After serving two tours of duty in Iraq and managing to get home alive, this poor young man was told he was not a Texan by Austin Community College. It seems that he has been out of the state too long (serving his country, thank you very much) and therefore the college said he had to pay out-of-state tuition. Appalling, absolutely appalling.
Every living soul in Texas needs to write a letter on his behalf. LS
Austin Community College
Office of the President
5930 Middle Fiskville Road
Austin, TX 78752
(512) 223-7598 • (512) 223-7185 (Fax)
ACC President: Steve Kinslow, Ph.D.
Pam Sutton, (512) 223-7598, (512) 223-7185 (Fax)
--- TOM BLACKWELL
Carl Basham, a former Marine who completed two tours of duty in Iraq, says officials at Austin Community College told him that he's been out of Texas too long to qualify for in-state tuition.
College tells veteran he is not a Texan
By Jay Root
Star-Telegram Austin Bureau http:
RETURNING VET TOLD HE IS NOT A TEXAN
AUSTIN - Carl Basham was born in Beeville, registered to vote in Travis County in 1998, holds a Texas driver's license and does his banking in Austin.
So he was shocked when Austin Community College told him a few weeks ago that he didn't qualify as a Texas resident "for tuition purposes." Basham, a former Marine corporal, said he was even more shocked when officials told him why: After two tours of duty in Iraq, he's been out of the state too long to qualify.
"They told me that I have to physically live in the state of Texas for at least a year," Basham said in an interview Tuesday. "It kind of hurts." Austin Community College officials were unable to specify why Basham isn't considered a Texas resident, only that he didn't meet state requirements as determined by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. A spokeswoman said privacy laws prevent a discussion of Basham's case.
An official at another college said the fact that he entered the military in another state nearly a decade ago, despite his deep Texas ties, might be the reason.
Either way, two state officials said bureaucratic technicalities should not prevent the decorated veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom from being considered a Texas resident -- and paying about $500 a semester in tuition instead of around $2,600.
"Mr. Basham has gone to war for us, and I intend to go to war for him!" said state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, in a letter to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. "We owe it to our returning service men and women to make it as easy and uncomplicated as possible for them to resume their normal lives."
Likewise, state Rep. Suzanna Hupp, R-Lampasas, who represents many veterans serving at Fort Hood, said she wants to investigate the matter.
"I think we need to look into it further. It doesn't make sense that people who have bullets flying over their head aren't treated properly when they get back," she said.
The higher education board is investigating the case, an official there said.
Basham, 27, said he has to come up with about $3,000 now to pay for tuition and books as he works toward a degree in emergency medical care. Although he expects to get his college paid for eventually by the federal government, he said those GI benefits won't kick in for several more months, so he's stuck with high out-of-pocket expenses for now.
Basham's wife, Jolie, said an admissions officer at the college kept asking for documents proving his Texas residency. He brought in his driver's license, car registration papers, voter registration card, bank records and tax returns -- all sporting a Texas address.
"She said, 'It's really your military service that's holding you back.' I couldn't believe that those words came out of her mouth," Jolie Basham, a California native, recalled.
She said it stung her husband badly to be told he was not a Texan.
"He's always Texas this and Texas that," she said. "It's always been his home."
Jolie Basham remembered her husband's reaction when he got his car stolen last year while they were stationed in California at Camp Pendleton.
She said the Texas plates had been removed and mangled, but Cpl. Basham refused to replace them.
"He sat there and hammered 'em out and screwed them back on his car," she said. "He refused to get California plates."
Basham, the son of an air traffic controller who often was tranferred around Texas as he moved up the career ladder, lived most of his youth in Waco. During his junior year, he followed his parents to Monroe, La., where he graduated from high school.
It is there that he enlisted in the Marine Corps. Over two enlistments and eight years of service, Basham was awarded a Combat Action Ribbon, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and other decorations. He served as a driver and an auto mechanic in two tours of duty in Iraq, each lasting seven months, he said.
Basham was honorably discharged from the Marines on Jan. 31. He said he got to Texas as fast as he could, but he had to stay in California until his wife, who had pregnancy complications, gave birth in May.
The Texas Legislature has generally gone out of its way to ensure military veterans pay the lowest possible tuition. But it's not a perfect system, and some veterans end up falling through the bureaucratic cracks. Donna Darovich, spokeswoman for the Tarrant County College District, said the big problem is that Basham entered the service in Louisiana, even though he only lived 1 1/2 years there.
"It basically doesn't matter if you've lived here all your life," she said. "Where you enlist is what kind of sets the stage for residency."
Ray Grasshoff, a spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, could not say how many returning service members face the problem Basham has encountered. But he said officials were looking into his case now. "Our staff is trying to talk to the ACC staff and trying to figure out what can be done if anything to resolve the issue," Grasshoff said. "We, of course, support veterans and all they do for the country and want to make sure they get all the benefits they're entitled to."