United News Newsreel from 1944 on the announcement of President Roosevelt signing the G.I. Bill.
In this lesson students will view a series of video clips that examine the history of the GI Bill. Students will learn about the origins of the bill and the impact on individuals and the economy. Students will also consider the Post-9/11 GI Bill, signed by President Bush, that expanded access to the program. Students will culminate the lesson considering the debate around further expansion of debt-free college programs to non-veterans. Extensions include a more formal debate of this question with critical thinking activities to determine whether the government should provide free college for all students.
With a group or individually, instruct students to view the following video clips. Students should take notes using the handout provided, paying particular attention to the variety of impacts of the GI Bill
Handout: GI Bill Note-Taking chart (Google Doc)
Video Clip 2: Sen. Akaka on the GI Bill (1:31)
Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) talked about the GI Bill and his decision to study education. This oral history interview was conducted by Terry Shima, executive director of the Japanese American Veterans Association, and is part of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.
Video Clip 3: The 74th Anniversary of the GI Bill (1:12)
Senator Tom Carper (R-DE) upholds and supports the GI Bill as a life-long career development opportunity for not only himself but for his family dating all the way back to WWII.
Video Clip 4: Economic Impact of the GI Bill (3:45)
Author Michael Bennett talked about the GI Bill and its effects on America's post-war economic boom.
In 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Post-9/11 GI Bills, which expanded benefits for those who served in active duty since September 10, 2001. Benefits can be transferred to a spouse or child and provide up to 100% coverage of tuition. Instruct students to watch two clips about this bill and write down the pros and cons on the note-taking chart.
Video Clip 5: President Obama on the Post-9/11 GI Bill (5:16)
President Obama delivered remarks at a ceremony celebrating the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The previous year, President Bush signed into law a bill granting educational benefits to the members of the military who served on active duty on or after September 11, 2001. The Veterans Affairs Department began distributing tuition payments to schools participating in this program on August 1, 2009.
Video Clip 6: Representative Mike Pence Opposes the Post-9/11 GI Bill (2:56)
Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) speaks in opposition to the Post-9/11 GI Bill because of increasing costs and taxes.
The debate around free college has shifted to include more members of society beyond veterans. Have students watch the two clips and take notes of the benefits and drawbacks mentioned.
Then, split students into small groups in which each student discusses their view of the best policies, if any, to reduce college debt. Students should consider the history of this debate, and may conduct outside research if permitted.
Finally, participate in a whole class discussion in which at least one member of each small group shares their group's ideas on college affordability and government programs.
Video Clip 7: The History of Federal and State College Aid Programs (3:55)
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) talked about the history of federal and state government programs that help make college more affordable.
Video Clip 8: Limitations of “Free College” (3:38)
Third Way hosted a discussion with education policy experts on the cost and accessibility of higher education. The panelists discussed “free college” and the limitations of that approach.
Classroom Deliberation: Should the government provide free college for students? This lesson has students learn about the history and current state of college affordability, analyze the different types of free college and explore the question: Should the government provide free college for students?
Write Your Member of Congress: Have students further research the issue and write a letter to their member of Congress explaining their opinion on what should be done regarding college affordability.
Simulated Congressional Hearing: Have students participate in a simulated hearing in which some students are members of a committee considering a new debt-free college program, and others are experts on both sides of the issue.