ST. LEO, Fla. — "Military Times" ranked Saint Leo University first in the nation in the "Online & Nontraditional Schools" category in its "Best for Vets: Colleges 2020" list.

  • Saint Leo University ranked first in the nation for Best for Vets: Colleges 2020
  • Veterans at Saint Leo can earn academic credit through portfolio reviews of their military training
  • Saint Leo has about 5,000 veteran and military students 

"That's fantastic because it's such a fantastic college," said student and U.S. Army Veteran Stephen Koehn. "I mean, the staff and faculty's amazing. I was a little reluctant to come back into the college scene being a little older, but they really support veterans."

Koehn is president of two veteran organizations on campus, Student Veterans of America Chapter 1,000 and Omega Delta Sigma. He went back to school after retiring from U.S. Central Command, where he was a senior intelligence analyst, after more than 20 years in the military. 

"I think the difficult thing is a lot of our veterans, depending on the amount of service they have and finishing a career -- usually, it's an enlisted career because the officer corps usually has already completed their undergraduate. So, your enlisted corps is going to be a little bit older and that transition coming into college can be a little bit awkward with the age gap. But Saint Leo doesn't make it seem that way. It's very pleasant when you come back," Koehn said. 

"Military Times" noted that part of what makes the program unique is that veterans can earn academic credit through portfolio reviews of their military training.

"Now, those points won't count for your GPA, but they will count toward limiting the amount of classes that you have to do to actually finish and complete that degree," said Koehn.

University President Dr. Jeff Senese said the school strives to help veteran and active duty students in other ways, including through military student centers at four of their locations, training student advisors in how to help with issues specific to military students, and through its Military Affairs Office, which he said deals directly with the government on students' behalf.

"The way they receive tuition assistance and aid is complicated, so we facilitate that. We make that seamless for them," Senese said.

Saint Leo has education centers located on 14 military bases across the country and currently has about 5,000 veteran and military students.