(Fort Bragg, NC) An Iraq war veteran has started an on-line petition after being told she cannot get in-state tuition but those in the country illegally soon could.
Hayleigh Perez was planning to use the G.I. Bill to enroll at the University of North Carolina’s Pembroke campus near Fort Bragg until she was told she did not qualify for in-state tuition.
According to Perez, she enlisted into the US Army in 2005, and was trained as a radiology technologist.
She was stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina then deployed to Camp Bucca, Iraq for 15 months.
Perez and her husband, Jose Perez-Rodriguez, who is also in the military were transferred to Texas where she later was honorably discharged in 2009.
While she was gone from North Carolina, Perez continued to pay property taxes her North Carolina home, “We were simply living there temporarily on orders from the United States Army.”
Perez’s husband was transferred by the military back to North Carolina which is why Perez tried to enroll in school.
Perez was told the school did not consider her a resident because she had not paid income taxes which she was gone, “This means that I cannot fully use the Post 9/11-GI Bill I earned from my 4 years of service at UNCP to pay for my tuition because the bill only covers in-state tuition. I immediately appealed the ruling but was met with hostility and aggression.”
Meanwhile, there has been talk by UNC leaders to offer in-state tuition to graduating high school students who are in the country illegally. That move, in-light of Perez’s case has spurred a discussion within the school system and among state legislators.
Perez hasn’t addressed the illegal issue but she does feel her situation is not fair, “Hundreds of thousands of veterans across the country are facing an arduous battle proving their residency to a state- because of the unique circumstances that encompass our military duties. Thus, I- along with the Student Veterans Advocacy Group- am calling on the UNC Board of Governors and President to issue a mandate to all UNC schools telling them to properly implement the rules for labeling veterans as in-state students and force an in-depth review of each veteran or dependent. We need and deserve the Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits WE have rightfully earned through blood, sweat, and often tears.”