A few weeks ago, I received an email from Nicholas Ugrin, a student-veteran who was battling with the university over his status as a domicile, or in-state, student. Even though he has lived and worked in Virginia for some time, Ugrin is being charged out-of- state tuition because of a mistake that happened somewhere along the line during registration.
Ugrin does not hold anyone in particular accountable for the mistake, which may have happened on his application, however, he is upset that the school has been unwilling to work with him to resolve the issue.
I was surprised to hear that the university was reacting so coldly and formulaically over such a potentially life-changing subject, especially in relation to veterans. I was even more surprised to see a similar story on the Washington Post Nova blog last week.
On Feb. 21, Tom Jackman broke the story about Stephanie Kermgard, another student-veteran at Mason who is being charged for classes as an out-of- state student.
Though Kermgard’s story varies in many details from Ugrin’s, their core is the same. For some reason, Mason is repeatedly denying domicile status to in-state students, both veteran and citizen.
Ugrin told me that he cannot afford the extra $7,000 it will cost him per semester, and that he will be forced to drop out of school and volunteer for a military deployment with the National Guard if his appeal continues to be denied.
Kermgard’s case is currently continuing on to the state Supreme Court, where it could set the precedent for Ugrin and all student-veterans who follow to register as in-state students.
After the story broke on the Post website, I received an email from a soldier in Afghanistan who read about Kermgard’s experience and was disgusted at the way Mason is treating its veterans. In the letter, which is printed on page 20, the soldier makes a vow to pass over Mason as an option to continue his education when he returns home, which breaks my heart.
For all of the amazing opportunities and resources Mason provides to both citizen, active duty and veteran students, this story has marred our reputation for at least one perspective student, and perhaps the entire military community.
Broadside has reached out to the Registrar’s office and requested an interview to discuss how the legal and decision making process works, and I sincerely hope the university agrees to allow us to expose a little bit of light onto the situation, for the benefit of all.
We may not know the whole story yet, but I hope that in the next few weeks we can clarify more details and put the entire domicile status debate into perspective.