A smarter military makes for a safer nation. The U.S. military encourages intellectual and professional growth by providing tuition assistance programs, points toward promotion when you earn a new degree, and counseling support as you pursue a degree. Active military members, especially officers, can get a master’s degree to help advance within the ranks and provide a selling point when transitioning into a civilian career. The best military-friendly colleges and universities offer significant financial aid options, a robust list of student support services, and resources devoted entirely to helping active military, veterans, and their families.
This guide looks at why an online master’s is a solid choice and explores 10 of the most military-friendly schools with master’s programs. Plus, you’ll learn about tricks for cutting the cost of your graduate degree and the resources at your disposal. Keep reading to see which colleges and universities stand out.
Why an Online Master’s is Military-Friendly
While you’ve received extensive specialized training during your time in the military, a master’s degree can help you enhance your military credentials and boost your career options and earning potential if and when you hang up your stripes. If you plan to stay in the military, a degree can help put you on the path to becoming an officer. Plus, service members often have access to special financial incentives for enrollment.
An online master’s program is a smart choice for military personnel and veterans due to its flexibility and accessibility. Online courses allow students to study at their own pace, accommodating their service commitments and frequent relocations. The asynchronous nature of online learning enables students to access course materials and complete assignments anytime, anywhere, making it convenient for those with unpredictable schedules or deployed overseas. These programs rely on self-guided coursework, recorded lectures, and interactive group work to enhance virtual learning. Many online programs offer military-friendly benefits like tuition discounts, specialized support services, credit for military training, and spouse and dependent discounts and programs.
Top Military-Friendly Master’s Programs Online
The top military-friendly graduate schools actively support service members, veterans, and their families. These online programs offer flexible and relatively affordable degrees that boost career options and increase earnings potential.
In addition to strong academics, the schools highlighted below provide significant student support through resources such as counseling, health services, and career training. In addition, standout military-friendly graduate programs offer financial assistance to service members and many offer college credit for past employment and military experience. Keep reading to see which schools stand out.
Military Tuition Assistance Programs
First introduced in 1944 as a benefit for World War II veterans, the GI Bill has broadened higher education opportunities for veterans and active-duty military personnel. Over time, the GI Bill has evolved, with its most recent version, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, providing educational benefits to those who have served more than 90 days on active duty after September 11, 2001.
Besides covering tuition expenses, the GI Bill also pays for room, board, and textbooks. Military members who don’t use their GI Bill benefits can transfer them to their spouses or dependent children. Since the launch of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, almost 800,000 veterans and their families have taken advantage of this program.
In most cases, GI Bill benefits are accessible to all active-duty service members, honorably discharged veterans, National Guard or Reserve members, and surviving or dependent family members.
The Yellow Ribbon Program is part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and offers financial support for military members enrolling in expensive private institutions, graduate programs, and out-of-state schools. It also pays for some fees that the Post-9/11 GI Bill fails to cover.
If you’re interested in securing support from the Yellow Ribbon Program, you must meet certain requirements. Conditions may include serving at least 36 months on active duty, receiving the Purple Heart after 9/11, or serving at least 30 days with discharge because of a duty-related disability. Prospective private colleges or universities must participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, be certified institutions of higher learning, and have room for Yellow Ribbon recipients before reaching their cap.
State University Tuition Discounts
State universities typically offer tuition discounts for military service members and veterans. This amount varies by school but can be significant. When investigating prospective graduate programs, be sure to see if schools offer financial assistance.
Schools billed as “military friendly” always offer some form of tuition assistance. Still, some schools are more generous than others. Yellow Ribbon school Drexel University offers a 25% discount for tech-based graduate programs and a 50% discount for students pursuing a master in fine arts in creative writing.
Public institutions like Kentucky’s Murray State University provide military members and veterans with in-state tuition, regardless of residence. Like other public schools, Athens State University in Alabama offers a military rate that saves students $75 per credit.
Tuition may have the most significant impact on college costs, but the various fees associated with enrollment can add up quickly. Schools such as Albany State University help military students cut costs by eliminating technology, athletics, activities, and transportation fees. Similarly, Liberty University offers technology fee waivers, saving military students $249 per semester.
While some military members have access to waived tuition, others still face high costs when financing their graduate degrees. These students may rely on scholarships to help cover the cost of their master’s programs.
Scholarships come in varying amounts and with varying requirements, and some target specific students while others support a broader audience. Additionally, scholarship amounts vary, so it’s a good idea to apply for multiple scholarships to help offset school costs.
Some popular annual scholarships include the Marines Memorial Tribute Scholarship, AMVETS Scholarship, Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship, and the U.S. Army Enlisted Commissioning Program, which runs through the Army Medical Department.
University Resources for Active Military & Veterans
In addition to offering generous financial support, many military-friendly schools have staff and departments dedicated to helping military students thrive.
Whether online or on-campus, the best schools provide extensive student support services for active military members and veterans. Military resource centers provide tailored support, such as academic assistance, financial guidance for accessing military education benefits, transition resources from military to civilian life, and career counseling. They also offer mental health services, stress management workshops, and wellness programs to address the unique challenges military-affiliated students face. Additionally, these centers foster a sense of community by connecting students with fellow veterans and advocating for their needs within the university, ensuring they receive the necessary accommodations and support for success.
Regent University offers a Military Resource Center to assist students throughout their master’s program, from admissions to career support. Similarly, the University of Maryland’s Global Campus provides military students with a military advising team.
While it’s common for schools to provide military-specific admissions advising, some schools go even further to support military students and their families. Syracuse University’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs offers a one-stop-shop for the academic, financial, personal, and career needs of its veteran population.
Accommodations for Military Life
Military life can differ significantly from civilian life, and military students have a unique set of academic, personal, and financial needs. From looming deployments to combat-related mental health issues, military students and their families rely on flexible academics and compassionate student services to make the most of their college experience. The most military-friendly schools offer enhanced accommodations and flexibility to bolster academic success.
Short-Term and Long-Term Deployments
For military service members, the possibility of deployment is part of the job, but academic and administrative support can help in the process. Before their departure, deployed military students should consider various academic and financial details. For example, if most of a student’s coursework is already complete, top-performing students can ask their professors to post their grade as it currently stands.
Receiving a grade of incomplete is another option and is given at an instructor’s discretion. An incomplete grade allows military students the chance to finish course requirements later. Before being deployed, students should also consult administrators regarding financial aid.
Students serving in the armed forces may face situations when called on active duty or active service that prevents them from attending classes or completing academic requirements. As a result, the most military-friendly schools offer flexible leave policies to ensure students don’t lose money or college credit.
Georgetown University offers clear guidance on its leave policies. If approved, students receive a 100% percent refund and re-enroll later without having to repeat any coursework. Students deciding to re-enroll pay the tuition rate that was applicable when they were originally enrolled.
Credit Transfer Policy
Most military-friendly colleges and universities accept military experience as college credit. Transfer policies vary among schools and are considered on a case-by-case basis. Military students should share their transcripts from their branch of service with schools they’re considering. To help with awarding credits for military experience, the American Council on Education offers schools recommendations regarding how many credits they should award for military jobs, Army Advanced Individual Training, and Military Occupations Specialty training.