The GI Bill of Rights, also known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, played a significant role in the surge of enrollment in higher education institutions in the years following WWll. The benefits of the bill included dedicated funds to cover tuition payments for college, low-cost mortgages, and low-interest business loans for WWll veterans. In just three short years after the program’s launch, over one million servicemen enrolled in college with the aid of the GI Bill.
Many institutions benefited from the increase in veteran enrollment. Schillinger House, the first post-secondary program in the United States to feature jazz as the focal point of the curriculum benefited greatly. In 1945 the small enrollment of 50 students was comprised of mostly professional musicians. However, in 1949 enrollment increased to 500 students. Most of the new students were former service members who returned home from WWll. This expansion set Schillinger House, which changed its name to Berklee in 1954, on the road to becoming the most popular contemporary music college in the United States.
Writer Glen Altschuler in his article “Today’s vets get shortchanged on GI Bill” states, "In the past 70 years, GI Bill benefits have become significantly less generous than the provisions of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944." The Korean GI Bill of 1952, the Veterans Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966 and the Montgomery GI Bill of 1985 fell far short of covering tuition and fees at many public and private colleges and universities (CNN.com 2014).
Going forward, I believe the federal government needs to re-evaluate its commitment to the GI Bill and increase funding to cover the rising costs of higher education. It’s critical now more than ever as a college degree remains a prominent pathway to a better station in life.