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Representatives from more than 650 schools responded to this year's survey. Among them were some 140 schools that identified themselves as career and technical institutions, from which we compiled a separate ranking in the September issue of Military Times EDGE (You can find those rankings here).
Those schools that did not self-identify as career or technical colleges competed for placement on this list. They were rated on numerous factors based on what student veterans have told us they value most in a college or university.
Fall 2011 enrollment shows the combined full- and part-time enrollment for that semester.
At or below TA cap indicates whether a college's per-credit-hour rate for all programs was at or below the $250-per-credit-hour cap on military tuition assistance in the 2011-12 school year.
Yellow Ribbon participation indicates whether a school is participating in the Veterans Affairs Department's Yellow Ribbon program during the 2012-13 school year, under which a school and VA contribute equal amounts to partially or fully make up the difference between a school's tuition and the Post-9/11 GI Bill's nationwide cap. If the school and VA provided contradictory information but the school confirmed its Yellow Ribbon status, Military Times relied on the school's answer. Because some schools' tuition rates fall at or below the GI Bill cap, the Yellow Ribbon program may not be necessary. Every school on this list either has tuition that falls below the GI Bill cap or is a Yellow Ribbon participant.
Relaxed residency indicates whether some state residency rules are waived for service members, allowing them to pay in-state tuition.
Veterans office indicates whether a school has a central office for handling veterans issues.
Accepts ACE credits indicates whether a school grants at least some academic credit for military training, as recommended by the American Council on Education.
Veterans Upward Bound indicates whether a school participates in this federal program, which determines student veterans' basic academic skills and works to improve those skills when needed through tutoring, mentoring, counseling and academic instruction.
Veterans staff rates the number of staff members dedicated to veterans issues, how much time they spend on veteran-specific work and other factors. Best rating is four stars.
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 veteran-only classes, tutoring and mentorship programs.
Accreditation indicates a school's institutional accreditation: ACCSC is the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges; ACICS is the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools; DETC is the Distance Education and Training Council; MSCHE is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education; NCACS is the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools; NCCU is the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities; NEASC is the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; SACS is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; 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 the expected completion period for the degrees they were pursuing. For students seeking a bachelor's degree, the percentage shows the proportion of students who began in 2005 and graduated by 2011. For students seeking an associate degree, the percentage shows the proportion of students who began in 2008 and graduated by 2011. Military students are more likely than most to transfer from one school to another, and having a large number of transfer students may bring down an institution's graduation rate. The average graduation rate for this period was 59 percent among four-year schools, 34 percent among two-year schools, 54 percent among public schools, 64 percent among private schools and 40 percent among for-profit schools.
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.