In 2003, I enlisted in the Air Force where I was trained as a medic. I served all around the country as well as 4 years in Germany and 2 years in Pensacola. After being honorably discharged from service, I knew I wanted to continue a career in medicine so I decided to pursue a degree in nursing. Thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, I would be able to pay for my tuition if I attended a public college or university. Little did I know that my years of military service would in fact prevent me from benefiting from the GI Bill I was promised.
Three years ago I moved to New Orleans to attend Delgado Community College which is part of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. I moved there just two months after leaving service. Despite my three years of residency, the board and chancellor of my school denied my in-state residency, claiming that because I hadn't been employed in Louisiana for one year, I am an out-of-state student. "Well you're a resident of Louisiana, just not for tuition purposes," said the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. Thus, my GI Bill tuition benefits were worthless. I'm charged tuition at the non-resident rate. The out-of-state fees make my tuition double that of an in-state student. The GI Bill does not pay the out-of-state costs. I have to take out student loans to pay the difference and I loose well over $3,000/year of student loan money that could go towards other expenses like housing, transportation, books, groceries, etc.
Essentially, because I constantly moved with the Air Force, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System is taking away the veterans benefits I rightfully earned in favor of unwritten policies that are left up to the discretion and judgment of the board and chancellor. To me, that says I'm a resident of nowhere. All -- because of my service.
I am not the only veteran this is affecting. More veterans at my school and veterans all across the country are having a difficult time proving their residency because of the unique circumstances revolving around military service.
So I am calling on the Louisiana Community and Technical College System to pioneer a process that would make it easier and less stressful for veteran students to access the Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits they- we- rightfully earned. And hopefully, other schools will then follow their lead.