Authored by Julianne Odin
No discussion of post-World War II American history would be complete without a description of veterans’ education benefits, which allowed for unprecedented societal advancement by individuals who served their country. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, education benefits had become inextricably tied to military service, forever altering Americans’ perceptions of the nature of military service and citizenship (Boulton 2014). This development is largely due to Vietnam War veterans, a greater percentage of whom took advantage of the educational benefits available to them than their World War II and Korean War counterparts (Arminio, Kudo Grabosky, and Lang 2014, 12).
While many Vietnam veterans used their benefits to attend college and obtain bachelor’s and graduate degrees, some veterans were not prepared to enter college at the completion of their military service (Boulton 2014). Such veterans were given increased support by Congress, which passed the Veterans’ Pension and Readjustment Assistance Act of 1967, allowing veterans to receive benefits while completing their high school education without affecting their college benefits (Boulton 2014, 97). In 1972, legislators again considered the needs of under-educated Vietnam veterans and called for the establishment of a program to help them enter college by enacting “[t]he Second Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1972[, which] included $5.8 million for a one-year ‘Talent Search/Upward Bound Program’” (Groutt 2003, 7).
It was this program that inspired the creation of a Veterans Outreach Program at the Agricultural and Technical College at Farmingdale, now called Farmingdale State College. As the press release announcing the establishment of the Outreach Program states, the College aimed to serve “academically disadvantaged” veterans by providing them with appropriate education and training (Agricultural and Technical College at Farmingdale 1972, 1). Specifically, the student veterans working with the Outreach Program would “seek to contact under-educated and unemployed veterans to acquaint them with the educational opportunities at Farmingdale” (Agricultural and Technical College at Farmingdale 1972, 3). Through the work of colleges like Farmingdale State and programs like Upward Bound, Vietnam veterans were able to complete more years of schooling and had greater likelihood of completing high school and earning a college degree (Angrist and Chen 2011, 106). Education proved key to Vietnam veterans’ success, as those who attended college attained higher average career earnings than non-student veterans (Rumann and Hamrick 2010, 433).
Farmingdale State’s Veteran Outreach Program and Upward Bound are emblematic of the Vincentian mission “to provide excellent education for all people, especially those lacking economic, physical, or social advantages” (St. John’s University, n.d.). While Vietnam veterans as a whole were not warmly welcomed home after their service (Boulton 2014), many possessed further disadvantages that would have prevented them from using their benefits to access the potential for social and economic growth offered by higher education. These programs helped Vietnam veterans in their quest to overcome those disadvantages and seize the potential of higher education.
Agricultural and Technical College at Farmingdale. 1972. “Farmingdale U. Launches “Outreach” Program for Veterans This Fall.” Farmingdale State College Archives.
Angrist, Joshua D, and Stacey H Chen. 2011. “Schooling and the Vietnam-Era Gl Bill: Evidence from the Draft Lottery.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 3 (2): 96–118.
Arminio, Jan, Tomoko Kudo Grabosky, and Josh Lang. 2014. “Historical Context of Student Veterans and Service Members.” In Student Veterans and Service Members in Higher Education. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315816418.
Boulton, Mark. 2014. Failing Our Veterans: The G.I. Bill and the Vietnam Generation. New York: New York University Press. https://web-a-ebscohost-com.jerome.stjohns.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=e30a7d3a-9926-43ad-92e0-57cb201a9137%40sessionmgr4008&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=837422&db=nlebk.
Groutt, John. 2003. “Milestones of TRIO History, Part I.” Opportunity Outlook, TRIO History Short Papers, . https://pellinstitute.org/downloads/trio_clearinghouse-Groutt_January_2003.pdf.
Rumann, Corey B., and Florence A. Hamrick. 2010. “Student Veterans in Transition: Re-Enrolling after War Zone Deployments.” The Journal of Higher Education 81 (4): 431–58.
St. John’s University. n.d. “Our Mission.” St. John’s University. Accessed March 16, 2019. https://www.stjohns.edu/about/history-and-facts/our-mission.