OSTC and the GI Bill
After World War II, the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944--also known as the G.I. Bill of Rights--provided a host of services and entitlements to returning veterans. These included access to a college education, counseling services, unprecedented unemployment benefits, home loans, and medical care. An important change from the previous program was that all World War II veterans received these benefits, not just those with disabilities. To make up for the disruption their service caused to their studies, the U.S. government provided veterans under the age of 25 the ability to attend college tuition-free for as many years as they had served in the armed forces. They also received a small living allowance while in school of $50 a month for single vets and $75 a month for those with families.
For their part, colleges, universities and vocational schools received up to $500 per individual for tuition reimbursement. At this time in its history, however, the Oshkosh State Teachers College, the successor institution to the Normal School, did not charge tuition to Wisconsin residents. It instead relied on tax funds and student fees to pay for students’ educational costs. In addition to providing the equivalent state tax support for veteran students, the Veterans Administration paid their school fees which covered health services, textbook rentals and “incidentals.” Still, OSTC President Forrest Polk felt that larger institutions received more support because the VA also paid for the vets’ lab manuals, school supplies, and bought their textbooks outright for them. Despite his concerns, Polk and his college seemed to have a good relationship with the VA and together they established a veterans guidance center which proved quite crucial for the returning vet.
On March 4, 1946, the college’s Veterans Administration Guidance Center began offering its services in the science building (Harrington Hall). The center was open not only to student veterans, but to all veterans throughout the region. Through its partnership with the VA, the college was responsible for hiring qualified counselors, a test administrator, and the clerical staff, while the VA provided for their salaries. In addition to standard academic advice, the center administered aptitude, ability, and interest tests, which helped the veterans decide on possible careers. The VA and college also established the Veterans Administration Contact Service in October 1946 to provide veterans with information regarding the other, non-educational rights and benefits that they were entitled to under the new and confusing law. In addition to these services that the college and VA provided, the college also created a Veterans' Advisor. The first Veterans' Advisor was Dr. Frederick Caudle, who held the position until 1955.
By the summer of 1947, the government had ordered the shutdown of both the Guidance Center and Contact Service, forcing veterans to travel to Green Bay or Milwaukee to receive career advice. For questions about benefits, they were told to inquire at the local post office. The college dealt with the deficit by creating a veteran’s bulletin board outside of the library to keep veterans informed of changes in their rights and up-to-date on the activities of the Veterans’ Club. While they were short-lived, the veteran guidance programs had shown the College the need for career and academic support. Out of these centers grew the school’s first formal guidance department. Very similar to the VA’s, the new program for all OSTC students used various academic and interest tests to determine aptitude and recommend careers.