The US News and World Report's annual college rankings have just been released and the University of Charleston is high on the list for military-friendly schools.
Three years ago, Dustin Clay was boarding a plane for Kuwait.
"I spent three years in the army and I was deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom," said Clay.
However, less than a year after his deployment, he was discharged for a bone disease in his knee. After spending a year in the hospital, Dustin is now walking the halls of the University of Charleston as a first-semester freshman.
"Upon returning back to Charleston, I chose the University of Charleston because it has a small campus. Not only that, it has a lot of internship opportunities that can lead me to a successful career," said Clay.
There are several factors that earned the University of Charleston the title of 4th best regional college in the South for military veterans, including its successful graduation rates, the teacher to student ratio and faculty resources.
"We really value what these soldiers have done for us; for our freedom, for our country so we wanted to give back to them," said Joan Clark, Vice President of Admissions at the university.
Of the school's 2,000 students, over 200 are veterans or current military members. The university provides them with various scholarships, like the Golden Eagle Scholarship, so they can attend school tuition-free.
This is the third time the University of Charleston has been ranked as military friendly. Victory Media and Military Advanced Magazine listed the school in their top rankings. Victory Media has recognized UC for five consecutive years.
According to Clay, veterans are attracted to the school because the faculty, professors and school administrators go above and beyond in helping these students.
"Anytime we need help with any kind of project, understanding the lesson plan better, the teacher is always there for us. That's one of the things that my fellow veterans absolutely love," said Clay.
From an admissions standpoint, Clark said military members make some of the best students.
"They are usually very disciplined. They are getting work in on time. And they really take serious the opportunity that they have to complete their degree," said Clark.
The University of Charleston is the fourth best regional college in the south for military veterans, according to rankings released by U.S. News and World Report.
Veterans and current military members make up over 200 of the university's 1,935 students. Those who serve in the West Virginia National Guard are eligible for the Golden Eagle Scholarship, which provides $9,000 annually in tuition assistance.
Schools that made the U.S. News and World Report list had to score well in areas, such as graduation rates, faculty resources and reputation. The schools also had to be certified for the GI Bill and participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program—two federal initiatives that help reduce the cost of school for veterans.
This is the third publication to recognize the University of Charleston for its commitment to veterans. Victory Media and Military Advanced Magazine both listed the University in their rankings of top military friendly colleges and universities in the country.