Two colleges in Beaufort County are doing what they can to help students who serve or have served their country.
The University of South Carolina Beaufort and the Technical College of the Lowcountry have both earned a place on the 2014 list of Military Friendly Schools. The list is a compilation of the top 20 percent of American colleges, universities and trade schools that provide the best experience for military and veteran students, according to Victory Media Inc., a veteran-owned business that compiles the survey.
"It means a great deal to the university, and it sets us apart," said USCB's director of military programs Les Brediger. "But it really means more to the student because they know we appreciate and understand how difficult it is for nontraditional students, especially military students, to come to school."
The list has been released for the past five years.
There were 26 schools from South Carolina on the 2014 list, which had 1,868 colleges, universities and trade schools chosen from more than 10,000 schools approved by the Veterans Administration for tuition funding through the GI Bill.
All approved schools were asked to fill out a survey about what they offer to military students, and the survey results, which are verified by accounting firm Ernst & Young, are used to compile the top institutions, said Ben Langdon, a marketing coordinator with Victory Media.
He said the schools are surveyed on the military support they offer on campus, the academic credit they offer for military service, the flexibility they offer for military students, and their veteran graduation rates, among other criteria.
Langdon said many military personnel and veterans consult the lists when deciding on schools.
"Prospective students can get a real 'boots on the ground' kind of feel of what a day in the life for a veteran would be like on that campus," Langdon said.
One of the ways that USCB -- also recognized on the 2013 list -- helps these students is by having academic advisers at the three military bases in Beaufort County. Both USCB and TCL also have campuses near Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Beaufort Naval Hospital. The Technical College of the Lowcountry could not be reached for comment.
With his school being near such a large military community, Doug Oblander, USCB's vice chancellor for student development, said it was never a question of whether the college would be accessible to military students.
"The military is obviously a big part of Beaufort County, and anyone who isn't being military-friendly is making a mistake," Oblander said.
Breakdown of selection criteriaThe surveys are compiled and weighted according to the following categories:
- 24% Military Support on Campus
- 20% Academic Credibility
- 10% Percent of Military Students
- 10% Academic Credit for Military Service
- 10% Flexibility for Military Students
- 5% Veteran Graduation Rates
- 5% Student Tuition Assistance
- 5% Student Survey
- 5% Employment Rates
- 5% Military Spouse Policies
- 1% Government Approvals
Source: Military Friendly Schools
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.