History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


GI Bill of Rights

Perhaps the greatest area, in terms of the federal government's participation in education, was the GI Bill of Rights. The GI Bill, officially known as the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, was designed to provide greater opportunities to returning war veterans of World War II. The bill, signed by President Roosevelt on June 22, 1944, provided federal aid to help veterans adjust to civilian life in the areas of hospitalization, purchase of homes and businesses, and especially, education. This act provided tuition, subsistence, books and supplies, equipment, and counseling services for veterans to continue their education in school or college. The Servicemen's Readjustment Act included the following:

1. The Federal Government would subsidize tuition, fees, books, and educational materials for veterans and contribute to living expenses incurred while attending college or other approved institutions.

2. Veterans were free to attend the educational institution of their choice.

3. Colleges were free to admit those veterans who met their admissions requirements.

Within the following 7 years, approximately 8 million veterans received educational benefits. Of that number, approximately 2,300,000 attended colleges and universities, 3,500,000 received school training, and 3,400,000 received on-the-job training. By 1951, this act had cost the government a total cost of approximately $14 billion.

The effects of increased enrollment to higher education were significant. Higher educational opportunities opened enrollment to a varied socioeconomic group than in the years past. Engineers and technicians needed for the technological economy were prepared from the ranks of returning veterans. Also, education served as a social safety valve that eased the traumas and tensions of adjustment from wartime to peace. For the American colleges and universities, the effects were transforming. In almost all institutions, classes were overcrowded. Institutions required more classrooms, laboratories, greater numbers of faculties, and more resources. House facilities became inadequate and new building programs were established. New vocational courses were also added. This new student population called for differential courses in advanced training in education, commerce, agriculture, mining, fisheries, and other vocational fields that were previously taught informally. Teaching staffs enlarged and summer and extension courses thrived. Further, the student population was no longer limited to those between 18-23. The veterans were eager to learn and had a greater sense of maturity, in comparison to the usual student stereotype. Finally, the idea that higher education was the privilege of a well-born elite was finally shattered.


Butts, R.F. & Cremin, L.A. (1953). History of Education in American Culture. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Gutek, G. (1986). Education in the United States: A historical perspective. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Noble, S. (1960). History of American Education. New York: Rinehart and Company.

Prepared by Jenny J. Lee (UCLA)

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