Syracuse University Magazine

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The GI Bill Transformation

The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill, offered a college education to millions of returning World War II veterans. The bill supported some 2.3 million students, most of whom would never have been able to attain a college education without it.

Syracuse University was both challenged and transformed by the GI Bill. Veterans began enrolling at Syracuse in significant numbers immediately after the war, thanks to the bill. In just four academic years, from 1945-46 to 1948-49, total enrollment went from 5,716 to 19,698. Although still a small university by national standards, Syracuse ranked first in New York State and 17th in the country in veteran enrollment.

The resulting “GI Bulge” called for more housing and classrooms and temporary buildings sprang up all around campus. More than 600 prefab buildings, old barracks, and trailers covered the campus and surrounding areas. Even with these additional buildings, classrooms and housing remained crowded.

This photograph shows temporary classrooms behind Crouse College. Others were constructed near Bowne, Sims, Slocum, and Machinery halls. Temporary housing was inserted wherever the University could find space, from the site of present-day Manley Field House to Drumlins.  

This photograph and others will be on display in the University Archives exhibition Our Doors Opened Wide: Syracuse University and the GI Bill, 1945-1950 in the Special Collections Research Center’s sixth-floor gallery of Bird Library. The exhibition will open this fall and be on view during Orange Central in September.   —Margaret Mason

Photo courtesy of SU Archives