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Best for Vets: Career & Technical Colleges 2013 methodology

Sep. 12, 2012 - 04:52PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 12, 2012 - 04:52PM  |  
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Representatives of some 140 schools responded to our survey and identified their institutions as career and technical colleges. Institutions that offer doctorates were not considered as part of this review. To create the rankings, we scored answers based on what student veterans have told us they value most in a college or university.

Enrollment data, reflecting full- and part-time students, were reported by the schools based on their fall 2011 student populations. Schools that track military enrollment also reported how many active-duty or retired service members were on the rolls. Schools that did not track military populations reported how many students used military financial aid benefits, a group that includes both service members and their families. The military population or the military financial aid numbers were then divided by the enrollment to produce the military percentage.

At or below tuition assisitance cap means a college's per-credit-hour rate for all programs was lower than the federal $250-per-credit-hour tuition assistance limit in the 2011-12 school year.

Under GI Bill cap or Yellow Ribbon available means a school said all of its academic programs are at or below the Post-9/11 GI Bill's nationwide cap on tuition and fees for the 2012-13 school year or that the institution participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, under which a school and the Veterans Affairs Department contribute equal amounts to partly or fully make up the difference between tuition and the GI Bill award.

Relaxed residency means some state residency rules are eliminated for service members, allowing them to attend a school and pay in-state tuition.

Veterans office means a school has a central office for handling veterans issues.

Accepts ACE credits means a school grants at least some academic credits for military training, as recommended by the American Council on Education.

Veterans Upward Bound means a school participates in this federal program, which determines vets' basic academic skills and works to improve those skills when needed through tutoring, mentoring, counseling and academic instruction.

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Veterans staff means a school has at least one staff member who spends at least half of his or her time on veterans issues.

Academic support rates a school's academic help for veterans, such as special withdrawal and re-enrollment policies for service members who are deployed, as well as veterans-only classes, tutoring and mentorship programs.

Accreditation indicates the school's institutional accreditation: ABFSE is the American Board of Funeral Service Education; ACCSC is the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges; ACICS is the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools; COE is the Council of Occupational Education; MSCHE is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education; NEASC is the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; NCACS is the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools; SACS is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; and WASC is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Graduation rates from the National Center for Education Statistics show the percentage of first-time students who graduated within 150 percent of "normal time" for their program who began an associate degree in 2008 or a bachelor's degree in 2005 and graduated by 2011. The most current averages available for the 2007/2004 cohort classes were 30 percent for two-year colleges and 58 percent for four-year colleges. Some schools' large populations of transfer students may influence this rate. Members of the military frequently transfer between schools, which may adversely affect a college's graduation rate.

Default rates from the Education Department indicate the percentage of students from the 2009 graduating class who defaulted on loans within two years of beginning to repay them. The average rate was 9.9 percent for public two- to three-year schools, 4.3 percent for public four-year schools and 3.7 percent for private schools.

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