Guide to the Top Online MBA Programs for Military (Active Members & Veterans)

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To serve in the military is to gain a first-hand education in teamwork, dedication, and leadership. While those are essential qualities for military service, they’re also ideal traits for business school students and working professionals. On balance, active members and veterans of the military make for alluring MBA candidates, but not every school is set up to handle the unique needs that go with a military background.

Below, we’ve gathered the best online MBA programs for both active military members and veterans. These programs have what all the best online MBA programs do: a strong core curriculum dedicated to business fundamentals; a suite of specialized concentration options; distinguished faculty members; and access to a network of alumni, peers, and business partners. Additionally, they boast a strong culture of support for active military and veteran students.

One of the most basic levels of assistance an MBA program can offer its military and veteran students is tuition reduction. Working in conjunction with benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, the Yellow Ribbon Program, and other forms of tuition assistance, it’s possible for military and veteran students to reduce their MBA program costs to nothing. Given the high salaries for MBA graduates, that can make for an incredible return on investment.

But the actual cost of attendance can vary significantly based on an individual’s context, and choosing an MBA shouldn’t be determined by just the desire to save a few bucks. In selecting the best online MBA programs for active military and veteran students, it’s just as important to factor in an MBA program’s network of support that understands those students’ needs.

Regardless of the MBA program you choose, it’s likely to be a worthwhile investment. But if you’re looking for a program that values and serves its military and veteran students, and prioritizes their contributions, check out our list below.

Arizona State University – W.P. Carey School of Business

Already considered one of the top online MBAs in the nation by US News & World Report, ASU’s online MBA is also a top choice for military and veteran students. The university provides personalized support for military and veteran students, and works to find instances of training and field experience that can be commuted into transfer credits.

ASU’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center offers scholarships, resources, and guidance. And the university’s participation in tuition assistance programs means up to 100 percent of tuition expenses could be waived for qualified military and veteran students. Over 1,300 military and veteran service members are currently studying in one of ASU’s online programs. More will be joining them soon.

Washington State University – Carson College of Business

WSU’s Carson College of Business has long held a commitment to active military and veteran students. Veterans with five years of leadership experience can skip the GMAT requirement in the applications process, and the application fees are waived, too.

In addition to GI Bill benefits, Carson reduces its tuition for military and veteran students in its online MBA program by $102 per credit-hour, and the Veteran Services office is dedicated to processing VA benefits in a timely and transparent manner. In 2018, WSU launched its Backpacks to Boardroom program to help its students transition from military service, to school, to career. Available to online MBA students, the program is focused on a five-year plan that provides entrepreneurial coaching, extracurricular programming, and transition coaching.

University of North Carolina – Kenan-Flagler Business School

The online MBA program at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School makes it possible to earn a top-ranked MBA no matter where in the world a student is in their service journey. A significant portion of online MBA students at UNC are veterans, and the school is enticing more by waiving application fees for both active-duty and veteran service members.

Depending on an active or veteran military student’s percentage of eligibility and length of entitlement, the GI Bill may cover all of their tuition and fees. For those who need a hand filling out those forms and getting them in on time, it helps that UNC has been approved by the VA as a training facility for students receiving military education benefits. Already a top choice for most civilian MBA candidates, Kenan-Flagler is even more desirable for veterans.

George Washington University

Nationally recognized as a top university for active duty and veteran students, GWU’s online MBA program has a fleet of support services to cater to the needs of its military students. The university’s Office of Military and Veteran Student Services assists students in maximizing their educational benefits and preparing for post-military careers. That’s reinforced by Operation GW VALOR, a collaborative program led by Retired Vice Admiral Melvin Williams, Jr. to unite key university offices and ensure the school is providing the highest caliber services to military members and veterans.

And, as a participant in the Yellow Ribbon Program, qualified veterans may be able to have 100 percent of their tuition paid for by the school, the VA, and the GI Bill. An experienced counselor will act as a one-stop liaison for all veterans and active-duty students who plan to attend George Washington University, alma mater of Retired General Colin Powell.

University of Arizona – Eller College of Management

The University of Arizona offers scholarships, transition assistance, and extra benefits for military and veteran students in all of its MBA programs. The university covers up to 200 graduate applicants through the Yellow Ribbon Program, meaning all of a military student’s expenses could be covered. Applications are automatically submitted in the Veteran Certification through UAccess based on one’s residency and Post-9/11 GI Bill status.

Furthermore, the university’s Veterans Education and Transition Services (VETS) is there for helping students transition from service, to school, to career. It’s easy to apply, too: military and veteran applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher do not need to submit a GMAT score, and do not need to pay an application fee.

Indiana University – Kelley School of Business

IU’s Kelley School of Business is consistently ranked as one of the best online MBA programs in the nation, and it’s also a top pick for military students, with over 10 percent of Kelley Direct Online MBA students being either active duty military or veteran students.

As one of the pioneers of online education, the school has the experience necessary to cater to students in military service, no matter where they are. But the school’s offerings for military and veteran students go even further: Kelley helps them understand their benefits, apply for numerous scholarships, process military withdrawals and leaves of absence, connect to community resources, and even access free tutoring services. Military students aren’t an aberration at Kelley—they’re part of the culture.

Penn State World Campus

The online MBA program at Penn State World Campus can be customized with 20 different concentrations, and that flexibility extends to the services it offers the 3,000 military and veteran students it counts across all its educational offerings.

The university handles military applications separately, and retains a team of GI Bill certifying officials who help applicants get the most out of their benefits. Active duty service members and veterans using tuition assistance or VA benefits are automatically given priority registration when their benefits are processed. For those who are just getting started, Penn State World Campus hosts a military student experience webinar with a live Q&A to help prospective students get an understanding of how to leverage their background and access the most benefits possible.

Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper School of Business

A proud member of Military MBA, CMU’s Tepper School of Business has a top-ranked, STEM-designated, hybrid MBA program that focuses on a veteran’s wheelhouse: leadership, analytics, and strategic decision-making. Each MBA class has veterans from multiple nations and service branches.

The Tepper Veterans Club supports military MBA candidates every step of the way: from admissions, to schooling, to career services, to alumni connection. Tepper is also a participant in the Yellow Ribbon Program, assisting up to 30 veteran students with matching scholarships up to $15,000. And if an applicant or candidate has any questions about which benefits they qualify for, or how to pursue additional tuition assistance, they can contact one of Tepper’s representatives or consult the school’s veteran-focused FAQ section.

Auburn University – Raymond J. Harbert College of Business

Auburn’s fully online MBA program is often ranked as one of the nation’s best. The distance education program dates back to the 1990s, when lectures were mailed to students on VHS tape. Today, the MBA program uses a cutting-edge online platform called CANVAS, streaming lectures live and encouraging real-time collaboration between students.

Active-duty members have enrolled in the program even while being deployed abroad, thanks to the flexibility of the course schedule. The college is actively seeking veterans to join its online MBA program, and is highly experienced in dealing with veteran financial assistance: its executive MBA program drops the total tuition cost from over $51,000 to under $12,000 with standard veteran benefits.

North Carolina State University – Jenkins School of Business

NCSU’s professional online MBA is a rigorous but affordable program born out of the school’s physical location in Research Triangle Park (RTP). While the program typically requires two three-day residencies at NCSU’s Raleigh campus, this requirement is waived for active duty military members, who may replace it with elective coursework.

NCSU is a participant in the Yellow Ribbon Program, wherein qualifying students can receive $11,400 per academic year, which may be matched by another $11,400 from the VA. In addition to GI Bill benefits, active duty service members may be eligible for $4,500 a year from the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance.

And, understanding the delays which can occur when dealing with veteran benefits, the school offers all veterans a payment deferment plan. NCSU also houses a Military and Veteran Resource Center on campus, but extends its services to online students as well, functioning as a one-stop shop for military and veteran students curious about financial support, housing, and healthcare.

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog
Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.

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