Even prior to the demise of OPA, student veterans were conscious of the inadequacy of their sixty-five or ninety dollar subsistence allotments. Now that prices are rising, unchecked, these allotments are covering less and less of a student's necessary expenditures. This is the case not at Harvard or Ivy League schools alone, for the cost of living has risen almost uniformly over the entire country.
Unable to meet their expenses from monthly Government checks, students attending college under the GI bill are dipping regularly into their savings; and those who have no reserve supply of pretty green stuff to draw upon find they must take term-time jobs. Some men are holding two or three jobs simultaneously.
It is this group, which Ec A instructors would refer to as the marginal students, that may be forced to withdraw from college if no new financial avenues are opened. These are the men who would never have planned to come to college at all without Government assistance and who have all along relied on working to pay part of their way. They are particularly hard hit because their wages, like their allotments, do not buy as much as they once did. And a student cannot take on ever increasing hours of work and remain even a reasonable facsimile of a scholar.
More and more, veterans and veteran organizations are advocating that the government increase its contribution to the ex-serviceman's education. They contend that the government has committed itself to a certain course of action and has made guarantees to veterans--guarantees which are not being fulfilled. This argument carries a good deal of validity because whether the GI bill was intended to cover all or only a given percentage of the cost of a college education, it is failing to serve its original purpose.
But this argument for increased allotments slips too easily over the question of whether the benefits of the GI bill were intended to be a bonus or a contract. Morally, the nation owes the veterans nothing. The men who served their country were protecting themselves, their families, their homes, and their future from a detestable fate which threatened every individual soldier. The whole nation fought the war, and those who were best suited for combat were sent into uniform. The representatives of a grateful nation granted certain benefits to veterans, not as a dutiful remuneration, but simply as a gesture of gratitude for dangerous service well done.
That the GI bill was intended to be a freely given bonus is evident from its extensive provisions, which offer aid to almost every veteran--student, home builder, business man, or jobless. The only class that is slighted is the married student with children, who receives the same ninety dollars per month as the married student with no one but his wife to support. A logical case can be advanced for the justness of upping the allotment of GI scholars with children, and in fairness to this group, which was ignored in the original GI bill, such an adjustment should be made; but a general increase in the level of student allotments can come only in conjunction with legislation enacting additional benefits for all veterans.
Such legislation would place the demands of one group of citizens above the welfare of the whole nation, which would suffer from the inflationary boost given the country's economy by such action. All too many veterans are attempting to justify their requests for more money by the shallow assertion that now that the country has "had enough" and seems about to return to unfettered laissez-faireism, the grab bag is open, and it is every man for himself. But this is still one nation, and an intelligent, progressive program for the future can be carried through only if all groups work for the greatest good of the greatest number, even in the face of imaginary or actual temporary hardship.