Since August 2009, and the passage of the historic Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, a significant number of institutions of higher learning have used catchy logos to identify their schools as “military-friendly” or “best of the best [for Vets].” Most often, you’ll see this designation in paid advertising, but what does having a “military-friendly” logo really mean to student Veterans or their family members? I’d like to offer some advice to Veterans and Servicemembers, as well as the professionals in higher education who work to support those who have served our nation.
Whether you’re a current student attending classes at a brick-and-mortar institution or enrolled in an online program, you may encounter ads that feature logos labelling a school “military-friendly,” possibly in a Veteran-related magazine or an issue of the Army Times. The Military Times Edge “Best for Vets Colleges,” G.I. Jobs Magazine’s “Military Friendly Schools,” U.S. Veterans Magazine’s “Best of the Best” and Military Advanced Education’s “Military-Friendly Colleges & Universities”—to name a few—function as catchy recruiting tools for many institutions around the world.
But, what if a college or university doesn’t have the budget to advertise to military students in some of these publications? Does that make them any less military-friendly? What if a college or university spends thousands of dollars per month on lead-generating agencies, aggressive recruiting and marketing directed at military students? Does it make them more military-friendly than the competition?
To my brothers and sisters who are currently serving or who have served: Don’t let a catchy graphic influence your choice of school. The time spent researching the right college or university to meet your needs is extremely important. I would suggest looking at institutions that provide support both on campus or online to their Veterans and Servicemembers.
Before registering, ask questions such as:
- Does the school have a Veteran’s center or club?
- How many other Veterans attend this institution?
- Does the school have priority scheduling?
- Will it accept all of your military education and training credits from your Joint Services Transcript?
- What is the policy for withdrawing due to a deployment or mobilization?
The designators you see in magazines or online are great, but it’s important to take the time and do the research to determine if the institution really is military-friendly.
To my colleagues and professionals in higher education: Don’t be fooled by the designators. Not having a certain designation doesn’t mean that your faculty and staff on campus or your student Veterans organizations are going to do any more or less on your behalf. Contrary to popular belief, most publishing agencies want your money for advertising, and this is why they created separate “military-friendly” logos.
You and others will know that you are military-friendly if you do the “right thing” and provide the best education and services to help your Veterans and Servicemembers succeed while enrolled and after graduation. You don’t need an ad in a magazine or that “Best for Vets” logo to prove it. Just do it. Our Veterans and Servicemembers deserve the very best–don’t base your institution’s performance on rankings or logos.
For the last six years, I have attended numerous professional development and recruitment events for Veterans and Servicemembers. It’s interesting to note that at one annual conference I attend, many institution hava a “military friendly” flyer or display on their table. If you don’t have one, you may feel left out. But, should you?
To me, the validity of displaying who is military-friendly isn’t there. Colleges and universities all complete annual surveys to be listed in various magazines and lists each year. I encourage you to see which college or university hasn’t made the cut. I’d guess that those who aren’t on the list either didn’t complete the survey or didn’t advertise with that respective publisher. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t among the best in our nation. Each institution, regardless of where they are located, provides different services for the different needs of the Veterans or Servicemembers.
If there is one thing to take away from this post, remember: It’s not the fancy logos or catchy ads that make an institution military-friendly, it’s the faculty and staff who care about you and appreciate your service; it’s your brothers and sisters who have served and have paved the way for you to earn your education at an institution of your choice.
Capt. Robert Prah: firstname.lastname@example.org or (724) 938-4076
Try out VA’s GI Bill comparison tool for help determining your schooling benefits.
Robert Prah is an officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Prah has more than 13 years of experience, as both enlisted and officer in the PA Army National Guard, as well as more than seven years in higher education working directly with Veterans, Servicemembers and their families. He earned his B.S. and M.S. from California University of Pennsylvania and is currently the director of veterans affairs at his Alma Mater. www.calu.edu or www.calu.edu/veterans