From left, the West Virginia Army National Guard's Capt. Jason Diaz, Staff Sgt. Mick Cochran, Capt. Rob Rush, Sgt. 1st Class Kerry Gnik and Maj. Robert J. Kincaid are students in West Virginia University's online executive MBA program. (Courtesy of West Virginia University)
As service members and veterans have become bigger priorities for schools, some are starting to offer MBA degrees tailored to the military.
Syracuse University has a bit of a head start — 62 years.
Shortly after World War II, the university launched its Army Comptrollership School to help meet a congressional demand for better business practices in the military. In 2014, it’s still running strong, now offering a joint Master of Business Administration and Executive Master of Public Administration degree in a 14-month program available to troops across the military.
And next year, Syracuse plans to launch a new MBA degree just for vets.
“The MBA builds on the strengths and skills that they’ve already obtained as leaders in the military,” said James Schmeling, managing director of the school’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. “It validates that experience and gives them the credential that’s recognized by the marketplace.”
Syracuse’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management landed the sixth spot in our Best for Vets: Business Schools 2014 rankings. The top five were the business schools of D’Youville College in Buffalo, N.Y.; Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio; University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio; Rutgers in Newark, N.J.; and Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
About 140 colleges and universities participated in the detailed, nearly 80-question survey, which delved into school culture, student support, academic outcomes and quality, academic policies, and cost and financial aid. The top 64 are listed on these pages.
While only a few schools indicated that they have entire military-specific degree plans similar to Syracuse’s, many institutions appear to be doing more to keep track of their student veterans.
About half indicated that they use retention or graduation rates, or both, to track the academic progress of active-duty service members and vets. Nearly three-quarters of responding schools said they have a way to identify which of their students have ties to the military.
Traditional, in-person MBA programs were still much more common, but about one in four responding schools offer most of their classes online.
Nearly one in three schools waive application fees for vets, but once you’re accepted, cost could be an issue: Nearly 80 percent of schools charge tuition above the military tuition assistance cap. For vets, less than half of public schools waive out-of-state tuition, and less than half of private schools have tuition below the Post-9/11 GI Bill cap.
This could have you digging in your pocket to pay for some tuition costs. But many schools participate in the Yellow Ribbon program, which can help make up the difference.
Still, cost is just one of many factors to consider when picking a school.
Reputation matters, said Stephen Abel, director of the Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
“If you get a degree from a school that has a solid academic reputation, that’s a really big plus,” Abel said. And if the school has made a big effort to accommodate vets with special programs and policies, “that makes the transition all the more easy.”
Marine Corps Reserve Capt. Lloyd McGuire, a prior active-duty Marine, said that when he was choosing a school for his MBA, he considered school prestige, its culture related to the military, class size and location. He settled on Texas A&M.
“I’ve had an incredible experience,” McGuire said. “It’s just a very challenging curriculum here at A&M. That is very similar to ... what I had to do in the military.”
The biggest challenge for McGuire doesn’t come in the classroom but at the bank. With a wife and young son at home, doing without a full-time salary is difficult, he said. But he thinks it will be worth it.
“Take that leap of faith. Use the GI Bill, which is the greatest benefit, and invest in yourself, and the world is yours.”