Higher Education: Past Reflections

By Nicholas Perugini, Trending Writer

At the end of World War II, a whole generation of Americans returned home from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific. In the four years in which America was at war, over 16 million men and women served in conflict. The sudden shock of having so many people come home and reintegrate into civilian life was a challenge. What happens when millions of people are now unemployed and have no plans for the future? The United States government’s answer to this predicament was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 or more commonly known today as the GI Bill. The GI Bill allowed veterans to apply for special loans so they could afford to go college or trade schools. Since most of the men returning home applied for this program college populations across the country swelled.

Before the GI Bill, Colleges and Universities in the United States were places for the upper class and rich. Schools were usually small and taught subjects such as the Liberal arts. After the GI Bill, College campuses became filled with people from average incomes and it offered opportunity to people whom twenty years earlier had no hope of even completing high school. This massive shift of US citizens entering college changed the landscape of the country. Since millions of students were to receive a college a degree before they entered the workforce this became the new bar for becoming qualified for jobs. This meant that Americans can receive higher wages and savings across the country, causing the economy to flourish and expand. A whole generation of skilled workers helped prepare the United States to rebuild a world destroyed by World War II. The GI Bill opened up or expanded new fields of study from the sciences, business, education, and engineering. This helped usher in a golden age in the American economy where owning a house and a car in the suburbs became the new norm.

Over 70 years ago, the landscape of college campuses in America looked completely different from what we see today. Higher Education was locked to the wealthy few. After the GI Bill a new wave of regular citizens were able to receive a higher education causing a higher standard of living in the nation. This action also normalized higher education as a necessity for middle class life and would pave the way for future generations to receive an education.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 21st print edition.

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