On 22 June 1944, during WWII, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the GI Bill, an unprecedented act to compensate military members –known as GIs–for their efforts in WW II.
As the last of his sweeping New Deal reforms, Roosevelt created the GI Bill hoping to avoid a relapse into the Great Depression after the war ended—the US was still in the depression as we entered the war. By giving vets money for tuition, living expenses, books, and supplies, the GI Bill effectively transformed higher education in America. Before the war, college had been an option for only 10-15% of Americans, and university campuses were known as a haven for the privileged classes. By 1947, vets made up half of the nation’s college enrollment.
The GI Bill was one of the major forces that drove an economic expansion in America that for lasted 30 years. Low interest home loans enabled millions of American families to move out of urban centers and buy or build homes outside the city, changing the face of the suburbs and the nation. The GI Bill worked; it’s a great deal for our GIs—but it won’t help much in our present financial crisis.