Citizens First

II

One of the most cogent reasons for opposing a general rise in the level of student veterans' subsistence allotments is that only a minority of those who would receive the raise really need it. If everyone could be counted on to spend the entirety of his new allotment for absolute necessities, this additional purchasing power would contribute nothing to the current inflationary spiral; but this condition will not result when the majority of veterans are living adequately, though not sumptuously, for the increase would be spent on non-necessity items which otherwise would not be purchased.

In the case of married students with children the situation is just reversed. Hardship is more prevalent, and it is only the exceptional family that does not badly need its ninety dollars per month to help meet expenses, or which would buy luxury or semi-luxury goods even if its allotment were upped considerably. For this reason and also because veterans with children were the forgotten men of the GI bill, an increased allotment for this group is reasonable and desirable. Such an increase, instead of distorting the purpose of the GI bill, would help to distribute its benefits more fairly.

But the plight of unmarried student veterans must not be too summarily dismissed. Relatively few veterans now at Harvard are in immediate danger of dropping out of College because of financial difficulties. The Counsellor for Veterans and the Committee on Admission adopted a cautiously wise policy of letting no one come to Harvard who could not present a reasonable plan for covering the difference between his government allowance and the cost of a Harvard education. The only students hard hit by the price rise, therefore, are those who have been just barely scraping along all the time.

However, simply because their number is small is no reason why these men should receive no more than sympathy. Those who need help need it just as badly as if they were legion. The very fact of their fewness means that the needs of these marginal students can be met by an agency with fewer resources than the United States government. The University itself is the best source of aid to its marginal students because only at the local level can the amount of assistance be made compatible with the degree of need.

Three means of help can be offered--loans, work, and scholarships. The traditional University policy has been to keep loans to the absolute minimum because of the feeling that an obligation beyond what a man can reasonably be expected to repay in the years immediately following graduation, results in moral depression and defeatism, culminating in a "What the hell, why bother about anything" attitude. This policy is not unreasonable, but it should be re-examined in the light of the present situation. The veteran who needs help does not require a large sum. He comes to college with what amounts to an $1100 scholarship; another three or four hundred dollars per school year is all that he needs to meet his minimum expenses. Since most veterans will finish college in well under four years, the total of necessary loans does not exceed a moderate amount.

The College administration has been for some time open to criticism on the basis of wages paid to students employed by the University. An unmarried veteran working at the lowest wage rate would have to put in 25 hours a week in order to earn enough barely to keep his head above water, assuming that he had no source of income other than his job and his monthly allotment. Veterans with dependents would have to work even longer hours. A married student or one who cannot get by with less than average time for study just cannot afford to work that many hours. In view of the general price rise and the wage increases for other workers, even within the University, a readjustment of student wages is already overdue.

Supplementing work and loans, a few well placed scholarships would go far toward removing the troubles of the marginal veteran student. Men now in college, unlike those not yet admitted, have already made a heavy investment in their education. The future benefits which will accrue to the entire country if all the veterans now in college are able to finish, should weigh heavily in the University's allotment of scholarship funds. These funds are necessarily limited; but it should be noted that the amount paid on a National Scholarship or one with an equivalent stipend for just one year would be enough to assure another yea of college to at least four veterans. And many veterans will need only that one extra year to complete their college education.