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Marine vet battling $9K tuition bill

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(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

Leonard Abel is a decorated Marine veteran who served three tours in Iraq.

He decided to join the military after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"I was young, 18 years old, didn't know what I wanted to do and plus it's when I signed up right when the towers went down," he said.

While serving his country, Abel may have survived the battlefield, but many of his friends did not.

In a photo he shows many of his Marine brothers marked in red as KIA, killed in action.

"I lost a lot of buddies," he said.

Abel was honorably discharged and when he arrived back in the states he decided to put down his weapon and pick up a camera.

"It's a total 180 from shooting guns to shooting pictures, totally different aspect ... showing the world what you see from your eyes," Abel said.

He said having a love for photography was something he wanted to develop and pursue so he used his GI Bill to enroll at The Art Institute of Phoenix, a school that advertises itself as a being "military friendly."

He's been taking classes there for the last couple of years and every time it came to a new semester he said The Art Institute of Phoenix would use his GI Bill to pay his tuition and helped sign him up for new classes.

He said things were no different when he enrolled this past semester.

"They were saying I was still good for that semester," he said.

Abel said he took that to mean that the school would simply take money from his GI Bill benefits to pay for his classes just like it always did.

However, he said weeks into the semester he got bad news.

"And they said I exhausted my GI Bill and I go, 'How can that be?' and they said, 'No, you don't have any left,'" Abel explained. "And I said, 'Well, no sense continuing on this course.'"

Abel was puzzled. If there was no money left from his GI Bill, then why would The Art Institute of Phoenix enroll him again if it wouldn't be getting paid?

He said the school had no good answer for him but sent him to a debt collector for $9,000 for those classes they enrolled him into for that semester. 

"I end up getting a call one day and they said I owe $9,000 and I said, 'For what? For your mistake? You should have told me I exhausted my GI Bill. I would've been fine with not signing up for that semester. I'll wait until I find another way of doing it,'" Abel said.

3 On Your Side is in touch with The Art Institute of Phoenix and it is looking into the issue.

Since Abel exhausted all of his benefits and wasn't told that he did, we're asking that the school waive that $9,000 bill since he dropped the classes anyway.

We'll let you know what happens in a follow-up report.

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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