History of American Higher Education
Higher Education from 1939-1970
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the G.I. Bill into law on June 22, 1944
The growth pattern in American higher education from 1939 until 1970 was the result of “piecemeal initiatives” in which state and federal government support brought about advanced research and greater access to higher education. Student enrollment during WWII decreased because of the draft, but after 1945, student enrollment increased “about 80 percent in one decade” to 2.7 million from 1.5 million from 1939-1940. Enrollment continued to increase to 3.6 million in 1960, doubling again during the next decade to 7.9 million in 1970. All of these increases brought attention to higher education and the creating of “public policies at both the state and federal levels.” How to plan for a smooth transition during peacetime was brought to the forefront as well as the future of a “civilian economy.” Also during this time, a large number of grants were provided to higher education with the understanding that colleges would accept additional tasks. To enable the soldiers to prepare for the workforce, the GI Bill was passed by Congress that provided a way for soldiers to attend college after returning from war. This was a major reason for such drastic increases in student enrollment. College campuses also had to change the way applicants were evaluated because soldiers were not the typical students. Additional buildings and dormitories also had to be built. The age of the “new kinds of students” was that they were older. Another major policy that surfaced was the focusing on “prospects for the elite, advanced research and development in the sciences.” All of which was tied to the solving of problems during and after the war.