My name is Paul Szoldra. As a combat veteran with 8 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, I found myself in a difficult position when I thought of my next steps: would I stay in until retirement or move on and go to college? Since I was overseas, calling or visiting universities was impossible, so I turned to the web. But instead of answers, I found a host of for-profit online schools, misleading information, and a lack of student veteran resources on making an informed college decision.
U.S. News & World Report's rankings give consumers helpful information on how competing schools stack up -- using information that's important to students. It's time for such a ranking to exist for student veterans.
Please join me in urging U.S. News & World Report to create a special ranking of the best colleges for student veterans. This full ranking of schools that accept GI Bill funds will help student vets access the best schools possible for their needs.
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan come to a close, it's estimated that more than 1 million servicemembers will separate from the military and take advantage of the generous new Post 9/11 GI Bill. That's potentially 1 million new student vets entering the U.S. education system.
I made my college choice based upon a limited understanding of what made a good school. Only looking at enrollment and the tuition cost, I settled on the University of Tampa. It has turned out to be a good choice for me, but not all student veterans are so fortunate. The web is filled with internet marketing firms, colleges utilizing deceptive practices, and "military or veteran friendly schools" lists which many times only showcase schools who pay to be ranked.
Our brave service men and women deserve better. And a new nationwide ranking of the best colleges for student vets will help.
As a student veteran who went through the military to college transition, I know what the heroes of our military face as they leave the service. With this understanding, I have began development of a website at CollegeVeteran.com with the goal of addressing this problem. But unfortunately, I don't believe it will be enough.
In order to help veterans make an informed decision and affect change on the university level to address this population and their needs, I am asking for a ranking of all universities that accept GI Bill funds, unbiased and objective, from US News & World Report.
What makes a great school for student vets? There are many important factors to consider:
Does the school provide:
- Vet graduation rates higher than average graduation rates
- High vet employment rates after college
- Large population of student vets
- On-staff military representatives
- Veteran center
- On-campus student veterans organizations
- In-state tuition for military veterans
- Credit for military experience
- Online/Distance learning opportunities
And is it:
- Certified by the VA for use with GI Bill
- A Yellow Ribbon School
- A member of Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC)
- Listed by the Defense Activities for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES)
Because of how complex this report will be, we urge U.S. News & World Report to partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and national student veterans organizations like Student Veterans of America (SVA) to make sure the rankings are truly helpful to veterans and encourage schools across the country to focus on the RIGHT vet services.
Tell U.S. News & World Report to commit to a full ranking of schools that accept GI Bill funds so student vets can access the best schools possible for their needs.
NOTE: I encourage everyone to join this campaign, but If you're a current servicemember or veteran, please say so in the "Why People Are Signing" section. Thanks!