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Three Metropolitan College online master’s programs for military veterans have just been crowned among the nation’s best in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings.

MET’s Criminal Justice program tied for second place with Arizona State University and Pace University. The University of California, Irvine, won the top spot among the 33 schools ranked.

The college’s Computer Information Systems took third place among 26 schools ranked, behind the University of Southern California and Virginia Tech. And MET’s non-MBA master’s program in Business ranked seventh out of 75 (top 3: Indiana University, Arizona State, and the University of Connecticut).

“The flexibility of online programs is especially important for veterans as well as active service military personnel,” says Tanya Zlateva, MET’s interim dean and an associate professor of computer science. “For the latter, it is often the only choice, as they can be stationed literally anywhere. We have students in Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Far East, Latin America, and Europe.”

The U.S. News nod recognized programs that “are part of a concerted effort of the University to understand the role and benefits of digital learning across the educational spectrum,” she says. The three lauded programs are more than a decade old and “have given us experience and large amounts of quantitative and qualitative data.”

Factors in the rankings include a program’s reputation, the credentials of its faculty, student retention rates, and students’ debt on graduating. Among the MET programs’ defining traits, Zlateva says, are their design by faculty involved in applied research; administrative and technology help for students, including nights and weekends; industry-specific specializations; facilitators for every 15 students; and a range of course activities, from live online class sessions to discussion boards.

U.S. News quoted a Student Veterans of America spokesman on the importance of online offerings to the military: “Oftentimes, especially for those on active duty, distance-learning solutions are great options. It gives you the flexibility to take courses when it’s convenient. It helps you have the experience of taking courses if you are raising a family or working.”

About 200 students are currently enrolled in MET’s online veterans programs.