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The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 fundamentally changed the composition of the American workforce by enabling an unprecedented number of American veterans to attend college and trade schools. Signed into law on June 22, 1944, the G. I. Bill of Rights, as it came to be known, granted stipends covering tuition and living expenses, provided vocational rehabilitation, established veterans' hospitals and made low-interest mortgages available for veterans of WWII. The legislation was eventually expanded to include all who served in the armed forces, even in peacetime, under the Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966.
The significance of the G.I. Bill to the social and economic development of the United States cannot be overstated. Once a bastion of upper-class intellectuals, university education was now opened up to people from every income level. Practical subjects, such as business and engineering, gained popularity, resulting in a better trained, more productive workforce. Furthermore, the enhancement of Veterans Administration Hospitals has allowed veterans to receive low-cost, quality healthcare, increasingly important to an aging veteran population. Often closely associated with university hospitals, many important research developments have taken place through VA Hospitals, including the development of dialysis machines. Finally, the availability of low-interest mortgages is widely credited with facilitating the post-war housing boom and growth of suburbs. Developments such as Levittown were built expressly with the intent of providing housing for returning soldiers and their families. Nearly 20% of all single-family homes built from 1945-1965 were financed, at least in part, by the G.I. Bill's loan guarantee program. With these subsidies, veterans were able to afford improved housing, fostering the emergence of a new middle class.
The G.I. Bill has had many incarnations since Franklin Roosevelt signed the original Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944. The current Montgomery G.I. Bill, enacted in 1984, uses optional tuition benefits to serve as an incentive to military service. It is a voluntary plan that requires a contribution on the part of the soldier in order to earn tuition benefits. Though the program has cost the U.S. Government an estimated $70 billion over the years, it is widely considered one of the best single investments the federal government has ever made. A 1986 Congressional Research Office study indicates that every dollar invested in the G.I. Bill has returned between $5.00 and $12.50 in the form of increased taxes paid as a result of higher incomes.
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