Select Schools – How We Identify the Most Military Supportive Colleges and Universities in America

What Exactly Does It Mean to Be a Military-Supportive School?

So, what exactly makes a college or university military friendly? Many schools claim that mantle, but there is no official definition.

Neither the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Department of Defense control the use of the term. And if you take the time to look from school to school, you’ll quickly realize that without any official criteria for making that claim, it doesn’t always mean the same thing.

That’s why it’s so important that we tell you exactly what policies and practices we are talking about when describing military-supportive colleges and universities. Every school we feature across our regional lists offers some combination of the amenities and accommodations that we feel make a college worthy of being called the most military-supportive in the nation.

Full Funding for Yellow Ribbon Students and Full Inclusion of All Eligible Applicants

There are many military friendly colleges out there that participate in the VA’s Yellow Ribbon Program, designed to help cover tuition costs at more expensive schools that exceed the annual GI Bill® limit.

Far fewer schools take the governor off that program and let it run full tilt with no tuition caps and no restrictions on the number of eligible students who can participate. The most military supportive schools:

Every single school that made the cut for these lists meet those criteria, full stop.

This isn’t a benefit every veteran or service member will use. If you plan to go to a public college where you qualify for in-state rates, the GI Bill® already has you covered. But it’s a big enough deal that we think every service member, veteran, and military family member should know about it.

What Is Yellow Ribbon and Why Is It So Important?

The Yellow Ribbon program is there to make up the difference between annual GI Bill® limits and the additional cost of private and foreign universities.

Traditionally, it was also there to cover the additional out-of-state costs that students have to shoulder when they don’t meet the residency requirements for in-state rates at public schools located in other parts of the country. Though the Veterans Choice Act of 2014 largely eliminated out-of-state rates for veterans willing to move and meet residency requirements, the increasing number of students who choose to attend school online are out of the running. For that reason, you’ll still find plenty of state colleges participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program, many of which are featured on our lists.

Any school that accepts GI Bill® funding can sign up to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. They decide what programs to include, how many students to accept, and how much money to chip in. Then the VA matches their contribution. The most military supportive schools are the ones that make sure that matching contribution zeros out tuition costs entirely for eligible students.

The Yellow Ribbon program opens up your field of options to include expensive private universities, as well as participating state schools located around the country. That means it can put you through some of America’s the most elite schools with exactly zero out-of-pocket tuition expenses.

And for the schools that sign up to participate with no tuition or enrollment caps, we think it’s a clear indicator of where the center of gravity lies in their military-supportive posture.

That’s because it’s a genuine financial commitment. It’s easy for anyone to say “Thank you for your service! We support you!” But schools that really want to be supportive put their money where their mouth is.

There are over 2,000 schools that participate in Yellow Ribbon—but only a quarter of those truly go all the way for every veteran in need.  By eliminating tuition and enrollment caps, that elite group of about 500 schools ensure every eligible student who applies has access to a tuition-free education.

Of course, the most important benefits for you are the ones you take advantage of. Even if you’re planning to go to your local state U and don’t need Yellow Ribbon benefits, you’ll still find many other ways the schools we identify as the most military supportive take care of military affiliated students and their families.

Credits for Your Service Experiences Are the Highest Sign of Respect

Military-supportive universities also take the trouble to recognize the value of your service. We don’t just mean some cheesy Veteran’s Day party—we mean they literally recognize the value of your experience by straight-up awarding college credits for them.

Every university gets to determine what does and does not count as an educational experience that is equal to what you receive in a classroom.

Real military-supportive schools look at the hard work and training that you received in the service and give you a way to turn that effort and those hours into credits that count toward a degree.

Receiving college credits for military training you already went through saves you time and money and serves as a real sign of respect for your efforts—both as a service member and as a student. Someone sat down, reviewed your accomplishments, and served up full credits for it that count toward a degree.

Other schools put you at the front of the line when it comes time to sign up for courses through priority enrollment policies. That makes sure you get into the classes you need and don’t waste your limited educational benefits spinning your wheels waiting for the right courses to open up.

That’s genuine respect, and that’s part of what makes a college genuinely supportive of military members.

Additional Financial Supports to Make College More Accessible to All Military Affiliated Students

Not every veteran receives the full level of GI Bill® benefits. Whether you are still on the Montgomery GI Bill® with flat-rate benefits or your service was cut too short to accrue the full 36 months of tuition and support the Post-9/11 GI Bill® can offer, there are good reasons to look at other ways a supportive school can deliver financial support.

Our top criteria for military-supportive schools are the ones that back up that gratitude with cold, hard monetary benefits.

These types of benefits are also music to the ears of reservists, or of dependents and spouses using VA benefits. So, tuition support and discounts beyond just accepting GI Bill® funds are a big deal.

Administrative and Academic Support Services to Make the Most of Your College Experience

Vets and other service members going back to school after a stint in the service face some roadblocks that other students do not. Most of your fresh-faced fellow students are shuffling right into college classrooms straight out of high school. Their academic skills are still front and center.

You, on the other hand, have spent a few years learning how to field strip an M4 or pilot an attack helicopter or steer a warship through the Straits of Malacca. It’s fair to say you could use a brush-up on your scholastic skills.

Military-supportive colleges totally get that. They offer both academic counseling and administrative support to help you re-adjust to your new mission of earning a college degree. Dedicated advisors can help you plot your new course and uncover special benefit and support options only available to veterans.

Connecting With Other Veterans to Help Make the Transition to Civilian Life Fun

It’s kind of obvious that you are mostly likely to find other veterans at a military-supportive college. After all, they have gone through the same things you have gone through. They are looking for all the same qualities you are looking for in a university.

Real military friendly universities help bring vets and service members together. They have on-campus veteran’s groups, clubs, or dedicated support teams designed to connect you with people who understand your military experience and help you get to where you need to go in your post-service life.

In many cases, military-supportive schools will have a variety of clubs, or even a dedicated common area where veterans can hang out. Clubs can include those with veterans who are pursuing different specific studies, so you can get valuable support from people walking exactly the same path as you.

Military-Supportive Universities Always Deliver a Top-Quality Education

Of course, everyone wants the best education they can get no matter where they go to school. But military-supportive schools never forget that just being good for veterans is no substitute for delivering academic excellence.

So just because a school is military-supportive don’t expect them to pull any punches when it comes to making the grade.

You went through tough, uncompromising training as a part of your military service. As hard as it was, it made you a better soldier. You’ll be a better student when held to the same high standards.

Military-supportive schools have the same high standards and hold you to them. Just like the military, they’ll give you every kind of assistance you need to succeed. But when that success comes, you can be sure it is an achievement you have earned yourself.

Military-Supportive Colleges Go the Extra Mile for Veterans and Service Members

There is no exhaustive list of the things a school must do to be considered military friendly. Some of these things will be more important to you than others. But one thing you can always tell is when a college is willing to go the extra mile to honor you for your service. So, there are other little things to look for that might not initially even be on your radar:

There are still many schools in the United States that hold on to the tradition of rewarding and celebrating military men and women for their service. We’ll help you find those that offer more than just lip-service. And when you find the right fit, you’ll have no problem turning your military training, benefits, and experience into the degree and career of your dreams.

We Also Provide the Information You Need to Develop Your Educational Op Plan

So that nails down what makes a truly military-supportive university. But we know that not everything about your college choice is going to revolve around your veteran benefits. Those are just table-stakes for military-supportive schools. So, our lists also give you plenty of other rock-solid data to chew on for these universities.

Yellow Ribbon Department and Program Participation

Every school we feature fully funds the Yellow Ribbon Program and extends that tuition support to every eligible vet that applies. But each university gets to pick and choose which departments or programs they make eligible for Yellow Ribbon Program benefits. Often, it’s all of them, but just in case it’s not, we tell you up front, so you don’t start applying to schools that don’t make sense for you.

Full Costs and Average Savings Comparisons for Each School

Not every veteran qualifies for full GI Bill® benefits. If you’re still on active duty, you even face some strict limits on what the service will pay out toward your degree. And in those cases, costs do matter. So, we break down the approximate cost of a bachelor’s degree at each school for both in-state and out-of-state students and tell you how that stacks up against other universities in the state.

Public and Private Universities Have Different Points to Compare

We also separate our lists into public and private schools. That’s important for our pricing analysis—the costs aren’t comparable since both have different funding sources. It also helps you find the elite private universities in a given state to decide if you want to take a shot at the big-time.

Listing All the Different Ways Military Friendly Schools Make Your College Life Easier

Not every military friendly school has exactly the same amenities and offerings. It wouldn’t be much of a choice if they did! So, we detail all the ways we found that each of these schools offers their own unique ways to make vets at home. From on-campus lounges to hang out with other vets, to free tutoring services, to special career fairs, we give you the details here that make each school shine in its own way.

When you get right down to it, the most important measure of a military friendly college is whether it can help you turn your military experience and benefits into a solid, fulfilling civilian career.

We are confident that each school on this list meets that all-important criterion. With a few more clicks and some of that clear judgement you learned in the service, you’ll nail down the school that can help you get the career you deserve.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website