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Articles / Applying to College / Report Outlines the Best Public Universities for Veterans

Report Outlines the Best Public Universities for Veterans

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Jan. 30, 2020
Report Outlines the Best Public Universities for Veterans


I'm a veteran who went to college. These days, many ex-military men and women are pursuing higher education using their VA educational benefits, as I did. With ever-increasing STEM programs available at the nation's universities, veterans have an opportunity to further enhance their military technical training, get a valuable four year degree and go onto exciting work. Of course, non-STEM-related majors allow vets to pursue other areas of personal passion.

My friends at Zippia.com just issued a new survey that I wish had been available to me when I returned from the Navy in the late 1960s. With The Best University for Veterans in Each State, Zippia's Kathy Morris offers a very helpful summary that evaluates what may turn out to be a great match in schools for vets seeking degrees.

Check out the Methodology Used

When I see surveys that tout "Best" or "Top" whatever, I'm always interested in the methodology used to make the determinations. So the first thing I did with this survey was to check that out. Here's a summary of how they did it:

There are a multitude of factors that contribute to veterans' success in college. Active and supportive veterans' organizations, personal life circumstances, and academic programs are all a few areas that can contribute to student performance. However, for this study we focused on a few metrics that determine veteran success:

Using data from the we ranked 517 colleges on:

- Rate of completion

- The percent of students earning 28k+ a year after attendance

- The percent of student tuition spent on instruction vs other administrative costs

The lower the score in each category the better. For example, a college that graduated every single one of its veteran students would have a 100% completion rate, and receive a #1 in that category.

We only looked at public schools with 4-year degree programs. We excluded private schools because while veterans fare well at Ivy League institutions (and when not excluded these colleges dominate the top 10), only a fraction of veteran students attend these organizations and we wanted a big, expansive look at the best colleges for veterans. Of course, it is worth noting that veterans who attend Yale-caliber schools have excellent outcomes

This approach seems reasonable to me, especially since it eschews so-called "elite" institutions, which are extremely difficult to get into. However, many elites, especially Ivies, have created veteran-friendly admissions considerations in deference to their service to our country. If you would like to read more about veterans' Ivy League opportunities, check out, for example, Columbia Continues to Lead Ivy League in Supporting Vets Transitioning to Higher Education and Workforce.

Getting back to Zippia's survey, we find some good rationale for publishing their list:

Veterans going to college face different challenges than traditional college students.

For one, only 15% of student veterans are traditionally aged college students. Often student veterans are older, with families and other responsibilities competing for their attention. Veterans may be dealing with trauma or injury from their service.

Yet, all too often when veterans decide to pursue higher education, institutions see money bags. Veterans intent on using their GI Bill are often targets of unsavory institutions and exploitative marketing schemes. These institutions often drain vets of their benefits, giving them little in return.

On the less malicious side, some institutions simply don't do as good of job at graduating veterans. They offer less services and support, leaving veterans on their own to make the tough transition from soldier to student. What universities do the best job at equipping veterans for success in academics and beyond?

Better yet, what is the best university for veterans in each state? As older students, veterans may have less mobility to move across the country for a school of their choice. Working spouses, school aged children, and other family concerns may make proximity a necessity. Similarly, veterans have spent a lot of time living away from their family and community, as they leave the service many seek to close that distance.

We dove into the data to find the university in each state where veterans have the best outcomes

I can certainly agree with that rationale. I began married life just weeks before starting classes (as a transfer sophomore) at Penn State University, which was just 45 miles from our home. I was a commuter student for the remaining three years of my degree program. As a newlywed, I wasn't going to live on campus because my wife was employed in our home town, so I commuted, which was expensive. Thus, Zippia's survey rationale makes sense to me.

These Are the Top 10

Now let's get to the rankings. There's a full listing of all 50 states at the end of the survey, but you can check out the graphical results above. Following you'll find the Top 10.

The Top 10 Universities For Veterans

1. University Of Maryland, Baltimore

2. University Of California, Los Angeles

3. University Of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

4. University Of Florida

5. University Of Washington, Seattle

6. University Of Texas At Austin

7. Binghamton University

8. University Of Wisconsin, Madison

9. University Of Illinois At Chicago

10. University Of Connecticut

Here, covering various parts of the nation, are some data points from a few of the schools that landed in Zippia's Top 10:

2. University Of California, Los Angeles

Earning Above 28k: 72 percent

Completion Rate: 93 percent

The University Of California is one of the best public university systems in the world. UCLA welcomes veterans and those who are accepted are likely to finish their degree.

3. University Of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Earning Above 28k: 75 percent

Completion Rate: 90 percent

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill was founded by a Revolutionary War Veteran. Today they continue to honor that military tradition, welcoming vets warmly. The stats show those vets are well served educationally.

5. University Of Washington, Seattle

Earning Above 28k: 76 percent

Completion Rate: 82 percent

The University of Washington is a research-focused university. Veterans looking to focus on research, or to work in Seattle's thriving tech scene, would be well served by the University of Washington.

8. University Of Wisconsin, Madison

Earning Above 28k: 79 percent

Completion Rate: 85 percent

The University of Wisconsin is not only the best college for veterans in Wisconsin, but it also has the 8th highest scores on our list. Veterans who attend UW have a high completion rate and statistically better earnings. That's a lot of reasons for veterans to seriously consider becoming a Badger.

10. University Of Connecticut

Earning Above 28k: 77 percent

Completion Rate: 77 percent

Connecticut veterans should put the University of Connecticut at the top of their list. It has the best scores for veteran graduation and earnings of any other institution in the state.

To see who's number one overall, and find the top school in each state, check out the complete survey.

My compliments to Zippia and Kathy Morris for putting all this together. I'm sure that veterans reading this will be motivated to dig deeper to see if any of the schools listed here can meet their requirements. As a veteran myself, I see this as a recipe for success!

Share Your Thoughts

We'd love to hear your experiences with great college options for veterans. Check out our forum to contribute to the conversation!

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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