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Where Should You Go to College as a Veteran or Servicemember

where should I go to college?

These days there are plenty of options when it comes to deciding how you will be getting your education.  Where should you go to college?  We break down some of the considerations on how you can get your degree to help you assess your options.

Where Should You Go to College?

There are different types of programs you can choose from, different college environments, and a decision to go online or in person. You can choose to go to a community college, 4-year public school, 4-year private school, a vocational or trade school, or a mix of more than one.

Here is a little bit of information about some of your options and the costs included with each of them:


For a list of GI Bill approved online schools, start here.

The best part of going to school online is being able to do your schooling from home, and on a more flexible schedule. While you will have due dates as well as times when you have to be on your computer, going to school online will be a lot more flexible than going to school in person. You will also be able to save money on transportation, as well as childcare.

There won’t be an option for room and board if you go to school online which can be a good or a bad thing. That depends on what your housing needs might be and what you are already paying for. You should be aware of extra technology fees that sometimes come with online classes.

To be successful when you go to school online, you will need to have a good working computer and reliable internet. These are extra costs if you don’t already pay for them. There also could be costs for going in to take an exam.

Costs of Going to School Online

The cost of online school will depend on where you are going to go to school.  Some schools offer reduced rates for military so as not to exceed Tuition Assistance reimbursement.  This is great, because this saves you from out-of-pocket costs related to tuition.


As an example Southern New Hampshire University Online is priced at less than $250 per credit hour with the military discount.

If you choose to go through an online program through a 2 or 4-year school, you would most likely pay the same amount in tuition as you would if you were to go in person.

3 things to remember about going to school online:

  1. Going to school online isn’t always the best option with regards to price.  However, going online might be the right choice for you overall.
  2. You can do a hybrid of online and in-person classes if the school you go to allows that.
  3. Make sure to see if the program you want is available online, some programs don’t work well in the online format.

Pros For Going to School Online

    • Flexible schedule
    • Save money on transportation and childcare
    • Can “attend” class in your pajamas

Cons For Going to School Online

    • Reduced BAH of $901.00
    • Possible extra costs for materials, computer and internet
    • May not be great fit for education path you wish to pursue

NOTE: You can easily search exclusively for online degree programs at GI Bill-approved colleges and universities here.

RELATED: Online Colleges for Military

Community College or Junior College

Going to a community or junior college can be a good choice as well. Doing so is usually the most cost-effective choice. You can get an incredible education there for a fraction of the cost of a 4-year university. You can also transfer after a couple of years and save money that way. Community colleges also have two-year programs available.

According to Community College Review, the average Community College cost for tuition alone is $3,400 for in-state tuition and $8,210 for out-of-state. This is a significant savings over a 4-year school.

There are non-financial benefits to going to a Community College too. For one thing, the class sizes will be smaller. Classes might be easier to get into, and the campus can be more manageable. Of course, if you are looking for a more traditional college experience, that might be harder to find if you go the community college route.

3 things to remember about going to school at a Community College or Junior College:

  • Because the costs are a lot cheaper, you can save a lot of money while doing your general education at a community college.
  • Community colleges are perfect for students who don’t quite know what they want to do but want to get started on their education.
  • In some cases, transferring from a community college to a 4-year will be easier to get into than if you started off trying to get into that same 4-year school.

Pros For Going To Community College

    • Less expensive than 4-year school
    • Less crowded classes and typically a smaller campus
    • Easier to get in to classes, not as impacted

Cons For Going To Community College

    • Not a “traditional” 4-year college experience
    • Less or no network establishment

4-Year Colleges and Universities

4-year colleges and universities are a popular choice for education. They offer plenty of amazing programs, and they can make for a traditional college experience. The cost vary based on type of school, state, and a variety of factors.

According to Educationdata.org, the average tuition and fees for a public 4-year in-state school would be $9,308, but around $26,427 for out-of-state.  Private 4-year colleges average about $35,801 for tuition and fees.

If you are in need of room and board, that is something to consider as well. The average for a public school is $10,800 and a private, $12,210.

A 4-year school can be the right choice because of the type of education they offer. They will also give you the typical college experience you might be looking for. They overall have more extracurricular activities and more ways to connect with others through the college.

3 things to remember about going to school at 4-year college or university:

● Compare the costs of attending there all 4 years with going to a Community College and then transferring.

● Decide what you want out of your college life. Are you simply wanting to get a degree or do you want to be more involved?

● 4-year schools will have a younger demographic than a community college which is also something to keep in mind when making your decision.

Pros For Attending 4-Year University

    • “Traditional” 4-year college experience
    • More extracurricular activities and facilities
    • Network building

Cons For Attending 4-Year University

    • More expensive, particularly if you go the Private School route.  Check to see if the school you’re considering is a Yellow Ribbon School and you can save money on costs not covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Vocational or Trade School

A vocational or trade school are places you can receive a more streamlined education. They focus on specific trades and skill sets. They tend to take less time than a traditional degree, have smaller classes, and more hands-on training.

Some examples of a trade school education would be becoming a CDL truck driver, an electrician, or a dental assistant. The cost will depend on your program. Although some sources say that average for a trade school education is $33,000, a CDL program will only cost you between $3,000-7,000 for everything.

Trade school is going to be cheaper than a 4-year degree but might not be as inexpensive as a Community College education. That will depend on what you want to do.

Three things to remember about going to school at a Vocational or Trade School:

  • They can have the exact program you are looking for and can be the easiest way to get that degree.
  • If you don’t have as much time to go to college, they can be the perfect option.
  • Compare the costs of your specific program to see where it would be cheaper to attend.

Pros for Attending Vocational School

    • Takes less time and is most direct route to education needed for a job
    • Less expensive than a four-year university
    • Hands-on training

Potential Cons for Attending Vocational School

    • May be more expensive than 2-year college depending on what you pursue
    • Flexibility and transferability in new careers is limited

When you are diving in to research your educational options, remember to look into military discounts and programs. Learn more about the GI Bill and MyCAA if you are a military spouse. Although the cost of college is very important, it isn’t always the only factor when it comes to deciding where to go and where to get your degree.

This article explores Choosing A School for all future students.  If you want to learn more about military and veteran-friendly criteria, please go here.


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