Best Online Military-Friendly Colleges

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Earning a college degree can mean more job opportunities and a higher earning potential for service members, veterans, and other military personnel. And a degree can also lead to a promotion for active-duty military service members.

Military-friendly colleges invest in service members. They coordinate with the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide education benefits and support military students during their studies. But what's the best online college for military students?

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Today, many colleges specialize in enrolling military students. And online colleges appeal to military-affiliated students. The flexibility of an online program can make it easier to learn from anywhere, while online colleges also help military students maximize their education benefits. Many also offer college credit for military training and experience.

Our list ranks the best online colleges for veterans and military service members. Prospective learners can use the ranking to find accredited, online programs that support military students.

Benefits of a Military-Friendly College


Members of the military (active duty and veteran alike) often choose to continue their education and pursue degrees — either during their service or afterward.

There are many reasons for service members to attend college, such as to improve job opportunities, pursue a passion, take advantage of the military's education benefits, and advance a career.


A 2020 report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that in 2015-2016 about 6% of undergraduate students were veterans, active-duty service members, or in the reserves or the National Guard.

A large portion of these students took advantage of military benefits.


The report also found that 36% of military graduate students and 43% of military undergraduates received some form of veterans' education benefits.

Education benefits offered to military members can help increase their return on investment and make pursuing a degree more affordable.

How to Choose an Online Military-Friendly College

The best online colleges for military students offer affordability, online learner resources, and support. But how should you compare online schools for military service members and veterans? This section discusses the factors to consider when choosing an online college as a veteran or military student.

Cost

The cost of an online degree can vary greatly. In 2020-2021, the average cost of tuition at public four-year institutions was $9,375. In-state, public colleges offer the most affordable tuition rates, while private colleges tend to cost the most.

In addition to tuition and fees, degree-seekers must consider technology costs, books, supplies and other expenses. Online students can potentially save money on commuting and transportation costs. When comparing online colleges, research the total program cost.

Accreditation

Military students should always choose an accredited college. Accredited institutions meet high standards for educating students. They also demonstrate strong student learning outcomes and faculty qualifications. Only students attending accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid programs.

In addition to institutional accreditation, some programs also hold specialized accreditation, particularly in business, education, social work, and healthcare. The same accrediting agencies evaluate online programs and on-campus programs.

Veteran and Military Programs and Services

Military-friendly colleges offer programs and services for active duty service members, veterans, and other students associated with the military. Many online students can access these supports virtually.

When researching online colleges, look for information about military and veteran services. These may include military and veteran advisors who can help applicants register for classes and find resources. Many schools' military education benefits also include counseling and student life programs designed for military service members and veterans.

Finally, students may also benefit from peer advisor or peer mentorship programs.

Major and Degree Offerings

Some students choose a major before even applying to schools. These learners should consider colleges that have strong programs in their desired areas of study.

Others enter college without a clear idea of what they want to major in. These students can benefit from applying to online colleges that offer majors in diverse fields.

Before applying to online colleges, research each institution's degree options, graduation requirements, and offered concentrations.

Online Learning Format

Online colleges provide a variety of enrollment options for military students. Learners can enroll full-time or part-time, depending on their schedule. Many online schools also offer accelerated programs. These programs help degree-seekers graduate in less time.

Some online schools operate on a traditional semester calendar, while others offer up to six shorter terms per year. And course options include synchronous and asynchronous classes. Consider your schedule and needs to find the right learning format for you.

Transfer Credits

Many military service members and veterans enter college with transfer credits. That's because many schools offer credit for military training and experience.

When comparing schools, make sure to check their policies on military service credit and transfer credit. The application process may differ for transfer students because they are not typically required to submit standardized test scores. An admission counselor can walk you through the transfer credit and application process.

Student Support

Online students can benefit from support services throughout their studies. Student services may include enrollment advising, financial aid counseling, and academic advising. Many colleges also provide internship programs and mentorship opportunities.

Career services support can include virtual job fairs, career assessments, mock interviews, and resume reviews. These resources help learners complete their degrees and transition into the workforce. Research online student services at different colleges to learn more.

Related Programs that May Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Financial Aid Options for Military Students

What's the best way to pay for military-friendly college? Fortunately, service members and veterans qualify for all kinds of financial aid and support.

Based on military service, students may qualify for the GI Bill® and Yellow Ribbon Program, which can cover 100% of tuition and other education expenses. Military students also qualify for financial aid through military tuition assistance programs. In addition, military students can submit the FAFSA to receive college grants. And many scholarship opportunities fund service members and veterans.

When researching financial aid as a military student, check which schools accept veteran and military financial benefits.

GI Bill

Military students can take advantage of the GI Bill to cover expenses. Eligible service members include those who served at least 90 days on active duty and dependent children of qualifying service members.

The GI Bill covers up to the full cost of in-state tuition and fees at public universities. Recipients also qualify for up to $26,381 at private institutions. The GI Bill can also help cover housing, books, supplies, and relocation expenses. Learn more about GI Bill benefits.

Yellow Ribbon Program

The Yellow Ribbon Program provides additional financial support for expenses not covered by the GI Bill. Recipients must meet the GI Bill eligibility requirements. Starting in Aug. 2022, the program also covers active duty service members.

The amount of financial support varies depending on the agreement between the VA and your school. Only participating schools offer Yellow Ribbon funding, and many set a maximum number of recipients, so reach out to your school for more information.

Military Tuition Assistance

Each branch of the military offers a tuition assistance program. Tuition assistance may cover up to 100% of tuition expenses. However, recipients must meet eligibility requirements based on their branch of service.

For example, the Air Force provides up to $4,500 per year for active duty and reserve members, while the Army covers up to $4,000 per year. The Navy, Marines, and Space Force also provide up to $4,500 per year, though the benefit only extends to active-duty members. The Coast Guard offers up to $3,750 per year. Check with your school's certifying official for information.

Scholarships

Military students qualify for multiple college scholarships. In addition to general scholarships, they can apply for military and veteran scholarships. Those enrolled in online colleges for military students also qualify for online student scholarships. Research scholarship opportunities to identify funding sources.

Grants

Like scholarships, college grants represent free money for school. Military students qualify for the Pell Grant, which offers up to $6,895 for the 2022-2023 school year. Children of service members who died in Iraq or Afghanistan may also qualify for the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.

Best Accredited Online Military-Friendly Colleges

#1 Best Online Military-Friendly Colleges

Southern New Hampshire University

  • Manchester, NH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Southern New Hampshire University has been a military-friendly college for more than 80 years. The school oversees more than 200 online programs. SNHU also offers tuition discounts of up to 30% for active military personnel and their spouses.

Prospective undergraduate students need only a high school diploma or the equivalent for admission. Military students may receive up to 90 transfer credits for job training or professional military education. They may also qualify for active-duty tuition assistance, Veteran Readiness and Employment services, GI Bill benefits, and the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in-state | $320

Undergrad, out of state | $320

Graduate, in-state | $627

Graduate, out of state | $627


Average Tuition
In-state
$30,756
Out-of-state
$30,756
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
65%
Admission Rate
88%
Students Enrolled
113,514
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
#2 Best Online Military-Friendly Colleges

Liberty University

  • Lynchburg, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Liberty University oversees more than 100 online bachelor's programs and over 300 online master's programs. The military-friendly college offers military degree plans, including tuition discounts and tuition assistance, technology fee waivers, and support during deployment and returns.

Prospective students need a high school diploma or its equivalent for undergraduate admission. Liberty provides transfer credit for approved military training and education. The school also offers benefits through GI Bill programs, the Yellow Ribbon Program, Veteran Readiness and Employment services, and the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program.

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in-state | $390-$455

Undergrad, out of state | $390-$455

Graduate, in-state | $565-$615

Graduate, out of state | $565-$615


Average Tuition
In-state
$15,417
Out-of-state
$15,417
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
51%
Students Enrolled
85,586
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#3 Best Online Military-Friendly Colleges Best Value

University of Central Florida

  • Orlando, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

At the University of Central Florida, online military students have access to more than 100 degree programs. The military-friendly college provides military benefits through GI Bill programs, the Yellow Ribbon Program, and Veteran Readiness and Employment services. UCF also offers tuition assistance, military scholarships, and free tuition for Florida National Guard members. 

Prospective undergraduate students need a high school diploma (or the equivalent) and SAT or ACT scores for admission. Military students are given a specialized transition plan, academic advising, and career support upon entry.

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in-state | $179

Undergrad, out of state | $716

Graduate, in-state | $327

Graduate, out of state | $1,152


Average Tuition
In-state
$4,478
Out-of-state
$19,810
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
44%
Students Enrolled
69,402
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#4 Best Online Military-Friendly Colleges

Averett University

  • Danville, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The Graduate and Professional Studies division at Averett University offers online programs in seven main fields, including business, education, and nursing. This military-friendly college provides military tuition discounts of 25-50%, military scholarships, and benefits like GI Bill benefits, Veteran Readiness and Employment services, and the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Prospective students need a high school diploma or its equivalent for admission. Military students can qualify for up to 90 transfer credits for experience and training.

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in-state | $480

Undergrad, out of state | $480

Graduate, in-state | $530-$695

Graduate, out of state | $530-$695


Average Tuition
In-state
$11,520
Out-of-state
$11,520
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
50%
Admission Rate
24%
Students Enrolled
485
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#5 Best Online Military-Friendly Colleges

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis

  • West Lafayette, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online

Purdue University Global is a military-friendly college offering more than 175 online programs. Depending on the year, up to a third of the students at Purdue Global have a military affiliation. These learners may receive tuition discounts of up to 55%. Military students also receive access to GI Bill benefits, tuition assistance, and military spouse benefits. 

Prospective undergraduate students need a high school or GED diploma for admission. Military students may qualify for transfer credits for their military training and experience.

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in-state | $280

Undergrad, out of state | $315-$371

Graduate, in-state | $378-$630

Graduate, out of state | $420-$700


Average Tuition
In-state
$7,920
Out-of-state
$13,356
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
100%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
38,138
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
99% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

BestColleges.com 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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#6 Best Online Military-Friendly Colleges

Arizona State University

  • Scottsdale, AZ
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

One of the top military-friendly colleges, Arizona State University enrolls more than 6,000 military personnel. The school offers nearly 300 online programs and certificates. Military students have access to GI Bill benefits, tuition assistance, the Veterans Educational Assistance Program, and spouse and dependent program benefits. 

ASU is also home to the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and provides specialized student services to veterans and active-duty military. Prospective students need a high school or GED diploma for admission. Enrolled students may receive transfer credits for military training and education.

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in-state | $561-$661

Undergrad, out of state | $561-$661

Graduate, in-state | $543-$1,343

Graduate, out of state | $543-$1,343


Average Tuition
In-state
$8,867
Out-of-state
$19,282
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
74%
Admission Rate
64%
Students Enrolled
45,073
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
98% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#7 Best Online Military-Friendly Colleges

University of Massachusetts Global

  • Irvine, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Formerly known as Brandman University, the University of Massachusetts Global is a military-friendly college with more than 90 online programs. The school offers military transition programs, tuition assistance programs, and tuition discounts of up to 50% for military personnel. 

UMass Global also provides GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon Program benefits, support for military spouses and dependents, and education assistance programs. Prospective students need a high school diploma with a 2.0 minimum GPA for admission.

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in-state | $500

Undergrad, out of state | $500

Graduate, in-state | $680

Graduate, out of state | $680


Average Tuition
In-state
$12,000
Out-of-state
$12,000
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
10,231
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
96% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#8 Best Online Military-Friendly Colleges Best Value

University of Maryland Global Campus

  • Adelphi, MD
  • 4 years
  • Online

The University of Maryland Global Campus is a military-friendly college that provides reduced tuition and tuition assistance programs for active-duty personnel and veterans. The school also provides military benefits through GI Bill programs, the Yellow Ribbon Program, and military scholarships. Learners can choose from more than 90 online programs.

Prospective students need a high school diploma or (or the equivalent) for admission. Admitted students may receive transfer credits for their military experience and training.

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in-state | $306

Undergrad, out of state | $499

Graduate, in-state | $504

Graduate, out of state | $659


Average Tuition
In-state
$7,200
Out-of-state
$11,976
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
52%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
58,281
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
90% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#9 Best Online Military-Friendly Colleges

Syracuse University

  • Syracuse, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

One of the top military-friendly colleges, Syracuse University runs nearly 60 online programs. Syracuse students can access Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits, tuition assistance programs, and the Yellow Ribbon Program. GI Bill benefits are also available — Syracuse helped create the original bill in 1944.

Prospective students need a high school or GED diploma and standardized test scores for entry. Military students may qualify for experiential transfer credits.

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in-state | $1,864

Undergrad, out of state | $1,864

Graduate, in-state | $1,734

Graduate, out of state | $1,734


Average Tuition
In-state
$50,616
Out-of-state
$50,616
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
44%
Students Enrolled
22,850
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#10 Best Online Military-Friendly Colleges Best Value

Thomas Edison State University

  • Trenton, NJ
  • 4 years
  • Online

Thomas Edison State University is a military-friendly college with more than 100 online programs and certificates. The school offers discounted tuition rates, tuition assistance programs, and scholarships for military personnel. TESU also provides GI Bill and Veterans Affairs benefits and support for military spouses and dependents. 

Prospective students need a high school or GED diploma for admission. Once admitted, military students connect with a military-specific advisor. They may qualify for transfer credits for their experience and training.

Avg. Cost per Credit

Undergrad, in-state | $399

Undergrad, out of state | $519

Graduate, in-state | $668-$905

Graduate, out of state | $668-$905


Average Tuition
In-state
$7,926
Out-of-state
$9,856
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
10,227
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

How We Rank Online Military-Friendly Colleges

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of online programs to produce our annual Best Online Military-Friendly Colleges ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by NCES. We identified 646 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

  • Each school must be an accredited four-year public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Each school must meet at least one of the following criteria:
  • Participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program
  • Offer credit for military training
  • Have a dedicated point of contact for support services for veterans, military service members, and their families
  • House a recognized student veteran organization
  • Be a member of Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges
  • Each school must submit an annual report to NCES.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best online schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (50%), affordability (25%), and the availability and popularity of online programs (25%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions About Military-Friendly Colleges

What makes a college military friendly?

Many colleges claim to be military friendly. But what characteristics mark a truly military-friendly college?

First, military-friendly colleges accept education benefits like the GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon Program. These benefits help military service members earn a college degree. Second, these schools have offices for military and veteran affairs to help students access resources and connect with a broader community. Third, these colleges often grant credit for military experience and training. Finally, military-friendly colleges offer resources to help graduates plan their careers.

Should I go to college before or after the military?

There are benefits to enrolling in college before joining the military or joining the military and then attending college. For example, enlistees who already hold a college degree may qualify for officer candidate school or higher ranks. College can also help future enlistees gain valuable skills like discipline and self-direction. Several programs exist to help military service members with college loans repay their debt.

However, going to college after joining the military also offers major benefits. Service members and veterans qualify for education benefits like the GI Bill and military tuition assistance programs. They can also qualify for scholarships and grants based on their service.

Is military college free?

The military operates several military academies, including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

These military academies do not charge tuition for enlistees because the education students receive is part of their military training. However, students who enroll at these military academies must meet strict admission standards. They also agree to a term of military service to cover the cost of their education, which ranges from 5-8 years depending on the military academy.

Military service members interested in a college degree can also enroll at public or private colleges. Education benefits like the GI Bill can help students earning degrees at these institutions pay for college.

Can you be in the military while going to college?

Yes, you can attend college during active duty military service. Many service members pursue a college degree while enlisted. These service members benefit from education benefits and military tuition assistance programs.

Distance learning may appeal to active duty service members seeking a degree. In online programs, service members can complete coursework from anywhere. Enrolling in an on-campus program may limit options and can lead to problems if service members need to serve overseas. Many military-friendly colleges offer hybrid options where service members can switch between in-person and online formats.

Do all colleges accept military tuition assistance?

For certain types of education benefits like the Yellow Ribbon Program, colleges must contract with the Department of Veteran Affairs. However, most colleges accept military tuition benefits. These benefits, offered by different branches of the military, provide $3,750-$4,500 per year in tuition support.

Much like federal student aid programs, colleges must hold accreditation to accept military tuition assistance. Before enrolling, service members must receive approval from their service branch's education center. The service branch then pays the funds directly to the school.

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 at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/.

BestColleges.com 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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