Many view military service as the world’s longest MBA prep course. Nearly everything a soldier does translate to business success.
For starters, military men and women work in teams from boot camp on. They quickly embrace the core tenet that the larger mission takes precedence over personal agendas. And they understand that any freelancing can cost lives. From the officer corps down, strategic planning isn’t viewed as a fluff exercise at some weekend retreat. It is a consequential, step-by-step process with a clear beginning and a required end. And terms like duty and accountability aren’t empty corporate mantras here. They are currency, let alone the foundation and expectations for anyone who aspires to be a leader.
Military training does more than seal the right mindset. Their experiences make returning soldiers and staffers walking case books. From clearing landmines to building supply chains, veterans have seen-and-done it all, almost always under the duress of limited resources, short timeframes, and hostile environments. As a result, their sacrifice and can-do spirit raises the bar in every MBA classroom.
A RANKING THAT ADDRESSES THE SPECIAL NEEDS OF VETERANS
Still, the transition from active service to MBA student can be a rocky one. Some have spent years away from an academic setting. Others are already providers for families and hold down jobs. As a result, they require a flexible scheduling and support system that goes above-and-beyond what most MBA programs traditionally offer.
To accommodate these variables, veterans must factor in a different set of metrics when choosing the right business school for them. To help with that process, The Military Times has been producing a “Best for Vets” ranking of business schools for the past four years.
It is certainly coming out at the right time. The Military Times reports that military veterans represented 17% of graduate business students in 2015, up from 13% the previous year. And the military’s influence on business programs is more pronounced than ever. And this influence extends far beyond the classroom. As part of its rankings, The Military Times surveyed over 180 graduate business programs. Over a third – 38% — have someone with military ties among its leadership.
Here’s how the rankings work. The Military Times evaluates graduate business programs in five categories: School culture, student support, academic quality, academic policies, and cost and financial aid. However, the publication is careful to note that the “university culture and student support counted the most, and financial aid counted the least.”
That said, The Military Times ranking struggles to pass the smell test. For one, it comes with an air of mystery, with editorial noting that “many factors other than those listed in the chart were considered to develop the rankings.” Even more, The Military Times failed to list exactly what those factors were, making it sometimes difficult why some programs, especially those with fewer veteran students. It is a head scratcher to say the very least.
Even more, the list fails to include highly ranked MBA programs. Take the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, a yellow ribbon participant,where 7%-9% of incoming MBAs are veterans. The program includes everything from military scholarships to the Darden Military Association (DMA) club, which handles everything from networking with alumni to sponsoring speakers. The program even offers military leadership electives. As a result, readers should look at this ranking as a starting point — one with several holes.
NEBRASKA-OMAHA TOPS THE LIST
For the second consecutive year, the University of Nebraska at Omaha has topped The Military Times’ list. So what makes the University of Nebraska-Omaha the best graduate business program for veterans? It isn’t a particularly large program, with military members comprising just 19 of the 386 students enrolled there. Compared to Arizona State, which has 271 military members out of 1,381 students or Indiana University (130 out of 1,505 students), Nebraska-Omaha boasts a relatively small military footprint.
However, the program offers strong financial support to veterans. For one, the program is at or below the TA cap, which means the program’s per credit cost did not exceed the military’s tuition assistance cap of $250 per hour in the 2014-2015 school year. Nebraska-Omaha also received four stars for its Yellow Ribbon participation, meaning the school either “partially or completely make(s) up the difference between a school’s tuition rate and the amount covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.” In addition, the program earned the highest scores, four stars, for its staff support and academic support. Along with support, students enjoy a lower entry requirement, with the average GMAT being 498 for the student population overall.
Eastern Kentucky University somehow ranked second, despite only enrolling four military veterans. Rutgers rounded out the top three, offering the most diverse range of MBA programs – full-time, part-time, executive, joint, and online – to veterans. Like Nebraska-Omaha, Rutgers can tout four star ratings in staff and academic support. It also reported that no veteran was charged a tuition rate above what was covered in the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
TOP PROGRAMS PROVIDE STRONG ACADEMIC AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT
Arizona State (6th), Ohio State (8th), and Texas A&M (9th) were the most recognizable MBA brands in The Military Times’ Top 10 programs. Ohio State actually produced a 100% graduation rate among veterans (with Texas A&M and Arizona State following closely at 98% and 93% respectively). All three programs also scored four star ratings in terms of academic support, as well as keeping tuition at or below what’s covered in the Post-9/11 GI Bill (with Ohio State staying at or below the TA cap as well). Among the schools, Texas A&M boasted the highest military retention rate at 90%.
Overall, Syracuse University, which slipped from 2nd to 5th in The Military Times ranking, had the highest entry hurdle among Top 20 programs, with students coming in with an average GMAT of 657. Like Rutgers, the University of Kansas came out of nowhere, notching a 4th place ranking, which was buoyed by a top flight yellow ribbon program and four star staff and academic support for veterans. Both Florida State and the University of the Incarnate Word tumbled out of the this year’s Top 10 (with the former’s fall likely due to not participating in the survey).
Overall, the largest concentration of military veterans in the upper echelon of the ranking are found at Bellevue University (328), Arizona State (271), Park University (195), and the University of Southern California (151).
Go to next page to see ranking information on the top 20 programs for military veterans.