WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - North Carolina has one of the highest military populations in the country. Thousands of veterans call bases like Camp Lejeune, Fort Bragg, and Seymour Johnson home.
Jason Thigpen, founder of Student Veterans Advocacy Group, said the state is not very friendly when it comes to helping veterans go back to school after serving their country.
As it is, Thigpen said going from the war to the classroom is daunting enough.
"Not always looking around the corner and suspecting someone of something," Thigpen said. "It's a very difficult routine to try to adjust out of."
Thigpen said after spending months fighting the war, coming back home should be easier. But he said it is not because veterans now have to pay out-of-state tuition if they want to go back to school.
"I have to move my whole family down here. I'm not going to be working," said Andrew Sammons. "I can't afford $11,000 -$12,000 a year plus other expenses."
Sammons is an active duty student. After learning he would have to pay almost $11,000 in tuition, he almost gave up hopes.
"Maybe college isn't for me, should I have just stayed in the military?" Sammons said. "Am I making a mistake?"
Sammons soon learned about the Student Veterans Advocacy Group and contacted Thigpen. Thigpen worked with Sammons to appeal his tuition fees and was granted in-state tuition. He is one of 26 student veterans who have appealed with Thigpen's help.
Thigpen is working with Congressman Mike McIntyre to pass a the Veterans Education Equity Act of 2011. This would equalize education benefits for Veterans attending school.
In-state tuition for veterans is covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Veterans recieve up to $17,500 per academic year.
The Veteran's Education Equality Act would cover tuition for all veterans regardless of their residency status. Ten states have accepted the new change bringing the total to 17 states.
North Carolina is not one of them.
There is a bill in the North Carolina General Assembly to cover veterans at state univeristies. Thigpen said the bill has been stuck in committee for two years.
He plans on filing a lawsuit to get action taken on that bill.
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