, we look at 24 different factors directly, some of which are comprised of 10 or more sub-factors of their own.

All of these factors combined to identify excellence in the following areas.

  • Veteran Affordability
  • Veteran Population
  • Veteran Policies
  • Veteran Resources
  • Veteran Satisfaction
  • Overall College Quality

You can also read about what's new in this year's ranking or our summary of what makes these rankings different.

Factors We Consider in the Ranking

Veteran Affordability

The Post 9/11 GI Bill provides some generous education benefits, but that doesn't mean it covers the full cost of all colleges.  Cost is an important consideration to veterans and their families, so we look at a number of factors to help determine how affordable a college is to a veteran.  We differ considerably from other rankings in our calculations in that we try to calculate the actual cost to veterans after not just GI Bill benefits, but also considering residency status, full/part time status and yellow ribbon benefits.  Furthermore, we look not just at whether or not a college falls above or below the benefit cap/maximum but instead look at how much they fall above or below it as there are often wide variances among schools.

Veteran Tuition and Fees Covered?

We calculate the percentage of tuition and fees that are covered by both basic GI Bill Benefits as well as Yellow Ribbon Program benefits.  We do this for both in-state and out-of-state students.  For out-of-state students we factor in whether or not the school is a public college in a state that allows non-resident veterans to pay in-state tuition.

Active Duty Tuition Covered?

We calculate the percentage of the per credit cost at the college that is covered by the active duty Tuition Assistance program (TA) cap for both in-state and out-of-state (non-resident) students. For out-of-state students we factor in whether or not the school is a public college in a state that allows non-resident veterans to pay in-state tuition.

Veteran Population

A college with a very small veteran population is not likely to invest as much in serving that group.  As the size of the veteran population at a college increases, the amount of resources and services available to veterans tends to also increase.  A large veteran population also increases the odds that faculty members will be familiar with dealing with veterans and that, as a veteran, you will be surrounded by like minded students you can better relate to.

Size of Veteran Population

To determine this we look at the number of GI Bill recipients at the school as reported by the VA. While this number does not include all active duty service members that may be attending a school using non GI Bill benefits like TAP, it does include most veterans, which is the focus of this ranking.  That is why we call this the size of the veteran population, not the size of the military population.

Percentage of Veteran Population

What percentage of the school is made up of veterans (GI Bill recipients).  The larger the percentage the more that school focuses on serving veterans.  This metric also helps to make sure that schools with smaller overall populations that do focus on serving veterans get credit (something that would not occur if only the raw number of veterans at a school were considered).

Existence of ROTC

Having a ROTC presence on campus is small sign that a college is military friendly and that there will be greater acceptance and understanding of current and former service members on campus.

Veteran Policies

Credit for Military Training

Whether or not a school is likely to award credit for the training a veteran received in the military is an important element in choosing a school.  To determine whether or not a school does this, we look to see whether or not they have either committed to following ACE recommendations for accepting credit or the VA has indicated that they accept credit for military training.

Government Program Commitments

There are several government agencies that have published guidelines on how colleges can better serve our current and former military personnel.   Colleges may sign a document committing them to adopt these recommended policies to support our veterans and active duty service members.  With adoption of any one of these policies usually comes a large collection of policies to help veterans succeed, ranging from generous acceptance of credits from prior education or life experiences to fair payment and withdrawal policies.  For more details on what this means to you we encourage you to take a look at the "Veteran Support" profile in the "Student Life" section of each college you are considering (see example).

Membership in each of the organizations below earns a college points toward our ranking:

A college that has committed to following the standards set forth by the above organizations has committed to better serving members of our military.  If you are a student at a college that has claimed to follow these standards and doesn't, we encourage you to submit a complaint to the VA GI Bill Feedback System for veterans or to the DOD Postsecondary Education Complaint System for active duty service members.

Veteran Resources

Colleges committed to serving veterans don't just change their policies to accommodate veterans, they go beyond that by providing actual resources for them.

Veterans Office

An office dedicated to assisting veterans is an important resource at a college and those that have one stand above those that don't.  We determine this through a combination of looking at colleges websites and referencing the VA data that identifies whether or not a school has a dedicated point of contact for veterans.

Veteran Student Organization

Having a recognized veteran student organization can  be a great resource for a veteran attending a school.  We award points to those that do.  A college can earn points if we know that they have a Student Veterans of America Chapter or the VA has indicated the school has a recognized student veteran organization on campus.

VetSuccess On Campus (VCOC)

The VetSuccess On Campus (VCOC) program is a somewhat new and expanding program from the VA that helps veterans on some campuses "through a coordinated delivery of on-campus benefits assistance and counseling leading to completion of their education and preparing them to enter the labor market in viable careers" [1].

Veteran Complaints / Warnings

GI Bill Feedback System Complaints

The VA GI Bill Feedback System enables veterans to submit complaints about colleges for Principles of Excellence-related issues. 

Using data recently released by the VA that details the complaints lodged against each school, we took the the total number of complaints and divided that by the total number of GI Bill recipients at the school to get a relative number of the % of students complaining. This, in  our opinion, is the only fair way to account for the fact that a larger school is naturally going to have a larger number of complaints.

Using this relative measure, we then award more points to colleges the lower their complaint rate is. So, the higher the complaint rate, the lower a school will rank. Schools that have zero complains earn the maximum number of points for this factor.

Heightened Cash Monitoring Status

Heightened Cash Monitoring (HCM) is a checks-and-balances process that allows the Department of Education to provide additional oversight over institutions for a number of financial or federal compliance issues.

Using data now available through the VA, we award points to schools that are NOT on heightened cash monitoring, thus decreasing the ranking of those the are.

Overall College Quality

Many other veteran rankings look only at veteran specific factors, ignoring whether or not the quality of the actual education a student will receive is a good one.   We do not agree with this approach and instead include a factor that gauges the overall quality of the school as a whole.  

To accomplish this, we rely on a combination of our Best Colleges Rankings and our Best Colleges for Returning Adults Rankings.  The former identifies quality schools for a traditional student while the later uses alternative means to discover schools that do a great job serving non-traditional students.

Focusing on serving one type of student and doing it well is a good thing.  Schools that do so should not be hurt due to this focus.  It is for this reason we do not take an average of the two scores and instead take the maximum score earned in each of these rankings to determine the number of points to award.

Calculating the Ranking

The sections above describe the factors we use.  The following section gives a summary of these factors and a little more insight into how they are combined to determine the overall ranking.

FactorImportanceRanking Metric UsedSource
Veteran Affordability
% of Full-Time In-State Costs CoveredHigh% of costs covered by full Post 9-11 G.I. Bill benefits for full-time in-state studentsDOE + VA
% of Full-Time Out-Of-State Costs CoveredMed% of costs covered by full Post 9-11 G.I. Bill benefits for full-time out-of-state studentsDOE + VA
% of Part-Time In-State Costs CoveredMed% of costs covered by full Post 9-11 G.I. Bill benefits for part-time in-state studentsDOE + VA
% of Part-Time Out-Of-State Costs CoveredLow% of costs covered by full Post 9-11 G.I. Bill benefits for part-time out-of-state studentsDOE + VA
Veteran Population
Number of VeteransHighNumber of GI Bill recipients at the schoolVA
% of VeteransLow% of student population made up by GI Bill recipientsDOE + VA
Army ROTC?LowWhether or not school has Army ROTCDOE
Navy ROTC?LowWhether or not school has Navy ROTCDOE
Air Force ROTC?LowWhether or not school has Air Force ROTCDOE
Veteran Policies
Credit for Military TrainingHighWhether or not the school follows ACE credit acceptance guidelines or if VA indicates they accept credit for military training.ACE or VA
Principles of Excellence?LowWhether or not school is Principles of Excellence collegeVA
8 Keys of Veteran Success?LowWhether or not school is Principles of Excellence collegeVA
DOD MOU?LowWhether or not school signed Department of Defense Memorandum of Understanding.DOD
SOC Member?LowWhether or not school is Servicemembers Opportunity College member.SOC
Veteran Resources
Veterans Office?HighWhether or not school has a dedicated veterans office or if VA indicates they have a dedicated point of contact for veterans.School Website or VA
Student Veteran Organization?MedWhether or not school has a Student Veterans of America chapter or VA indicates they have recognized student veteran organization.SVA or VA
VetSuccess on Campus?LowWhether or not school participates in VetSuccess on Campus program.VA
Veteran Complaints / Warnings
GI Bill Feedback System ComplaintsHighComplaint Rate = Number of Complaints / Total GI Bill RecipientsVA
Heightened Cash MonitoringMedWhether or not school is on Heightened Cash MonitoringVA
Overall College Quality
Best Colleges RankingHighThe highest score earned between our Best Colleges ranking and our Best Colleges for Returning Adults ranking, which indicates overall college quality for traditional and non-traditional students respectively.College Factual

Go Beyond Rankings

As advanced as our rankings are, they represent only the starting point of the decision tools we have to help veterans get the best fit education their money can buy.

Maximize your benefits by finding the best matched career, college and major based on your natural strengths, interests and goals. Our tools are FREE to veterans and you can start reviewing matches in less than 10 minutes.


More About Our Rankings