Online Colleges for Veterans and Military Personnel in 2020

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Many veterans and military personnel choose online colleges. Distance programs provide flexibility to help learners balance the demands of service or the adjustment to civilian life. Distance-learning programs typically include the same courses as their on-campus counterparts, and the same faculty members often teach online and in person.

Because institutions may not offer all degrees online, learners should ensure their chosen school provides a distance program in their field. The best online colleges for military members allow learners to complete degree requirements from anywhere. Online learners can often complete internship or clinical experience requirements at a local facility. Additionally, many online degrees cost less than on-campus programs.

This guide provides an overview of online colleges for veterans and military personnel. The following sections explore school rankings, benefits of online education, types of online programs, and military benefits. Service members and veterans can use this guide to help determine whether online learning could be right for them.

Read on to explore the best online colleges for veterans.

Top 10 Online Colleges for Veterans and Military Personnel

Rank School Location
1 Oklahoma State University Stillwater, OK
2 Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences Memphis, TN
3 Rutgers University-Camden Camden, NJ
4 Indiana University-Bloomington Bloomington, IN
5 Goshen College Goshen, IN
6 Appalachian State University Boone, NC
7 Mercer University Macon, GA
8 University of South Florida Tampa, FL
9 Mary Baldwin University Staunton, VA
10 Lewis University Romeoville, IL
Advertisement AffordableCollegesOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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  • Methodology


    Online Colleges for Veterans and Military Personnel 2020
    Choosing a university as a veteran or active servicemember has many opportunities and considerations. Our researchers and higher education experts collected and analyzed data from every accredited postsecondary institution in the United States to find the online colleges with the most notable balance of academic rigor, military student services, program variety, and affordability. The specific criteria and scoring metrics for the ranking are as follows:

    General criteria:
    Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution
    Must offer at least 1 online bachelor’s degree program (4-year schools)
    Must offer at least 1 online associate degree program (2-year schools)
    At least one of the following:
    ROTC program (Army, Navy, Air Force)
    Yellow Ribbon Program (military tuition discount)
    Credit for military training
    Dedicated point of contact for veterans and servicemember support services
    Recognized student veteran organization
    Member of Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges
    Job placement services upon completion
    Scoring metrics:
    In-state tuition & fees for undergraduate students
    Count and breadth of online programs available
    Student-to-faculty ratio
    6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)
    Percentage of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college
    Average amount of scholarship/grant aid students receive from the college
    Availability of academic/career counseling services
    Student employment services
    3-year loan default rate
    AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*
    *PBV is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or “bang for your buck” – of an online degree.


Online Colleges for Veterans and Military Personnel 2020

The following schools offer high educational quality and generous benefits for military students and their families. The list below includes the nation’s top military-friendly online colleges. These institutions offer a variety of programs to help service members prepare for their careers.

  1. Oklahoma State University
    Location

    Stillwater, OK

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Oklahoma State University grants degrees from its Stillwater campus and through its online programs. At OSU, registered nurses can earn an online BSN degree. The evidence-based program builds a strong foundation for career advancement or graduate study in nursing. OSU offers full-time and part-time enrollment to help working nurses find a schedule that fits their needs. By maintaining a low ratio of online nursing students to instructors, OSU prioritizes personal instruction. The curriculum emphasizes wellness and evidence-based practice while providing opportunities for collaboration. Prospective students should hold an associate degree or diploma in nursing with a minimum 2.5 GPA. OSU offers a transfer scholarship for its RN-to-BSN program. Oklahoma State University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the BSN degree at OSU.

  2. Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences
    Location

    Memphis, TN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences School of Nursing, established in 1912, now offers a fully online RN-to-BSN program for nurses interested in career advancement. The program offers distance learners significant flexibility in designing their own curricula. The university's 30-credit BSN program provides credit for prior learning and competency-based exams to save students money on tuition. A faculty coordinator works with online nursing students to provide support and mentoring during the program. RNs with an active nursing license receive 41 credits for their prior nursing education. Prospective students should hold a diploma or associate degree in nursing with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the online BSN program.

  3. Rutgers University-Camden
    Location

    Camden, NJ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Rutgers-Camden offers an RN-to-BSN program in a fully online format. The program allows registered nurses to leverage their work experience and advance their education. Rutgers-Camden admits students on a rolling basis and offers a one-year path to a BSN degree for full-time nursing students. Rutgers-Camden offers online nursing courses with a small class size and no required campus visits. The curriculum builds critical-thinking and communication skills. Online nursing students can choose from areas of study like pharmacology, pathophysiology, and leadership development to focus the program around their career goals. The online BSN program accepts up to 60 transfer credits plus 33 credits for passing the NCLEX exam. Rutgers University-Camden holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The online BSN degree holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  4. Indiana University-Bloomington
    Location

    Bloomington, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The flagship campus of Indiana's public university system, Indiana University Bloomington offers an online RN-to-BSN program. At IU, nursing students complete a flexible curriculum that prepares graduates for leadership positions or graduate study. The program offers full-time and part-time enrollment, allowing nursing students to earn their BSN in 12 months. IU splits each semester into two learning modules, where students can complete four courses every semester. The curriculum incorporates practica and clinical experiences tailored to each student's experience and career goals. Nursing students prepare for careers in long-term care, acute care, and community settings. IU offers a tuition discount for Indiana residents. Prospective students should hold a minimum 2.5 GPA to gain admission. Indiana University Bloomington holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The School of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  5. Goshen College
    Location

    Goshen, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    From its campus in rural Indiana, Goshen College operates as a private institution. At GC, registered nurses can earn a BSN degree online. The 40-credit BSN program helps registered nurses advance their education. Distance learners complete their clinical hours largely at their current place of employment. The fully online RN-to-BSN program at GC delivers all coursework asynchronously. The curriculum includes coursework in theories of nursing, holistic client assessment, nursing research, and community health nursing. Full-time students complete the BSN program in 12 months. Prospective GC nursing students must hold an associate degree or diploma in nursing from a regionally accredited program. GC requires a minimum 2.7 GPA and current licensure as an RN for admission. Goshen College holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the BSN program at GC.

  6. Appalachian State University
    Location

    Boone, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public institution in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian State University grants degrees from its campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains and through online programs. At Appalachian, registered nurses can earn their BSN degree online. Graduates from Appalachian's online RN-to-BSN program move into leadership roles or enter graduate nursing programs. At Appalachian, nursing students complete coursework through a flexible online format. Students take non-traditional clinicals that incorporate class projects and research. The program offers a one-year path to a bachelor's degree in nursing. Appalachian offers a tuition discount for North Carolina residents. Applicants must hold an associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Appalachian State University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The BSN program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  7. Mercer University
    Location

    Macon, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private institution located in Macon, Georgia, Mercer University dates back to 1837. Today, Mercer offers an online RN-to-BSN program for Georgia registered nurses seeking a bachelor's degree through a flexible format. The program, which admits nurses with an accredited associate degree or diploma in nursing, offers part-time and full-time enrollment. At Mercer, nurses can complete a BSN in three semesters. The program incorporates clinical coursework to build hands-on skills. Students complete their coursework in an asynchronous format designed for the busy schedule of working nurses. Mercer requires a two-day orientation on campus at the beginning of the BSN program. The nursing program considers out-of-state applicants on an individual basis. Mercer University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The BSN program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  8. University of South Florida
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public institution in Tampa, Florida, the University of South Florida offers an online RN-to-BSN program for nurses seeking career advancement. At USF, online nursing students can focus their degree around nursing leadership, patient and staff education, or clinical excellence. The fully online program lets students complete the degree in three semesters. During the online nursing degree at USF, students complete experiential learning hours to apply the knowledge gained in their coursework. Online nursing students take 15 credits of core nursing courses, six credits in their concentration area, and nine credits of electives to customize the degree. Prospective USF nursing students should hold an associate degree in nursing from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 2.5 GPA. The program only admits Florida residents. The University of South Florida holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The online nursing degree at USF holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  9. Mary Baldwin University
    Location

    Staunton, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1842, Mary Baldwin University operates as a private institution from its campus in Staunton, Virginia. MBU offers an online RN-to-BSN program for nurses seeking a flexible route to a bachelor's degree. The program delivers coursework asynchronously and eliminates all on-campus requirements. On average, MBU nursing students complete their degree in 3-5 semesters. The nursing curriculum at MBU includes courses in professional nursing leadership, nursing informatics, and cultural nursing. Students also complete a community health practicum to strengthen their clinical skills. MBU also offers dual-enrollment coursework in the RN-BSN-MSN program for students considering master's degrees. Prospective MBU nursing students should hold an associate degree or diploma in nursing with a minimum 2.5 GPA. MBU also requires a current RN license. Mary Baldwin University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the BSN degree.

  10. Lewis University
    Location

    Romeoville, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    From its campus 35 miles outside Chicago, Lewis University operates as a private Catholic institution. At Lewis, nurses can pursue a BSN degree through a fully online program. Lewis enrolls RNs with an associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma. Applicants must hold an Illinois RN license and currently work as a nurse. Designed for working nurses, the RN-to-BSN program at Lewis encourages small class sizes, interactive discussion, and active participation. Faculty bring professional experience to their courses, helping students strengthen their clinical judgment and leadership skills. Prospective students should hold a minimum 2.5 GPA to gain admission to Lewis's BSN program. Lewis offers employer tuition assistance through several Illinois healthcare systems. Lewis University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The BSN program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Top 10 Online Colleges for Veterans and Military Personnel (4-Year Schools)

Benefits of Online College for Military Personnel

Veterans and military personnel can benefit from the flexibility and affordability of online programs. See below for five common reasons that service members choose online learning.

1. Accommodates Deployments and Transfers: Many active service members and reservists have commitments such as deployment, transfer, and re-stationing. Online programs allow military students to continue studying without transferring schools.

2. Allow for Transition into Civilian Life: Campus life can be hectic and crowded, especially for veterans who may be struggling with PTSD or depression. Earning a degree online can facilitate the transition to civilian life by allowing learners to study in calm environments.

3. More Affordable: Online programs often cost less than on-campus options. Military students may also qualify for GI Bill benefits and the Yellow Ribbon Program, which can further reduce costs.

4. Accommodates Family Life: The flexibility of online courses can help military service members balance academics with personal obligations, such as caring for children.

5. Allows Veterans to Work: Most online programs feature flexible scheduling options, allowing students to maintain employment while studying.

Types of Online Classes

Online courses may be synchronous or asynchronous. Each format has benefits and drawbacks. Students should decide which type of online class format best suits their scheduling and learning needs.

Synchronous classes require students to log on at specific times to participate in virtual classroom activities. This class format is common in cohort-based programs, in which learners progress through the curriculum with a group of peers. Professors often use video conferencing and live chats to facilitate real-time classroom engagement. These courses allow for real-time interaction with instructors and peers, similar to that of on-campus learning. However, synchronous courses have more rigid scheduling requirements than asynchronous classes.

Learners in asynchronous classes study independently and complete assignments at their convenience. Instructors typically provide lectures, reading materials, and exams. Students complete class requirements according to their schedule, as long as they meet deadlines. Elements of asynchronous courses often include recorded lectures and video streaming, self-guided modules, and discussion posts. The scheduling flexibility of asynchronous learning can be ideal for military members with demanding schedules and for learners with other service or family obligations. To succeed in asynchronous courses, learners need self-discipline. This learning format also reduces the amount of interaction with peers and professors.

Choosing Online Colleges for Military Personnel

Learners at military-friendly online colleges can access the same benefits as on-campus learners, including support from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) support and tuition discounts. Some online programs offer college credit for military experience, which can reduce degree-completion time and overall costs.

The Importance of VA Approval

The VA delivers programs that help military students and their family members pay for college. The VA also helps military students find the right school or program, learn about housing options, and manage other education benefits. The VA website provides information about GI Bill eligibility and the benefits available at various schools. Online learners can qualify for GI Bill benefits. However, students should ensure their prospective school holds VA approval. Most institutions employ a VA representative, who helps military students navigate the process of obtaining VA benefits. Learners can contact the military support office at their prospective school prior to enrollment.

College Credit Options for Training and Experience

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) allows students to demonstrate prior knowledge of course topics in order to qualify for college credit. Earning credit by passing CLEP exams can help students graduate more quickly and save money on tuition. VA benefits often cover CLEP exam costs for military students. CLEP tests are available in areas including American literature, English composition, government, U.S. history, biology, calculus, and chemistry. Additionally, many military-friendly colleges offer credit for military experience. Veterans and military personnel should research their prospective school’s policy to ensure they receive credit for previous experience.

Accreditation for an Online College

Accreditation provides quality assurance for students and parents. Attending an accredited school ensures that other institutions and employers will recognize earned credits and degrees. In the United States, colleges and universities can earn regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation is considered more prestigious and typically applies to academic institutions. Credits earned from regionally accredited institutions transfer easily to other schools. National accrediting agencies, on the other hand, generally focus on technical, trade, and vocational programs. Regionally accredited schools do not typically accept transfer credits from nationally accredited institutions. In addition to institutional accreditation, learners can look for programmatic accreditation from field-specific agencies. These accrediting organizations evaluate programs in a specific area, such as education, nursing, or business. The U.S. Department of Education provides a searchable database of accredited institutions and programs.

Understanding Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits

The Post-9/11 GI Bill helps veterans and their families pay for education or job training. Qualifying students must have served on active duty after September 10, 2001. To be eligible, individuals must have served at least 90 days on active duty, have received a Purple Heart and an honorable discharge, have served for at least 30 continuous days and received an honorable discharge with a service disability, or be a dependent child of a qualifying service member.

Through this bill, military students can receive up to 36 months of benefits covering tuition and fees, housing, books and supplies, and relocation costs. Learners can apply this funding toward degree programs, vocational and trade programs, apprenticeships, test fees, and distance learning. The funding amount is based on the length of active service. Military students can apply for these benefits with the VA.

Veterans and the Yellow Ribbon Program

The Yellow Ribbon Program helps veterans and military service members pay for out-of-state tuition, private school, and graduate school. Recipients apply this funding toward costs not covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Veterans attending an eligible program can qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program if they are eligible for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The recipient’s school contributes a scholarship or grant, and the VA matches the amount. Each school can enroll a limited number of students in the Yellow Ribbon Program each year. Learners receive funding on a first-come-first-serve basis, and the funding amount varies by school.

Veteran and military students interested in the Yellow Ribbon Program should first apply for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Qualifying students receive a certificate of eligibility, which they must submit to their school’s financial aid or veteran aid office to apply for the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Tuition, Student Fees, and VA Funding

The average cost of an online bachelor’s program ranges from $38,496 to $60,593, according to U.S. News & World Report. Online students at in-state institutions pay an average tuition rate of $316 per credit. In addition to tuition, schools typically charge online learners a technology fee of about $25-$75 per credit. However, most institutions waive fees for campus-based resources and facilities.

Online learning can be more affordable than on-campus education, and VA benefits can help students pay for tuition and fees, housing, and textbooks. Many schools offer discounted online tuition rates. Some institutions charge all online learners the same tuition rates, regardless of residency. Distance learners often save on expenses associated with housing and transportation. Additionally, since online students do not need to live near campus, they can choose an area with a low cost of living.

Resources

Footnote

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

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