Utah State University has a long, fruitful connection with the U.S. military, and that tradition continues today with the university’s recent inclusion on several lists recognizing the nation’s top online programs for veterans.
In January, U.S. News & World Report placed Utah State University at No. 18 among the Top 25 “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans” in the country. The same month, Intelligent.com, a popular resource for online degree ranking and higher education planning, published a list of the Top 60 Military Friendly College Programs for 2020 that included Utah State University. That distinction came on the heels of Intelligent.com placing USU in the Top 45 of its listing of the Best Master’s in Education Degree Programs for 2020.
“USU Online is proud to be able to offer online courses to our service members,” said Rene Eborn, special assistant to the vice president for strategic initiatives. “Realizing, that many re-locate, are deployed, and have disruption to their education, we strive to be an enabler and offer access and support to a quality education that will move them to successful completion of their educational pursuits.”
This year, Utah State University is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the conception of USU Online, which has brought digital education via the internet to more than 134,000 students from all 29 of Utah’s counties, all U.S. 50 states and 55 different countries.
In addition to including USU as the only institution from the state of Utah on its listing of online bachelor’s programs for military veterans, U.S. News & World Report also recognized USU Online as having the 23rd best online bachelor’s program in the country, and sixth in offering the best graduate programs in education.
In regards to its criteria for ranking online programs for veterans, U.S. News & World Report stated: “Veterans and active-duty service members gain the most from distance education that is affordable, accessible and reputable. The 2020 Best Online Programs for Veterans rankings measure these factors in consideration of financial benefits available specifically to people with military experience. The annual rankings cover online bachelor's degree programs and online MBA programs, as well as online master's degree programs in business, education, engineering, computer information technology, criminal justice and nursing. To ensure academic quality, all schools included in these rankings first have to be ranked among the top half of schools in U.S. News & World Report's 2020 Best Online Programs rankings.”
Intelligent.com researched 224 accredited colleges and universities for its list of the Top 60 Military Friendly Colleges Programs, which was presented in a group format in alphabetical order. Utah State University was recognized as having the “Best Minor Options.”
“Each program is evaluated based on curriculum quality, graduation rate, reputation and post-graduate employment,” Intelligent.com stated on its website. “… Students who pursue any one of these programs can expect to gain employment much quicker in comparison to candidates without a degree. In addition to accessibility and cost, the steady job growth in this market is one of the many reasons Intelligent.com researched and ranked the Top Military Friendly Colleges Programs.”
Intelligent.com’s list of the Top 45 Best Master’s in Education Degree Programs was compiled in a similar manner, based on an assessment of 84 accredited colleges and universities from around the country.
One of Utah State’s greatest assets in helping veterans begin and complete their educations is the university’s Veterans Resource Office. The VRO was created to assist student veterans with making the transition from the military to academia and civilian life, and it serves as the central clearing house for information and assistance regarding U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, USU-related topics or civilian matters.
The VRO is also a place where veterans can gather and network with other veterans on campus in an environment that accepts and supports the unique aspects of military and veteran culture.
“Transitioning from the military to the civilian world can sometimes be overwhelming for a veteran and our goal in the Veterans Resource Office is to try to make that transition as seamless as possible,” said Mike Nelson, coordinator of the Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) initiative at USU. “We are Utah State University’s one-stop shop for Veteran and military-connected students,”
“A veteran returning to school is someone who has been tested in ways many would never allow themselves to be,” Nelson added. “They have been out of their comfort zones perhaps more often than they have been in one. But student veterans carry their fighting spirit with them as they return to school and that is a strength they utilize to accomplish their academic goals.”
A combat veteran himself, Nelson is a retired U.S. Army sergeant first class who served two tours in Afghanistan as a paratrooper and jumpmaster with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division in 2002, and the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in 2015. Nelson initially came to Utah State University in 2016, and he ended up graduating cum laude with a bachelor’s in social work in 2019.
“I did utilize my GI Bill here at USU, and the office helped me overcome obstacles more than once,” Nelson said. “I actually called to leave a voice mail on a Saturday and, to my surprise, Tony (Flores), the director of the office, answered the phone and helped me through a class situation. It’s both an honor and an opportunity for self-improvement as I serve USU’s veterans and military connected students through my work in the office.”
Nelson said that many student veterans find that taking online classes first can be a good way to ease into their college careers before taking resident courses, while other choose to complete their entire programs through USU Online.
“Online courses can be a great option for veteran and military-connected students wherever they may be in the world,” Nelson said.
The Veterans Resource Office at USU is located in Room 314 of the Taggart Student Center. For more information about the services which are available for online, statewide campus students and Logan campus students, call 435-797-7886 or visit veterans.usu.edu.