Like other students, veterans and active-duty service members gain most from distance education that is affordable, accessible and reputable. The 2014 Best Online Programs for Veterans rankings measure these factors in consideration of benefits available specifically to people with military experience.
The rankings, now in their second year, cover online bachelor's degree programs, as well as online master's degree programs in business, education, engineering and nursing. For the first time, online computer information technology master's degree programs are also being included in the veterans-focused rankings.
To ensure academic quality, all schools included in these rankings first had to be numerically ranked in U.S. News & World Report's 2014 Best Online Programs rankings. This means each distance education program is housed in a regionally accredited institution and performed well enough on a multitude of factors – including program reputation, faculty credentials, high student graduation rates and low graduate debt loads – to earn a numeric Best Online Programs rank.
Secondly, because veterans and active-duty members often wish to take full advantage of federal benefits designed to make their course credits more portable and less expensive, programs included in the veterans-focused rankings also had to:
• Offer at least one credit-granting course listed in the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) Catalog of Nationally Accredited Distance Learning Programs
• Belong to an institution that is a member of the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) Consortium
• Belong to an institution certified for the GI Bill
• Belong to an institution participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program or a public institution that charges in-state tuition, which can be fully covered by the GI Bill, to all veterans applying from out of state. This allowance for public institutions is a change from the 2013 Best Online Programs for Veterans ranking methodology.
U.S. News only ranked programs meeting all four criteria. Best Online Programs for Veterans ranks were assigned numerically in descending order of their Best Online Programs ranks among corresponding disciplines.
For example, if the No. 7 program in the broader Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs rankings was the highest-ranked school to meet the veterans-focused criteria listed above, then that program would be No. 1 in the Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs for Veterans rankings.
Altogether, one-fifth of online degree programs (197 out of 998) that reported data to U.S. News in these disciplines are included in the 2014 Best Online Programs for Veterans rankings.
U.S. News asked schools about veterans benefits currently offered as part of its annual data collection on distance education programs between July and September 2013.
For detailed explanations of the overall Best Online Programs rankings, see the individual discipline methodologies.