The longest war in American history is drawing to a close. Now, the men and women who served are coming home, and many hope to use higher education to build new, better lives. They have help from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a piece of legislation that many advocates say offers more support to returning veterans than any policy since the original GI Bill of 1944. In this documentary, we explore how the first GI Bill revolutionized the lives of millions of young veterans, America’s institutions of higher education, and American society at large. But America’s economic and academic systems have changed, and veterans today are returning to a very different reality than their predecessors.
A staggering 16 million soldiers returned home from World War II, and millions of them went to school. Because GI Bill benefits were generous enough to pay for any college in the country, veterans flooded all types of institutions, from elite schools like Harvard to large state schools, to vocational schools. By 1947, half of all college students in America were veterans.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill was supposed to change where veterans could go to college by giving them more money, and, therefore, more options. But since the new bill went into effect in 2009, the percentage of veterans enrolling at four-year public and private nonprofit schools has barely budged.
In the United States, we tend to think that improving education is about improving teachers - recruiting better ones, firing bad ones. But the Japanese think about improving teaching. It's a very different idea.