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G. I. Bill of Rights

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The G.I. Bill or Servicemen's Readjustment Act

The G. I. Bill of Rights or Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 provided for college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as GIs or G. I.s) as well as one-year of unemployment compensation. It also provided loans for returning veterans to buy homes and start businesses.

The G. I. Bill is considered by some to be the last piece of New Deal legislation. However, the bill which President Franklin D. Roosevelt initially proposed was not as far reaching. The G. I. Bill was created to prevent a repeat of the Bonus March of 1931 and a relapse into the Great Depression after World War II ended. The American Legion (a veterans group) is essentially responsible for many of the bill's provisions. The Legion managed to have the bill apply to all who served in the armed services, including African-Americans and women.

Many of the provisions were controversial. For example the president of Harvard University opposed the idea of allowing any serviceman to go to college. However, the fact that the G. I. Bill paid for a G. I.'s entire education encouraged many universities across the country to expand enrollment. For example, the University of Michigan had under 10,000 students prior to the war. In 1948 their enrollment was well over 30,000.

Another provision was known as the 52–20 clause. This enabled all former servicemen to receive $20 once a week for 52 weeks a year while they were looking for work. Under 20% of the money set aside of the 52–20 Club (as it was known) was given out. Most returning servicemen quickly found jobs or pursued higher education.

An important provision of the G. I. Bill was low interest home loans for servicemen. This enabled millions of American families to move out of urban apartments and into suburban homes. Prior to the war the suburbs tended to be the homes of the wealthy and upper class. Although black servicemen were eligible for these loans they tended to remain in the inner cities or in rural areas because many suburban communities using racial segregation did not sell homes to African-Americans and other minorities.

As a whole the bill helped to democratize the "American Dream." The G. I. Bill of Rights has since been modified but still remains on the books. The U.S. Military tends to use it to encourage enlistment.

The current version of the bill is called the Montgomery G. I. Bill in honor of one of its chief proponents, former U.S. Representative Gillespie V. Montgomery of Mississippi.

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