Pittsburgh Art Institute to close, one of many

02/07/2019

Josiah Martin | a&e editor

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh announced its plan to close both its physical campus and online programs on March 31.

“This decision was made for a number of reasons, including significantly declining enrollment,” according to a document, released by the institute, detailing the plan.

The current enrollment of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh consists of 1,924 online students and just 230 on-campus students. Its campus has been located at 1400 Penn Ave. in the Strip District.

While the institute chose March 31 as the date of closure to allow students to complete their current term, only a small fraction of students will be able to obtain their degrees within this time. Only 332 of the school’s total 2,154 students will potentially be able to complete their programs by the end of March.

The plan states that current students who will not be able to complete their programs in time have the option of transferring to another Art Institute campus or to an institution with a similar program. However, for Pittsburgh-based students, a nearby alternative is nearly impossible — the Art Institutes of Ohio, Washington, York and Philadelphia are all permanently closed as well.

Additionally, Dream Center Education Holdings (DCEH), part of the non-profit Dream Center Foundation which has controlled the Art Institute of Pittsburgh since 2017, has not yet made any public announcement regarding partnerships with other schools to which current students may transfer. On their website, this information is available for former students of several other closed Art Institutes, including Philadelphia.

Currently, the Art Institutes’ official website lists 9 operating campuses and 44 closed campuses. In its current state, Pittsburgh’s campus appears on neither list. The Art Institutes have been a financial burden for DCEH since the then-remaining 30 of them were acquired from Pittsburgh-based Education Management Corporation (EDMC).

In an email sent to employees on Jan. 14, DCEH Chairman of the Board Randal K. Barton said “the shifting landscape, coupled with the vast amount of debt and fixed operating costs inherited when [DCEH] acquired the education systems from [EDMC] in Oct. 2017, has brought significant challenges to our operations.”

DCEH has requested that the Department of Education make money available from the school’s Letter of Credit, a fund set aside as collateral for schools in danger of failing. Without those additional funds, the closure plan states that the Art Institute will be unable to cover the estimated $1.5 million-$2 Million cost of closure and will be forced to shut down before the proposed March 31 date.

DCEH will have to repay the federal government for any loans canceled via the “closed school discharge,” a system provided by the Department of Education by which students can have their
federal student loans forgiven if their school closes. Students that choose to transfer their credits to a similar program, however, are not eligible for this loan discharge.

The closure plan includes town-hall-style meetings with faculty, staff and students to explain options for students moving forward from the university, and individual meetings with students to determine the best course of action based on their individual needs.

As of the time of print, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh has not elaborated on the situation on its social media or official blog.

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