Federal data indicates that military students participate in online education at higher rates than their nonmilitary peers.

A report released recently by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics provides insight into the college enrollment patterns of the nation's 1.1 million military and veteran students.

The data indicates that during the 2011-12 academic year, the most recent year covered by the report, military students chose to take all of their college courses online – and enrolled in online degree programs – at higher rates than did their nonmilitary counterparts.

When it came to online coursework:

  • 18 percent of military students took all of their courses online
  • 12 percent of their nonmilitary peers took all of their courses online

In regard to enrollment in online programs:

  • 16 percent of military students enrolled in online degree programs
  • 9 percent of their nonmilitary peers enrolled in online degree programs

The same pattern emerged among graduate students:

  • 41 percent of military graduate students took all of their courses online
  • 19 percent of nonmilitary graduate students took all of their courses online


  • 37 percent of military graduate students enrolled in online degree programs
  • 17 percent of nonmilitary graduate peers enrolled in online degree programs

Military students older with children than nonmilitary

Published in August, the study defined military students as:

  • Active-duty military servicemembers
  • Veterans
  • Reservists or National Guard
  • Financially independent

The study defined the most comparable nonmilitary students as those who were financially independent from their parents for financial aid purposes.

The average age of undergraduate military students was 34 and 78 percent were male, compared with an average age of 32 and 35 percent male among nonmilitary independent students.

The report states that, "In addition to being older than their nonmilitary independent counterparts, military undergraduates were more often married with dependents; 34 percent of military undergraduates were married with dependents, compared with 23 percent of nonmilitary independent undergraduates."

Online learning suits mobile military lifestyle

Saint Leo University Director of the Office of Military Affairs and Services Pamela Martis, a retired U.S. Army colonel, is not surprised by the federal study's findings.

"Online education offers the most flexibility for military personnel who work full time. Students can choose from multiple start times during the year, and they can take their learning with them if they are deployed or their duty station changes."

In addition, Martis points out that online education offers flexibility and choice for military family members who are also impacted by deployments and PCS orders.

"It offers you, as military, veterans, and family members, the ability to tailor the program to fit your hectic military life—to give you the option to tailor 'What you need for Where You're Going.'"

Saint Leo support services

Martis says that at Saint Leo, online military students have access to a variety of support services, beginning with her office.

"We can advocate for military students, military family members, and student veterans throughout the university – at all of the centers and our Center for Online Learning – if the student is having challenges or concerns or just seeking advice on the next steps in transition. The support from the staff and faculty at all locations to support the military and student veteran is phenomenal."

With a more than 40-year heritage of serving the educational needs of U.S. military personnel, Saint Leo has developed a deep understanding of the unique experiences of servicemembers and veterans. Faculty and staff understand and accommodate students deployed around the world, and knowledgeable VA certifying officials and student advisors are readily available to assist students.

In addition, the Military & Family Club, the Student Veteran Association (SVA) Club, and the soon–to-be chartered Omega Delta Sigma Club for military students that meets in the newly opened Military Resource Center (MRC) on University Campus link to center and online students via web and contribute to providing a virtual student community and network for military and student veterans."

"Whether you choose to study online or on ground, the end result is a college degree that can change the course of your career and your life," says Martis. "The benefits you earned with your service, whether still serving or now in transition, will pay you great dividends by investment in your education and your future career after your military service—as we say, "Move out and draw fire—you're on your Next Mission."

If you're an active-duty servicemember or veteran considering an online degree program, Saint Leo University has developed an e-book you may find helpful. It's called "Enlistment to Enrollment: Earning Your College Degree Online," and it focuses on questions you may have that are specific to your military background, as well those any prospective adult student might ask about online learning. Click here to download this helpful resource now.

Image credits: Saint Leo University Communications