Post-World War II and eager for a Penn State education

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In March 1944, college and universities across the United States began preparing for a flood of admissions applications from servicemen returning from the Second World War. Some of these students would be resuming an education interrupted by the conflict; others would be veterans taking advantage of financial assistance guaranteed by the new Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 (better known as the GI Bill of Rights).

Penn State (and other institutions across the country) planned to erect temporary dormitories to house this avalanche of incoming students. The federal government had acquired a large number of surplus buildings that were originally meant for emergency purposes during the war, and Penn State (and others) sent representatives throughout the Middle Atlantic states to find any structure labeled as surplus that could be dismantled and transported back to campus. The competition among schools for these surplus buildings was intense.

Penn State managed to find about a hundred trailers that the government had used to house defense industry workers in the New Castle, Pennsylvania, area. The buildings were moved to campus in 1945 and set up on a grassy hillside above E. College Ave. and east of Shortlidge Road. Utilities and dirt streets were installed and the college rented these trailers to married student veterans and their families for $25 a month. By the spring of 1946, "Windcrest Village" had grown to a community of 250 homes.

For unmarried veterans, whose numbers far exceeded married ones, Penn State erected 14 single-story, prefabricated structures north of Windcrest and just off Pollock Road. The "Pollock Circle" complex housed approximately 850 students.

A veteran student and his family in their Windcrest home, mid- to late-1940s

A Penn State student veteran with his family in their Windcrest Village home, in the mid- to late-1940s.

Image: Penn State University Archives

By 1947-48, about 2.2 million Americans were attending college, with 1.15 million of those being former members of the armed services.

Today, more than 4,500 students throughout the University’s Commonwealth Campus system and Penn State World Campus have direct military ties as either an active-duty service member, a reservist, veteran or military dependent. The next episode of WPSU Penn State’s “Higher Education in Focus: Serving Student Veterans” will highlight the resources available for Penn State’s military veteran students and discuss the unique challenges veterans and active-duty military students face on campus. The 30-minute show will air at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21, on WPSU-TV and WPSU-FM.

Last Updated February 16, 2016