To be considered for our 2019 Most Affordable Military-Friendly Online Colleges, schools needed to meet the following requirements:
Annual tuition numbers for these schools were manually researched and represent the bachelor's degree level if the school offers at least one online bachelor's degree, or the master's degree level if the school offers at least one master's degree but no online bachelor's degrees. Out-of-state tuitions were used unless in-state tuition is offered to all online students. Tuition was calculated assuming full-time status. Unless otherwise stated, bachelor’s programs were assumed to require four years to complete and master’s programs were assumed to require two years to complete.
Schools with programs that require some on-campus coursework were still considered for our rankings if all in-person work could be completed in two weeks or less. This allows students to retain their current employment or attend to other personal responsibilities.
Program data including available degrees, tuition rates, and details about program coursework were collected from schools' official websites, reflecting data for the 2018-2019 school year. Programmatic accreditations and profit statuses of schools were collected from official websites of the accreditation agencies or from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The NCES is the primary governmental entity for gathering and presenting data related to education. The NCES data is updated annually as soon as data becomes available. The NCES does not release data into downloadable formats until the federal entity has approved it, so currently available data will not be for the most recent academic year.
The data used to determine the Military-Friendly score is from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill Comparison Tool, a resource aimed at providing servicemembers and veterans with the information they need to make good decisions about their education. The GI Comparison Tool is updated annually and pulls data from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Education databases.
We collected 15 data points from the GI Comparison Tool for over 450 institutions. Each data point was then entered into an internal algorithm that allowed us to calculate a school’s score in four categories: military culture, support, financial aid, and flexibility. Each category was assigned a weight, with military culture and financial aid weighted most heavily in order to ensure that our list highlights the educational opportunities that best cater to the things that military students care about the most. The schools’ final scores were then calculated using a weighted average.
Additionally, to be considered for this list, schools must offer 10 or more online degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level.
Military Culture: Military culture refers to the level of commitment that schools show to accommodating military students and creating an environment in which they will succeed and feel comfortable. Each school’s military culture score was determined by a variety of factors, including the number of GI Bill students currently enrolled at the school, and whether or not the school participates in the many government programs designed to serve military students. For example, schools that are signatories of the Principles of Excellence program have agreed to accommodate student absences that are due to service requirements and refrain from fraudulent or aggressive recruiting techniques, and schools that are signatories of the 8 Keys to Veteran Success program are committed to monitoring veteran outcomes and training staff members on issues specific to veterans. The other government programs that were considered in these rankings are the Yellow Ribbon program and the Department of Defense Voluntary Education Partnership Memorandum of Understanding, which hold participating schools to extremely high standards with respect to educating military students.
Online Support: Military students and veterans may face unique challenges, and might require specialized support. High-ranking schools in this category provide a strong level of support to their students. Does the school have a dedicated point of contact for support services for veterans, military servicemembers, and their families? Is there a student veterans’ group on campus? The answer to each of these questions contributes to a college’s support score.
Financial Aid: Military students can pay for their education through a variety of tuition assistance benefits, and colleges may offer additional incentives such as in-state tuition, scholarships, fee waivers, textbook grants, and tuition discounts. Schools that rank highly in this category offer a significant amount of financial aid to active-duty service members, veterans, and military spouses and dependents. Schools also report whether or not they participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Participants in the Yellow Ribbon Program agree to provide additional benefits to military students beyond those offered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. All colleges on the Top Yellow Ribbon Online Schools are Yellow Ribbon Program participants, offering support to an unlimited number of students as well as offering unlimited contributions per student.
Flexibility: Flexibility is measured by assessing a college’s policies on course transfer and prior learning credit. Credits earned at regionally accredited schools are most easily transferable. Many colleges award credit for military training and experience, and allow students to earn credit by demonstrating prior learning by taking examinations or putting together an experiential learning portfolio. Some schools are also a member of the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, a consortium of schools among which it is easy for veterans and military students to transfer credits.