Remembering the GI Bulge: Veteran Impact on the Campus

Enrollment statistics for 1943-4 through 1951-2 present dramatic evidence of the impact of returning veterans on Syracuse University.

Non-Veteran Enrollment

During the war years, total enrollment grew gradually from 3,838 in 1943-4 to 5,716 in l945-6. Throughout this period, women students outnumbered men, reaching a ratio of nearly 4:1 in 1944-5. After the war, enrollment grew more rapidly, reaching 10,578 in 1948-9 and then stabilizing about that level. As well, the percentage of men (non-veteran) students increased, so that the ratio was 1:1 by 1948-49. This enrollment pattern at Syracuse was typical of many American college and universities during these years except for the veterans. They changed the picture dramatically.

Veterans SU Magazine: Volume 12, Issue 4 Spring 1996

The Veterans' Impact

Chart Encouraged by the GI Bill, veterans began enrolling in Syracuse in significant numbers immediately after the war. More than 7,000 entered in 1946-7 alone, and the following year the total number of vets increased to 9,799. As a result, total enrollment (including veterans) reached a high point of 19,698 in 1948-9 - nearly six times the enrollment five years earlier. Since the vast majority of veterans were men, the male-female ratio soared to 2.7:1 by 1948-9. Overall, veterans accounted for more than 70 percent of the men students and more than half of the entire student body in both 1946-7 and 1947-8.

Despite its relatively small size, Syracuse enrolled more veterans under the GI Bill than any other university in New York State.

The Aftermath

In the fall of 1951, the number of veterans dropped to 4,027 - a 20 percent decline from the previous year - and accounted for less than 30 percent of SU's total enrollment. For the first time in seven years, non-veteran men students outnumbered veterans. The end of the "GI Bulge" was in sight - but Syracuse University had been changed forever.

Cartoons Veterans impacted the University in many ways and life was far from easy for students, faculty and staff alike. But through it all SU maintained a sense of humor as these cartoons from the Alumni Record and the Syracusan show. Traditions fell by the wayside due to the influx of older, world-traveled veterans. It was inappropriate at best to have a former military officer don a freshman beanie, and since many students were well over the legal drinking age, it became impossible to dictate how the veterans could spend their off hours.

During this period that the University expanded its adult education services which dated back to 1918. University College was formed in 1946. Utica College was established that same year with an initial enrollment of 500, 95% of whom were veterans. And Triple Cities College (now SUNY/Binghamton) in Endicott averaged 1,000 students, many of them veterans. This period also saw the founding of several other extension units in Albany, Gloversville, Rome and Auburn, and a summer art school and adult education center at Pinebrook, in the Adirondacks.

The Bulge Affected the Schools and Colleges

Many returning GIs enrolled in the college of Applied Science (now L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science).
Veterans 1944 These college photographs illustrate the dramatic increase in students between 1944 and 1947.

Veterans 1947