Annual tuition numbers for these schools were manually researched and represent the bachelor's degree level if the school offers at least one online bachelor's degree or the master's degree level if the school offers at least one master's degree but zero online bachelor's degrees. Out-of-state tuitions were used unless in-state tuition is offered to all online students. Tuition was calculated assuming full-time status. Unless otherwise stated, bachelor’s programs were assumed to require four years to complete and master’s programs were assumed to require two years.
Schools with programs that require some on-campus coursework were still considered for our rankings if the amount of in-person work was limited to less than two weeks worth of in-person requirements. This allows students to retain their current employment or other personal responsibilities.
Program data including available degrees, tuition rates, and details about program coursework were collected from schools' official websites, reflecting data for the 2016-2017 school year. Programmatic accreditation and profit status of schools were collected from official websites of the accreditation agencies or from the National Center for Education Statistics.
The data used to determine the Military-Friendly score is from Military Advanced Education & Transition, a publication of KMI Media Group aimed at providing servicemembers and veterans with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their education. In 2017, MAE&T surveyed over 400 institutions and evaluated them on the basis of four categories: military culture, online support, financial aid, and flexibility.
Schools were polled on the resources and services they provided in each category. For every positive answer, schools received a certain number of points. Our scores represent the points earned out of the total number of points possible, then converted into a score out of 100 points. We have ranked our schools based on scores calculated from a weighted average. Military culture and online support were weighted most heavily to ensure that our list represents the best online military education options. To be considered for this list, schools must offer 10 or more online degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level.
Military Culture: Military culture refers to the level of support offered to military students. Each of the Top Yellow Ribbon Online Schools, for example, is a signatory to the Department of Defense’s Voluntary Education Partnership Memorandum of Understanding. Participating schools agree to provide academic support to military students, offer them meaningful information about the cost of attendance, and refrain from using deceptive recruitment practices. Schools that have agreed to this Memorandum of Understanding can accept military tuition assistance funding. A college’s military culture also depends on the level of training faculty and staff receive on veteran reintegration and military culture, the type of events the school organizes to honor veterans and military students, and the presence of a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.
Online Support: Each of these colleges and universities offers online degree programs. High-ranking schools in this category provide a strong level of support to their online students. Do colleges have military-specific advisors and in what areas do these advisors provide support? Does the school have an online chapter of the Student Veterans of America or an online veterans center? Are online library and technical support services available, and to what extent are these services available? Each of these questions contributes to a college’s online support score.
Financial Aid: Military students can pay for their education through a variety of tuition assistance benefits, and colleges may offer additional incentives such as in-state tuition, scholarships, fee waivers, textbook grants, and tuition discounts. Schools that ranked highly in this category offer a significant amount of financial aid to active-duty service members, veterans, and military spouses and dependents. Schools also report whether or not they participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Participants in the Yellow Ribbon Program agree to provide additional benefits to military students beyond those offered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. All colleges on the Top Yellow Ribbon Online Schools are Yellow Ribbon Program participants, offering support to an unlimited number of students as well as offering unlimited contributions per student.
Flexibility: Flexibility is measured by assessing a college’s policies on course transfer, prior learning credit, and leave and withdrawal. Many colleges award credit for military training and experience, and allow students to earn credit by demonstrating prior learning by taking examinations or putting together an experiential learning portfolio. Military students can be called to duty and may be required to pause their studies. Flexible schools allow their students to withdraw from courses and return to school with no financial penalties.