Young Woman A Catalyst For UNC Policy Shift On Same-Sex Military Spouses
Jasmine Pollard is an Army reservist. She had just gotten back from a nine-month deployment when she and her now wife decided to marry. The ceremony was in California, a state that allows same-sex marriages.
Her wife also serves. She's a medic stationed at Fort Bragg. So Jasmine, 20, decided to move back East so they could be together. She'd hoped to go to school, taking advantage of a federal law the says military dependents can receive in-state tuition rates.
She ran into problems.
She called Fayetteville State University to ask about the waiver.
"They didn't really know what their policy was," said Pollard. "They had no idea the military even gave benefits to same sex marriages."
It's a rather new policy. In September of 2013, the Obama administration announced that same-sex military spouses would receive the same benefits as heterosexual spouses.
This policy, however, collides with North Carolina state law, which defines marriages as being between a man and a woman.
At Fayetteville State, in-state tuition runs about $6,400 annually. Out-of-state tuition runs $18,000.
Pollard says she tried talking to a second school, UNC Pembroke, about the tuition rates. Initially, she says, they told her there was no problem. She could fill out the military waiver. But when she brought up the contradiction with FSU, which is also part of the UNC system, UNC-P made some calls, and then changed their response. She couldn't receive the benefit.
"That, of course, is in contradiction to the federal law," said Chris Rowzee, with the American Military Partner Association. "If you're an institution that receives federal funds, then you have to offer military dependents the in-state tuition rate."
AMPA shared what they knew with Pollard. They called UNC's general administration. And they began talking with media, like the Fayetteville Observer who first reported on this story.
"There is no consistent application nation wide, or in some cases state-wide," said Rowzee.
There have been anecdotal instances of similar stories throughout the country. Mainly in Texas and Tennessee. There's been no blanket initiative to address the inconsistencies, likely because not many scenarios have put the rules to the test to this point.
Fayetteville State went to UNC's general administration for clarification. This week, the school came back with a change in policy: They will now allow military spouses of the same gender to receive in-state tuition rates.
Pollard will be deploying for another year, so she isn't able to enroll like she initially hoped. But, depending on where she lands next year, she might be able to move her plans along more smoothly.
"If we're going to be living in North Carolina, I'm definitely considering reapplying."
UNC could not be reached for comment.