The 10 Best Film Schools for Veterans

(U.S. Army/Sgt. 1st Class Caleb Barrieau)

There's something about serving in the military that just makes veterans want to make movies -- movies about things they did, things they saw and maybe even themselves. Vets who head out to Los Angeles after their time in the service won't be alone, as there are many working in the entertainment industry there.

And although it's not required to work in the industry, some vets might want to learn how to make film and television in school first before they head west in search of cinematic glory.

The Hollywood Reporter this month released its rankings of the top 25 American film schools. We checked out some of the schools and compared their offerings for veterans. GI Bill acceptance and Yellow Ribbon programs (a VA program some schools can opt-in to in order to pay for what the GI Bill doesn't cover) are just the beginning; some schools even have student veteran organizations and dedicated veteran resources to help those in transition.

It turns out there's a lot of overlap between some of America's best film schools and the country's veteran-friendly colleges and universities. Now, any vet who wants to be the next Oliver Stone will be able to direct the next "Platoon."

1. University of Southern California (Los Angeles)

The legendary University of Southern California Film School is not only based in the city from which most of the film industry works, but it's also chock full of equally legendary alumni, including Shonda Rhimes, Judd Apatow, John Carpenter, Will Ferrell, Tom Selleck ... the list really does go on forever.

USC waives its application fees for military members, and once accepted, they can get a lot of financial support. Between GI Bill eligibility and USC's unlimited number of Yellow Ribbon scholarships giving unlimited amounts, eligible veterans will graduate debt free. That's literally written on its Military & Veterans Initiatives website.

2. New York University (New York, New York)

If you're the aforementioned aspiring Oliver Stone, New York University's Tisch School was his alma mater. Other notable alums include Martin Scorsese, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gina Rodriguez ... Again, it's a long list.

Not only does NYU's film school accept the GI Bill and offer Yellow Ribbon funds, it also accepts military tuition assistance funds. NYU will also not bar a student from attending classes or using school resources if GI Bill funds are disbursed late.

3. Chapman University (Orange, California)

Just a quick drive from Hollywood, Chapman University gives students free use of equipment and constantly updates the gear so they're always using the latest technology. Veteran students can use their GI Bill benefits, along with Chapman's unlimited Yellow Ribbon program, which covers all mandatory tuition and fees.

On top of its wallet-friendly fee schedule, Chapman also has a dedicated Veterans Resource Center, the student-led Chapman Veterans Club and was named a "Military Friendly School."

4. CalArts (Santa Clarita, California)

Budding veteran filmmakers with a desired future in animation should consider the California Institute of the Arts. It uses industry standard technology in its many open computer labs for students to work on 2D and 3D animation projects. It's no wonder some of Pixar's biggest alums are also CalArts alumni.

Students can use their GI Bill benefits at CalArts, and the school participates in the Yellow Ribbon program, but caps its assistance at $9,000. Even if it takes some time for VA benefits to pay out, veteran students can still start classes. It also accepts ​​Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E, Chapter 31) students.

5. Columbia University (New York, New York)

Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (yes, she made "The Hurt Locker," but she still won an Oscar for it) is just one of many notable alumni of Columbia University's School of the Arts, which pulls in industry veterans as instructors to help you graduate into the Ivy League.

No one ever said an Ivy League school in New York City was going to be cheap (or even affordable), but it gets slightly more so with GI Bill benefits and a $10,000 Yellow Ribbon program. There's no wonder it enrolls more student vets than all the other Ivys combined, has a graduation rate of 90% and a job placement rate on par with the rest of its undergraduates.

6. Loyola Marymount (Los Angeles)

At Loyola Marymount, veteran film students can watch their student masterpieces in 4K, and if they decide that being an artiste isn't for them, they can still work in the entertainment industry. This school has a track for entertainment leadership and management that will help them get careers as entertainment executives

Like many schools on this list, veterans can use their GI Bill benefits at Loyola Marymount, but the school has a limited number of Yellow Ribbon Program placements. California State Guard members can also use California Military Department benefits. It has its own student veterans organization, a special veteran programs office and offers credit for military training. It's also very friendly to National Guard and Reserve commitments.

7. UCLA (Los Angeles)

UCLA's reputation in the veteran community had been somewhat tarnished by the controversy over Jackie Robinson Stadium, which was built on the West Los Angeles VA Campus and offered nothing to veterans in return for decades. That all changed after a ruling that facilities had to be more veteran friendly. Since then, UCLA has pledged $300,000 in rent payments and millions in special programs.

As for veterans attending UCLA, the GI Bill will cover in-state tuition and fees, and the school has a dedicated Veterans Resource Center, at least five student veteran groups, accepts military tuition assistance and participates in the VA's Chapter 31 vocational rehabilitation program.

8. University of Texas at Austin

Veterans who want to follow in the footsteps of filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez and Wes Anderson can do it pretty much for free at UT Austin. Now there's also a focus on producing nonfiction documentary films, offering stipends for students to do it, but no matter what a veteran wants to produce, UT Austin makes it affordable for them.

The GI Bill covers resident tuition at the school, and the university can waive the remainder of nonresident tuition. It also participates in the Yellow Ribbon program. Texas schools also have the Hazlewood Act, which provides qualified veterans, spouses, and dependents with 150 hours of tuition exemptions, which includes some fees.

UT Austin also has student veteran associations, a veteran advisory council for the school and a VA counselor on campus.

9. Columbia College Chicago

Veterans interested in film and television production, especially sound design, should give CCC a close look. It uses the latest technology used by the entertainment industry, and while the local area may not be too affordable for veterans, the school itself is.

Using the GI Bill and the school's $7,000 Yellow Ribbon scholarships will cover the cost of tuition at CCC. It also transfers credit earned while serving and offers life experience credit for vets in undergraduate programs.

10. Wesleyan University (Middletown, Connecticut)

Not only does Wesleyan help veterans get into the school using standard education benefits, for some, it offers grants for people who enter the entertainment industry after graduation and financial aid for those who get internships in Los Angeles (which is a big deal, considering most internships pay little to nothing).

The GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon cover 100% of the veterans' financial need, but if those benefits ever exhaust, the school will cover 100% of their financial needs through graduation. It also has a special application for veterans, a financial aid veterans liaison, veterans organizations and an admissions office resource team for vets.

Wesleyan is also a Service to School nonprofit partner, which provides free mentors to veterans transitioning out of the military and into Wesleyan's various colleges.

This list of 10 of the best film schools that happen to be veteran-friendly is just the beginning. There are 25 schools on the Hollywood Reporter's list of the best film schools that could be just as veteran friendly. No. 19, for example, is Syracuse University, home of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Be sure to check out the whole list.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, or on LinkedIn.

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