In Iowa, resident status is left up to the each school's board of regents.
Dakduk says this patchwork of rules has left a lot of veterans bewildered, to the point where many either pay the difference out of pocket, take out loans or just give up.
"By and large, veterans don't complain about it," he says. "They kind of just suck it up and move forward."
Justin Curley refused to just suck it up.
The Missouri native was a medic in the Air Force. But, like many veterans, he learned that those skills didn't automatically translate to a job in the civilian world.
After leaving the service in 2009, Curley moved to New Orleans and applied to the nursing program at Delgado Community College. But because he hadn't been employed in the state for at least one year, the chancellor denied him in-state status.
Curley took out loans to cover the difference, about $3,000 a year. But a friend convinced him to fight, and he launched a petition drive on the site change.org.
"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," he wrote. "To me, that says I'm a resident of nowhere. All because of my service."
In October, Curley met with newly installed Chancellor Monty Sullivan. Not only did Sullivan grant Curley the in-state rate, he refunded his money back to fall 2011.
Curley says recruiters tell a lot of "half-truths" to convince people to enlist. But the most important promise — that of an education — shouldn't come with strings, he says.
"There wasn't any fine print," says Curley, 30, who has two more semesters before getting his registered nurse certification. "There wasn't any, 'Well,IF you're considered in-state,' 'IF you're not considered in-state, 'You MIGHT have to pay this,' 'You MIGHT have to pay that.' There wasn't like some little quiet announcer guy in the background saying there are going to be all these stipulations. We were just told this is what it's going to be. ...
"If we contributed to the security of our country, isn't that worth more than having lived in a state in a year?" he asks. "It just seems kind of silly."
In a follow-up email, Worthington noted that because Perez-Rodriguez is currently stationed here, Perez "would be considered an in-state resident were she to re-apply to a UNC institution now." Perez argues that she had already established residency based on her own active-duty service in North Carolina.
Perez dipped into her 3-year-old daughter's college fund to pay for one semester at Pembroke but has since transferred to Methodist University in Fayetteville, a private school. She says the government is covering the entire cost.
Her original plan was to become a physician's assistant. Now, she's going for a master's degree in public policy.
Allen G. Breed is a national writer, based in Raleigh, N.C. He can be reached at features(at)ap.org.
Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/(hash)!/AllenGBreed
This story is the latest installment in a joint initiative by The Associated Press and Associated Press Media Editors taking a closer look at this latest generation of war veterans as they return to civilian life, and the effect this is having on them, their families and American society.
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