A day late, but happy 70th anniversary for the GI Bill:
While the GI Bill was inspired, in President Roosevelt's words, by our moral obligation to support the troops, the returns on that investment were greater than anybody could have imagined. Eight million veterans would go on to attend college under the GI Bill. From them came three presidents, three Supreme Court justices, 24 Pulitzer Prize winners, 14 Nobel Prize winners, 450,000 engineers, 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors, and countless other distinguished citizens. The GI Bill made a college degree attainable for students from all backgrounds.
I didn't see it in any of the news stories I skimmed today, but a TV report I caught over the weekend pointed out that in one of the post-war years, 25 percent of all the people in college were returning vets taking advantage of the GI Bill. Man! That is amazing. When people talk about transformative events that continue to define our country today, they often talk about FDR's New Deal or LBJ's Great Society. I guess I would put World War II at the top of my list. The combined effect of all those college-educated veterans and all the "Rosie the Riveters" who did not want to return to the role of homemaker, thank you very much, very much created the world we live in today.
Before the GI Bill, the only people in college were the supremely academically gifted and the "legacy" students from the ranks of the privileged few. As the author (the president of Syracuse University) notes, many colleges resisted the influx of students because they thought iit would attract riff-raff who couldn't fit into college life. The "average person" just was not capable of succeeding in college.
So the GI Bill was one of the greatest levelers this country has ever known. So was the influx of women into the workforce, which turned thousands of years of history on its head.
My own life would have been different withougt the GI Bill. I think I still might gotten my college degree without it, but I sure wouldn't have come out of school debt free and thus able to seek work I liked instead of the job that most ennabled me to pay back student loans.