What Does ‘Military Friendly’ Mean?

Many news sources are reporting that the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in a flood of veterans headed to college. CNN reported last week that there at least 416K veterans currently enrolled in and using the GI Bill. This is not surprising considering the incredible support and benefits being offered by the VA through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This is great news.

But, many veterans have discovered that going back to school is a bit rougher than they had anticipated and that not all schools are created equal. There are three BIG cautions veterans should be aware of before they start college.

  1. Military Friendly is not what it is chalked up to be.
  2. Most veterans need some remedial training to prepare academically for college rigor.
  3. Veterans need to have a career plan and goals before jumping in to college.

Over the next few days I will address each of these issues and provide resources and opportunities for veterans to help ensure they get the most from their GI Bill benefits.

Today’s blog entry will focus on issue number one — What does Military Friendly really mean?

In the simplest, albeit skeptical point of view, the term “Military Friendly,” is a marketing catch phrase. In fact, a recent Associated Press article by Justin Pope addressed this very issue along with the proposed legislation to  force schools that wish to participate in the GI Bill to follow veteran friendly policies.

Unfortunately for most veterans, there is no way of knowing exactly what the phrase really means. A quick study of the subject reveals that in the loosest interpretation it means that veterans are welcome and the school has programs which have been approved by the VA for using the GI Bill (and by the DoD for tuition assistance). Yep, in many cases that’s all it takes for a school to claim they are “Military Friendly.”

The fact is, for a school to be truly “Military Friendly” they need to do a lot more than that, starting with adhering to the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) Military Student Bill of Rights. But that doesn’t really go far enough either. Schools should also be open to accepting the non-traditional education sources like CLEP and DSST exams for college credit and the American Council on Education’s recommendations for college credit for military experience – applied skills, knowledge, and abilities associated with military training and education programs.

In addition, schools that wish to be military friendly should offer degrees that help veterans find gainful employment while offering the flexibility active duty, Guard and Reserve servicemembers need when it comes to deployments, op-tempo, and mobilization.

Beginning this summer schools that wish to participate in DoD’s military tuition assistance program will have to adhere to a new Memorandum of Understanding that includes set of policies which ensure that the schools are indeed friendly to military students.

So, before you enroll in a so-called “Military Friendly” school, ask them to define it.

Next topic: The Need for Remedial Support.

About the Author

Terry Howell
Before becoming the Managing Editor for Military.com, Terry served 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate and aircrewman. In his final role in the Coast Guard, Terry served as a Career Development Advisor, where he provided career, finance, education, and benefits counseling to servicemembers and their families. Since retiring from the Coast Guard, Terry has authored the book, The Military Advantage, managed the content for TurboTap, the DoD's online transition program and VAforVets, the VA's transition assistance website. Terry earned both his Bachelor's and MBA at Corban University using Military Tuition Assistance and his GI Bill benefits to help cover the cost.
  • Jeremy N Glasstetter

    This one is fun…

    There is no such thing as a Military Friendly school. There are, however, countless Military-Helpful schools who, by the nature of the education industry, have been forced to attach the military-friendly moniker next to their school title.

    So, during my tenure as SVA National President, I worked to develop a more conducive moniker for schools to adopt which showed empirically, through works rather then words, that their school is more helpful to transitioning service members. As such, the term I’ve adopted and been pushing is “military or veteran-helpful.” the military-friendly connotation means nothing more than the school has a working SCO, and accepts VA educational benefits. It does not, as alluded too in this thread, mean those necessary resources and tools for service members, veterans, spouses and dependents truly exist on any given campus. To truly be definable as military or veteran-helpful, a school will have in place a working student veterans resource center manned and operated by student veteran work study students, veteran specific financial aid and admissions coordinators, accessibility services (such as military counseling), and, possibly, a veterans only orientation or first year veteran only classes.

    Let us use two schools, of similar size and structure, as examples: school “X” and school “Y”

    School “X” – a robust and departmentalized veterans program with a top-down approach to student veterans, a student veterans resource center, a veterans administrative advocate or liaison, veterans-only orientation, priority registration, tuition discount, veteran-specific dorm housing, (maybe) first year veteran-only courses, etc., etc.

    School “Y” – a certifying official, an entry in GI Jobs vet-friendly magazine

    If, for example, you poll the student veteran who attends school X, you may find their descriptive definition to be more inclusive and closer to “vet-helpful” versus the “vet-friendly” marketing pitch.

    As with any student demographic, its all about the services provided. Granted, no school must re-invent the wheel to service their student veterans, but a little effort into development, orchestration, and implementation of services do go a long way!

  • JNGlasstetter

    In my eyes, a campus with learning support services, specific to military service members, veterans, spouses, and dependents, more accurately defines a “vet-supportive” campus.

    While its great to boast enrollment numbers, when dealing with military members, its the retention and graduation rates which will truly set institutions apart from one another.

    A favorite statistic of mine is: The original GI Bill, according to most economists, returned $7 for every $1 invested and it became the economic driver that placed skilled veteran entrepreneurs into our workforce after World War II and Korea making the United States the greatest economic power in the world. The Post 9/11 GI Bill can deliver the same economic benefit to our country today.

    That should persuade institutions to change the manner by which they deliver services to our transitioning student veterans.

    The GI Bill has proven that the return on investment by America is sevenfold (7:1) and that while a Pay-Go requirement exists it should not be applied to the Montgomery GI Bill because we will realize a better educated, working, tax paying, productive member of society who will return $7 dollars for every dollar invested in the MGIB.

    (7:1) ROI, imagine the taxes paid back into the system, and surrounding economy’s infrastructure. Every government agency should study this model?

  • Barry Brodsky

    Happy to see this topic being addressed. The potential return on the new and improved GI Bill is fantastic but only if veterans are well prepared to enter college. Looking forward to the rest of this series. Thank you Terry!!

    • tdhowell

      Thanks, Barry for what you do too!

  • In Arizona, the Legislature passed two bills authored by the Arizona Veterans’ Education Foundation over the past two sessions defining “veteran supportive campuses” and creating State Certification for any college or university meeting the requirements. The Governor signed both bills into law.

    SB1373 (2011) is described and current certified schools: http://www.azdvs.gov/veteran_supportive_campuses….

    SB2602 (2012) is here: http://www.azleg.gov//FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/l

    The Center for Veterans’ Education and Training (CVET) is recruiting a speakers bureau of student veterans, graduated veterans, trainers, and subject matter experts (MSW and doctoral levels) to respond to requests for sensitivity and awareness training on student veterans for college and university staff. Collaborative trainings are provided from within a coalition of interested organizations such as the American Veterans’ Education Foundation, the National Alliance to End Veteran Suicide and the Western Brain Injury Alliance. A pilot training was offered to faculty and staff from ten community colleges on February 3.

    More information here: http://cvet.us/

    • Cathy

      I’m not sure if I interpreted your message correctly, or if was just hoping to find someone who advocates for veterans who are dealing with psychosocial problems from combat. My story… I was accepted to the Nurse Practitioner program at Univ of Iowa and completed one year. I had some ptsd issues at one point and had to drop one class, My GPA dropped to 2.86 and I was placed on academic probation.. Unfortunately, my father died during the “probation” period and I ended up with a B+ in one class and a D- in the other. So, UI kicked me out of the university. Just like that.

    • Cathy

      Continued from above post: I am a case manager for OEF/OIF veterans and I know several veterans in similar situations. Sometimes veterans with ptsd get caught in an anxiety attack and are unable to go into the college building. Even though their grades are high, they are still failed due to attendence.
      How can we (veterans) and the VA and the US educate college faculty about how to work with veterans who are dealing with ptsd, adjustment disorder, and anxiety issues. These veterans were not “born” this way and often don’t even understand what is happening to them when ptsd symptoms take hold, but they are smart and are able to learn and succeed if colleges and universities are willing to educate themselves and cease passing judgement on people who are disabled (I prefer “differently abled.”) Thank you for any insight you have to offer.

      • Gene van den Bosch

        Cathy, there are folks trying to do just what you hope. We need to work together. Please visit either http://www.cvet.us or http://www.azvef.org and contact me there though one of the info@… email addresses. We are establishing chapters and affiliates in various states to replicate what we started in Arizona (there is still so much to do … no easy fix … it will take hard work and committed people who not only get it, but care a great deal – people like you. Please contact us.

  • Sheila Nottingham

    Well, since I had already completed my AA degree, I was able to show this to my Active Duty Husband who started attending NOVA in Northern College. He recognized what I was telling him and changed colleges. I hope the VA will cut NOVA from it’s list, cuz they are just awful and could care less about Military experience!!!

  • David

    I’m completing my AAS in May and it would have been great to receive credit for my service experience. I get Chapter 31 voc-rehab. If not for being service connected I wouldn’t receive ANY educational benefit whatsoever! Seems like everything available is for post 9/11 or Vietnam vets. Those of us between wars weren’t given anything for our service. I think we need to address this issue. Just because we didn’t go to war doesn’t mean we weren’t ready to go. I’m not complaining, its just that ALL vets should be appreciated for their service.

  • rainier4311

    I went to Columbia Basin College in 1991 and received my AAS in 1994. Although they have a representative at the school, they do not accept any CLEP credits. They do not participate in SOCAD either. So, if any service personnel are considering CBC, they are located in Pasco, WA, and they are truly not a SOCAD college, but Yakima Valley Comm College is a SOCAD and I found that out in 1991, but that is not saying what they are today.

    DO NOT go to Harvard or any of the Ivy Leagues because they HATE the service. Remember, Elana Kagan was the Law Department Dean at Harvard and she was instrumental in kicking the ROTC and recruiters of the campus. The VA threatened to withdraw all funding and they allowed the recruiters back on campus. They are NOT military friendly.

    • retiree

      Correction on this – Harvard does NOT hate the military. With the recent repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, not only do they allow recruiters onto the campus, but they have ROTC now (actually, they’ve always had it available at MIT down the road, but now it will have an office on campus as well).

    • guest

      I would definitely not go to a college that has a great reputation and requires silly entrance exams like GREs. Employers never ever look at the quality of a school. Also to get into most reputable grad school programs, you need a 3.5 or better as a C in a grad class has to be taken again. Bets need to be aware of bad promises. Look at the student loan default rate for a school that you are interested in. Also for profit schools tend to have half added faculty who are pressured to pass all students regardless of ability. Go to a community college first to get your feet wet and then transfer to either a yellow ribbon school or to a state university. That way, you do not have loans to pay back. Remember that student loans follow you to the grave. Declaring bankruptcy does not erase them. Once you use your GI Bill, it is gone for good.

      • Vietnam-Student

        As a professional with about 11-12 years of college, it does not appear that you know much about the process of getting a degree. Renown schools like Harvard open doors that other schools cannot. The default rate has nothing to do with the quality of schools, that is an individual issue. All schools have good and bad points. It is up to the student to make a wise choice. Employees do notice if you go to Harvard, Yale, etc, but not regular schools.

  • rainier4311

    Continued from last post:

    Colorado Technical University, on line, or on the ground are surprisingly friendly to service personnel because those who have bounced around school to school, your credits are like gold. They will transfer with no questions asked; providing they fit into the degree program that is selected. I go to CTU. I transferred my AAS and what other credits I had and finished my BA in business and now I am in the Master’s program for business. Enrollment fees are also waived. Call an admissions advisor and talk to them. For an added benefit, they do not require a GMAT test, or any graduate exam; GRE, etc.

    They can also accerate your schooling. Since I am in this Master’s program, I re-enrolled for the doctorate’s program and if my GPA is 3.3 or higher at the end of my core classes for my MBA, I will drop 4 classes from the MBA and pick up 4 classes for my doctorate. When finished with these 4 classes, I will receive my MBA and I am already jump started into my doctorate.

  • nikol

    My husband has gone back to school after being Medically Retired from the Marine Corps. He did not get good grades in High School but we are fortunate enough that he is able to goto school full time and not work so he can focus. When we returned home, it was hard to find a job that was not “temporary” or through an agency and he was over it.

    He is now attending Davenport University in Michigan. They accepted his Military experience and transfered them into credits and due to that and a few other classes he took online while in, he started out as a Sophmore. He is now a VP for SVA of Davenport (Student Veterans of America) and they are trying to get more Veterans involved and help them out as much as possible! There are over 600 Military Active Duty and Veterans who attend… it is a great school and they offer online classes!

    I would highly reccomend them!

  • J. Shasteen

    I am attending college at American Public University/American Military University. They are a very accommodating online school whether your a vet or not. The enroll and start classes month and offer BA/BS and MA/MS programs. They have been very good with Chapter 33 (9/11 bill) paperwork. I applied in Nov to start school in Feb. The school received a prompt reply from VA and so I started on time and in March started receiving my Housing and book allowance.

    I don’t need a military “friendly” school, I need a “vet ready” school. I did not need the numerous help programs the school had for students (not just vets) but I took 2 years of looking for a school like this before applying

  • J. Shasteen

    Sorry, that should read “they enroll monthly” and classes are for 16 weeks with online instructors that have professional degrees.

  • Jason Monaghan


    Great topic! I am an employee at an university that makes degrees available online as well as a member of a military family that has every branch of the service covered (even the oft neglected Coasties – as you can atest), and I am amazed at the tactics that are used to make some schools “military-friendly”. They accept ACE credits, but only as elective credits which are capped as what can be applied to your degree. Also you will find some schools who will not accept the ACE credits, but call themselves military-friendly because they are approved for VEAP payments. I also wonder how military-friendly a school is if they have no veteran organizations available to provide assistance to veterans in this transition to being a student. I hope soon we can rely on something more comprehensive than another publications opinion on the validity of the claim to be military-friendly, and set some guidelines that can be generally reviewed and accepted as what qualifies them as military-friendly besides their ad spend and a few key points that are constantly shifting.

  • JHowell

    While I don’t want to bash any particular educational facility or call anyone out, I will say that sometimes the Military Friendliness isn’t necessarily all it appears to be. There are some for-profit schools that have quantity vs. quality as their bottom line.

    Unfortunately, some of us fall into the quick degree trap where they’ll offer to substitute, waive, or accept previous credits that may only remotely, very remotely resemble a creditable course in their curriculum just to reel the vet in. Now, while I am not implying that it’s a bad thing in all occasions, I am saying that potential employers expect that we have a certain level of knowledge commensurate with the level of the degree we have listed on our resume. A program comprised of 8-week classes (actually more like 6-7 weeks since the final is in week 8) cannot conceivably provide the same level of knowledge to most people as a 16 week-class program.

    • James

      Normally, the only difference between an eight week class vs. a sixteen week class is the length of calander time. While attending a sixteen week class you will be in the classroom for three hours a week. An eight week class will have six hours per week in the classroom. It all equals out to the same amount of classroom time.

  • JHowell

    Additionally, we want to “think” we are ready for the workforce with that degree in hand, but the reality is, on many occasions, we have rushed through these classes, barely scratching the surface of what we really would like to or should know to compete on an even keel with the traditional student. Sure, your gains are directly influenced by your efforts

  • Spike

    Under the Post 9-11 GI Bill I enrolled in a flight training program last October, just as the law came into effect. I got a type rating in a business jet and had to pay $17,400 just for the tuition. I even got a loan from my bank with the promise that the VA would pay $10,000 for this training. Five months later, I am still waiting for my benefit check. Meanwhile, I am paying interest on my loan each month and can barely afford the payments. How can an undergraduate student survive if this is the process for tuition reimbursement?

    My next course of action will be to inform my representative in Congress.

    • deltaalphanovember

      bro i hate to tell you but you are fucked! these guys promise money for college and monthly BAH-NOT!. thank god for unemployment because my butt would have been broke!

  • The Shadow

    Military friendly means they want the VA educational dollars.

  • Viet Nam Era Vet

    Liberty University seems to be one of the mot “military friendly” schools I have seen. They have many links and lots of information to help. All their online courses (AA, BA, MA,and doctorates) are capped at $250 per credit hour for military students. The technology fee is waived and there is a book allowance. This is for active members, veterans and spouses. http://www.luonline.com

  • LtP

    Well, I can only offer my OWN experience and what fellow students have told me regarding SUNY (State Univ of New York) colleges.

    If you’re planning on completing a degree in any of ‘courses of study’ in the ‘Allied Health’ field (nursing, medical imaging, etc) – be prepared to sit on your hands for a year or more enrolled in ‘fluff’ classes such as ‘media studies’ (TV shows/films of the ’60s, etc), ‘art appreciation’ (arts and crafts), ‘phys-ed’ (stationary bike, jogging, tennis, etc) ANY philosophy classes and basically any courses whose classes have empty seats – just so you can remain officially ‘enrolled’ and collecting (and paying the school) federal financial aid while waiting for college officials to grant you a position in the all-important ‘clinical courses’.

    SUNY had already been caught defrauding students in Attorney General (now ‘Governor’) Andrew Cuomo’s ‘predatory lender’ investigation – wherein college financial aid officers received ‘gifts’ from some lenders for limiting students’ loan choices TO just those lenders. (see – http://youtu.be/NejE6c-5n_U )

    What Cuomo chose NOT to investigate was the university’s scheme wherein they enroll MANY more students than they can realistically provide a contiguous education. Simply put – (like the airlines) they ‘overbook’ – enrolling 2 to 4 times more freshman than they have seats in the clinical classes.

    For every 100 students enrolled into a particular college only about 20 will be granted positions in the clinical classes because hospitals (where the students get their ‘hands-on experience’) have limited capacity.

    Many of those students who aren’t willing to wait 5 years to complete a 2 year degree (paying full tuition each of those years) and choose to transfer to ANOTHER program in a different public or private school suddenly discover SUNY’s credits aren’t ACCEPTED – necessitating their repeating many of the academic courses (paying yet again) at their new school! I don’t know about any of YOU but I certainly didn’t have the money to retake all my academic classes at another school when faced with a 2 year ‘waiting list’ to gain a position in the clinical classes!

    Many SUNY students found/find themselves relegated to ‘fluff’ classes, just occupying a seat in a classroom/gym, while some even play video games or watch movies and TV to pass the time because they had/have no real intention of every completing the courses they were diverted into and the college officers don’t care because the money keeps rolling in on autopilot! Of course I’m not insinuating TODAY’S Vets will be cheated this way but I was (USAF 30650) and I met a few other ‘old timers’ who were also.

    Ironic isn’t it? You give your all for a nation which teaches you from childhood this is “the ‘land of opportunity'” if you just “study hard”, “get good grades and “obey the rules” – only to find the people teaching those lessons are running a racketeering operation – ripping off YOU and the rest of the taxpayers for millions each year and no one in authority will even discuss it let alone prosecute the criminals in their midst.

    Want a better option? See if you can re-enlist into a field where you can get the training needed to become proficient in the occupation you’d like to work in once you leave the service. Once you’ve GOT the training and some real-world experience you could take a licensing exam and get into your desired civilian career THAT way – saving not only the cash you would’ve paid the civilian schools but the heartache and (unpaid) time these schools would’ve cost you.

    Others might stay in-service and let the military pay their civilian college costs. My cousin (retired Lt Colonel) did that – earning his BA through several civilian college courses and eventually a PhD after retiring. All that education at the DOD’s expense. Just a thought. :-)

  • USCGPsYkRo

    Ashford University has been great with me and my wife. I’m active duty, and she’s using my Post-9/11 GI bill. The school has taken care of EVERYTHING for us, with no cost to us. Include the Pell Grant, we’re actually MAKING money by going to school!

  • Bear

    I went to college in the University of South Carolina system. I was not allowed to take any form of CLEP tests to ascertain what I already knew. This forced me to take Speech Class, elementary English Classes, and Education Classes that I did not even have to study for. I would write an outline ten minutes before giving a speech and make a 100 on it. Education classes were a real joke. They were just a way for the university to make money teaching me how to treat students. I finally quit the education program and went for a straight history degree. After 13 years of working a full time job and going to school when I could, I graduated with 150 credit hours for a 120 hour degree. Add to the fact that I had to put up with liberal professors who were Vietnam War Protestors and I am a Marine Veteran of Vietnam who retired as a First Sergeant and you can see what I had to put up with. For those getting out of the military now, make sure you research any college or university before you enroll.

  • Edward Kline

    Military Friendly. Isn’t that a bar girl.

  • brian

    don’t go to ICDC or any diplomia mill school like everest college

    the legit schools are devry concorde johonson and wells and a few other private school

  • E. Gamm

    The GI Bil is great for advancesing your education. I had the privilage of using mine in 1967 when I seperated from the Air Force. I went to a local V.A. office to apply. They give me an IQ test. from that they helped me chose a course. I chose Auto motive. They set me up with The Philco-Ford Tech. School. I graduated and went on to be an auto mechanic. When I retired, I was a shop supervisor working for the state of N.J. With out the help of the V.A. , this would have been a long period of unemployment. In 1981 I reenlisted in the Army Resurve. Retired in 2002. During this time a new GI bill was introduced. I was eligible to use it,being active resurve. I was to busy with my family and working to make use of it, mistake. Don’t make the same mistake as I did. As you can see, you can use your GI bill for other than college. Keep in mind you have 10 years to use it or lose it. I don’t know if that has been changed.
    Just like to thank the person who is working hard to keep our soldiers apprised on the GI bill.