St. Petersburg College is once again among the top 20 four-year colleges in the United States for serving veterans. According to the Military Times’ Best for Vets: Colleges 2016, SPC was ranked 19 and joins the University of South Florida as the only other Florida school in the top 20.
The Best for Vets rankings, now in their sixth year, give service members, military veterans and their families a tool to assess whether a school or degree program will truly benefit them. For the past five years, St. Petersburg College has consistently ranked among the top 50 four-year schools in the nation for veterans, landing at number 15 in both 2013 and 2015.
In 2014-15, SPC served 2,329 active duty service members, veterans and their dependents, or just over 7 percent of SPC’s 33,000 students. During that time, 1,966 of those veteran students received certified GI Bill benefits.
“Veterans Services at St Petersburg College has grown so much over the last five years because of our veteran-friendly nature and our terrific staff that we saw the need to develop a GI Bill Centralized Certification and Processing system,” said Jeff Cavanagh, director of SPC’s Veterans Services. The new system earned the school a nearly perfect federal audit and was hailed as a model for other schools in the state.
“That system, coupled with recruiting, and our military student resource manual that we’ve developed, has really caught the attention of individuals and organizations like the Military Times who seem keen on keeping us among the top 20 military friendly four-year schools in the United States,” Cavanagh said.
To create the rankings, Military Times used schools’ survey responses “based on what veterans have told us is more important to them, as well as on our own editorial judgment,” according to the editors. The publication also used data from the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, and three Education Department sources: the IPEDS Data Center, College Scorecard data and the Cohort Default Rate Database.
Schools were evaluated in five board categories:
- academic outcomes/quality
- university culture
- student support
- academic policies
- cost and financial aid
The highest value was placed on academic outcomes/quality and university culture.
According to the report, SPC scored high in staff and academic support as well as exrtacurriculuars offered to veterans, such as the number and activity level of student veteran groups, initiatives that support military spouses and families, and nonacademic school events, like service projects and Veterans Day programs. SPC has an active Student Veterans Association.
This year, more than 600 schools responded to the survey that requires them to document services, special rules, accommodations and financial incentives offered to military and veteran students and to describe many aspects of veteran culture on a campus. That number is up from 400 schools last year.
Beyond the second-ranked USF, other four-year Florida schools that made the rankings include Florida State University at 24, Florida Atlantic University at 96 and Pensacola State College at 109. No two-year or non-traditional Florida schools made the rankings.
The rankings are published in full in the issues of Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times on newsstands the week of Nov. 9; and online at MilitaryTimes.com, as well as ArmyTimes.com, NavyTimes.com, AirForceTimes.com and MarineCorpsTimes.com.
“It’s been amazing to witness how colleges all across higher education have embraced service members and their families,” said Amanda Miller, editor of Military Times’ Best for Vets rankings and special editions. “Over the past six years of our surveys, we’ve seen so many schools first begin to foster – through new policies, services and dedicated facilities – and then nurture these wonderful communities.”
This is the second honor for the college’s veterans-related efforts this month. Just last week, SPC was selected as a 2016 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media.