Landmark Congressional Laws on Education

By David Carleton | Go to book overview

7
The Servicemen's Readjustment
Act

June 22, 1944

The Servicemen's Readjustment Act, far more commonly known as the G.I. Bill, has been described as the most significant piece of federal legislation in the 20th century.1 It provided comprehensive readjustment benefits in health care, housing, unemployment compensation, and education to millions of returning World War II veterans. Far more veterans took advantage of the education benefits than had been anticipated, with profound effect. One historian has said that the G.I. Bill made America the best-educated country in the world.2 The G.I. Bill played a significant role, perhaps an indispensable role, in developing the American middle class; it opened the doors of higher education to millions who otherwise would have been denied such opportunity. The bill, moreover, remade colleges and universities, which changed curricula, admissions procedures, and housing arrangements to meet the needs of a huge influx of nontraditional students. The G.I. Bill, finally, set the standard for veterans' affairs in the United States, laying the groundwork for the Korean G.I. Bill, the Vietnam Era G.I. Bill, and the post-Vietnam Montgomery G.I. Bill.

The G.I. Bill was motivated by a concern that the United States not repeat the problems it had encountered with veterans' readjustment after World War I and by concerns about mass unemployment among returning veterans. The educational portions of the bill faced significant opposition from several influential educational leaders, and passage required extraordinary efforts to get the legislation to a final vote. In the end, however, the G.I. Bill gained unanimous support in Congress. The single largest educa

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