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Iraq War vet files lawsuit over UNC system in-state tuition

Posted November 8, 2012

— An Iraq War veteran who was denied in-state tuition when she applied to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke is taking the issue to court.

Hayleigh Perez, 26, who spent 14 months in Iraq, had hoped to use her GI Bill, which only pays for in-state tuition, to attend the university to get a master's degree, but she says she was told she did not qualify as a state resident because she moved to Texas with her husband, who was serving active duty there.

Even though she was staying in Texas, she and her husband continued to pay mortgage and taxes on their home in Raeford. They moved back about two years later.

Perez says she applied to both UNC-Pembroke and Fayetteville State University and was granted in-state tuition at one, but not the other. She believes the inconsistencies within the University of North Carolina System are unjust and discriminatory.

Last week, she delivered more than 145,000 signatures to an online petition pushing for the UNC Board of Governors to change the way it handles such cases.

On Thursday, she filed a federal lawsuit.

Perez, who is now enrolled at Methodist University in Fayetteville, says veterans across the country have endured similar problems.

A lengthy section of North Carolina's general statutes describes who can be considered an in-state resident for the purpose of tuition. It says that active-duty military members and those in the N.C. National Guard should be treated as in-state residents, and it makes provisions for dependents of active-duty military members.

Joni Worthington, vice president of communications for the UNC System, could not say why one school in the system would consider Perez a state resident and another would not. But she said that Perez' appeal went before a state panel, whose members found that the law had been properly applied in her case.

Worthington acknowledged the inconsistency within the system and said administrators are working on a new approach to consolidate residency determination for all 16 UNC campuses.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Marty King Nov 12, 2012

    I love how people like her file frivolous lawsuits to make a buck on a settlement.

  • ashcash21 Nov 9, 2012

    Just because she owned a home in NC and paid taxes on it does not mean she was a resident of NC. Otherwise, people that owned multiple homes in multiple states could be considered a resident of any one the states.

    Doesn't she have to declare residency in a state? Her husband would have to delcare residency of one state and if she is unemployed then she is considered a resident of the same state as her husband.

  • jcthai Nov 9, 2012

    Clearly Congress could solve this by mandating either that the GI Bill pay in or out of state tuition, or better yet, mandate that all universities should give in state tuition to any vet, regardless of residency. Either we support our vets or we don't....

  • Half Red Half Blue Nov 9, 2012

    You live out of state. Pay out of state. Don't look for a hand-out around here. Because no one here will give you one.

  • jhk0704 Nov 9, 2012

    YOU LIVED IN TEXAS!!!!!! end of story. What is it that she is confused about again? Owning a house does not make you a resident you actually have to live here. Sounds to me like someone likes/needs attention.

  • Taffy Nov 9, 2012

    Seriously. Owning a house in state was enough for Elizabeth Dole to run for Senate as representing NC when she really didn't live here. I have no problem extending in state tuition to any vet who lives here, owns property here or is stationed here not matter how temporary. The UNC system makes plenty of other exceptions for athletic out of state students who don't qualify for athletic scholarships.

  • forautumn Nov 9, 2012

    "Don't for minute think that your military connection, having the nerve to try and enter and lib university didn't have something to do with it! UNC has proven quite clearly that they will bend any rule at any time if you can tackle or shoot hoops"

    Looks like someone is confused about the schools involved and is more concerned with silly terms like "lib".

  • forautumn Nov 9, 2012

    Lets see...she got into FSU with in-state tuition, but opted to go to Methodist instead. Now she wants to sue.

    sounds like a money grab. She could have gone to FSU and paid in-state, been cheaper than what she is paying at Methodis. Heck, out of state at UNC-P is less than what she is paying at Methodist.

    I think someone is grabbing for some cash.

  • notyou Nov 9, 2012

    Owning a house in a state (even if you are paying taxes on it) does not equate to residency. If that were true our state elections would have lots of extra votes from our of state folks with vacation homes here. She moved her residency to avoid paying income taxes in NC (which is what funds that in-state tuition). She is not a resident. I commend her for her service but that does not mean she is in the right in this case.

  • mrschizzy Nov 9, 2012

    If I remember correctly from the original story, she maintained a residence in NC and paid the property taxes on it. I don't know about the income tax portion. But if she maintained a residence in state while living in Texas for a period of time, then as far as I know, that is still maintaining residency. She should have gotten in-state tuition. I support her cause and the lawsuit, because if this happened to her, then it has happened to others and will continue to happen to others. A line needs to be drawn and if it takes a lawsuit to do it, then so be it.