On June 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, better known as the G.I. Bill. Fearing the consequences of millions of veterans returning from war to scarce employment and housing opportunities, Roosevelt passed the legislation to offer unemployment compensation, home and business loans and tuition support.
This last benefit—money to put toward a college education—had unprecedented impacts on veterans and the higher education system alike. Recognizing the swiftly changing face of the American college student, LIFE published an extensive cover story in 1947 about student veterans, who had come to make up more than 50% of the college population in a very short time.
LIFE sent photographer Margaret Bourke-White to the State University of Iowa, where 6,000 students—a whopping 60% of the school—had served in World War II. One-third of them married, veterans were put up in cramped trailers. Many of them worked second jobs as…
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