Enlisting Composition: How First-Year Composition Helped Reorient Higher Education in the GI Bill Era

Ryan Skinnell


Composition historians have long argued that writing programs were radically transformed in the post-WWII era as a consequence of GI Bill enrollments. But, rising enrollments in this period were not just the cause of huge expansions in first-year writing programs. Rather, first-year composition helped to bring about huge expansions in higher education. Immediately preceding the introduction of the GI Bill, first-year composition became a de facto curricular requirement for institutions that wanted to be eligible for GI Bill funds. Not surprisingly, there was a wave of institutional transformations near the end of WWII as single-purpose institutions became multi-purpose state colleges to attract the newly established Federal largesse. First-year composition helped facilitate these changes around the country as institutions adopted or reformed first-year offerings to become GI Bill eligible.


rhetoric and composition; GI Bill; WWII; first-year composition; history

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