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Representatives from about 600 schools responded to this year's survey. Among them were some 80 schools that identified themselves as career and technical institutions, which we compiled in a separate ranking. To create these rankings, we scored schools' survey responses based on what veterans have told us is important to them, as well as on our own editorial judgment. For the first time, we also factored in Education Department statistics commonly used to track student success and academic quality. Broadly speaking, schools were evaluated in five categories: university culture, student support, academic quality, academic policies and financial aid. While the value of each section was comparable, university culture and student support were worth the most, and financial aid was worth the least. Many factors other than those listed in the chart were considered when developing the rankings. When a star-rated item is left blank, it means a school received no stars.
2012 enrollment data are as reported by the schools in our survey for the fall 2012 semester, except where otherwise indicated. Military enrollment figures apply to service members and veterans actually tracked by a school, not just those on military-related benefits, except where otherwise indicated.
Accepts ACE-recommended credits means a school grants at least some academic credits for military training as recommended by the American Council on Education.
At or below TA cap means no program at a school exceeded the $250 per-credit-hour military tuition assistance limit for active-duty students in the 2012-13 school year.
At or below Post-9/11 limits means all programs and tuition rates at a school, both undergraduate and graduate, were fully covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill in the 2012-13 school year. Public schools must waive out-of-state tuition rates for this to be the case; private schools must not exceed the $18,077.50 cap.
Yellow Ribbon rates a school's participation in the Yellow Ribbon program, under which a school and the Veterans Affairs Department partner to partially or completely make up the difference between a school's tuition rate and the amount covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Schools with "n/a" indicated that Post-9/11 fully covered their tuition costs, so Yellow Ribbon would not be needed. Stars are awarded based on the proportion of students receiving Yellow Ribbon scholarships and the value of those awards. Best rating is four stars.
Staff support rates the number of staff members a school has dedicated to veterans issues, the amount of time they spend on veterans issues and the scope and frequency of military-related training for teachers and administrators throughout the school.
Academic support rates the types of academic help a school provides, such as tutoring, mentors and learning communities, and considers both what is offered and whether there is a separate version of these types of support for veterans. The ratings also consider a school's withdrawal and re-enrollment policies for deployed service members.
Extracurriculars rates the number and activity level of student veteran groups at a school as well as whether the school supports the groups financially. The ratings also consider initiatives to support military spouses and families, as well as non-academic school events, such as service projects and Veterans Day programs.
Accreditation indicates a school's institutional accreditation. "[R]" indicates regional accreditation, which is generally the most respected type of accreditation in the academic community and usually makes it easier to transfer academic credit to another school. Regional accreditors: MSCHE: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; NCACS: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission; NCCU: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities; NEASC: New England Association of Schools and Colleges; NYSBR: New York State Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education; SACS: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; WASC: Western Association of Schools and Colleges-Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities; WASC-ACCJC: Western Association of Schools and Colleges-Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Non-regional accreditors: ACCSC: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges; ACICS: Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
Student-faculty ratio data, from the Education Department, shows the average number of students per one faculty member in fall 2012.
Graduation rate data, from the Education Department, indicates the percentage of first-time, full-time students who graduated within 150 percent of the expected completion time for the degrees they were pursuing. The percentage reflects those students who started in 2009 while graduating by 2012 if seeking an associate degree and started in 2006 while graduating by 2012 if seeking a bachelor's degree. Among all schools tracked by the Education Department, the average graduation rate was 56 percent for four-year schools and 34 percent for two-year schools for students graduating by 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. Graduation rates consider only first-time, full-time students, a category that current and former service members rarely fall into. However, the rate provides some indication of academic success for the general student population. The number in parentheses is the school's transfer-out rate for the same period, which, if added to the graduation rate, could give a more accurate representation of student success.
Default rate data, from the Education Department, indicates the percentage of students from the 2009 graduating class who defaulted on loans within two years of beginning to repay them. Among all schools tracked by the Education Department, the average default rate was 11 percent for four-year schools and 20 percent for less-than-four-year schools.