Carl Basham (Photo: Star-Telegram).
Despite being a Texas native, a registered voter and holder of a state driver’s license, a decorated Marine has been denied lower in-state tuition at a community college because he spent too much time out of the state while serving two tours of duty in Iraq.
Carl Basham says he was shocked when personnel at Austin Community College told him a few weeks ago that he didn’t qualify as a Texas resident “for tuition purposes.” Basham was born in Beeville, Texas, registered to vote in Travis County in 1998, holds a Texas driver’s license and does his banking in Austin, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
“They told me that I have to physically live in the state of Texas for at least a year,” Basham told the paper. “It kind of hurts.”
According to the report, 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.
In-state tuition at the college is $500 per semester, compared to $2,600 for non-Texas residents.
Two state officials are decrying the decision.
“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.”
State Rep. Suzanna Hupp, R-Lampasas, also plans to probe the issue.
“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 told the Star-Telegram.
The higher education board is reportedly investigating the case.
Basham, 27, says that while his college costs eventually will be covered by the federal government, those benefits won’t be available for several months, so he’ll need to come up with the higher tuition cost plus cash for books in the meantime.
The Marine’s wife, Jolie, could hardly believe her ears when, after presenting multiple pieces of evidence proving his Texas residence, her husband was turned down.
“[The admissions officer] 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 is quoted as saying.
“He’s always Texas this and Texas that,” she said. “It’s always been his home.”
Over two enlistments and eight years of service, the paper reported, 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 and hopes to work toward a degree in emergency medical care.