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Methodology

Sep. 9, 2013 - 11:49AM   |  
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Best for Vets: Colleges 2014

The rankings
The story

About 80 schools responded to our survey and indicated that their institutions were career and technical colleges. Schools that offer doctorates were not considered for these rankings but instead will be evaluated for the general education rankings to be published in November. To create the rankings, we scored schools’ survey responses based on what veterans have told us is more 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 policies, academic quality and financial aid. While the value of each section was comparable, university culture and student support were worth the most in the survey, and financial aid was worth the least. Many factors other than those listed in the chart were considered when developing the rankings.

Enrollment data are as reported by the schools in our survey for the fall 2012 semester, except where otherwise indicated. Military enrollment figures are measured similarly and apply to service members and veterans actually tracked by a school, not just those on military-related benefits, except where otherwise indicated.

Accepts ACE 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 a school’s per-credit-hour tuition rate for all programs was not above the $250 limit set for military tuition assistance in the 2012-13 school year.

At or below Post-9/11 limits means that 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 Post-9/11 GI Bill. Schools with n/a indicated that Post-9/11 fully covered their tuition costs, so Yellow Ribbon was not needed. Stars are awarded based on the proportion of students receiving Yellow Ribbon scholarships and the value of those awards. Best rating = HHHH.

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 also considers 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, Veterans Day programs and others.

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. See the accompanying box for an explanation of the abbreviations. Regional accreditors: MSCHE is Middle States Commission on Higher Education; NCACS is North Central Association of Colleges and Schools; SACS is Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; WASC is Western Association of Schools and Colleges; WASC-ACCJC is Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior College. Non-regional accreditors: ACCSC is Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges; ACICS is Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools; COE isCouncil on Occupational Education; NASM isNational Association of Schools of Music.

Student-faculty ratio data, from the Education Department, shows the average number of students per one faculty member in fall 2012.

Graduation & transfer 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 2006while graduating by 2012if seeking a bachelor’s degree. Because student transfers are counted against this rate, and students with military ties are more likely to transfer schools, the data shown adds transfer students to the graduation rate, unless otherwise indicated. 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 those graduating by 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. Those averages do not include transfers. 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 school population.

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.

If you know of a school or organization that might like to participate in this survey, or a different one, we’d be happy to consider them. Just email bestforvets@militarytimes.com

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