Art Institute of Seattle Is Facing Closure, Leaving Some Students Scrambling

Comments

1

It couldn't happen to a more deserving diploma mill.

Signed,
A graduate of said diploma mill

2

@1 I agree and I am sorry to hear they got you. I considered going to the AI in Seattle when I moved there (I had graduated from a 4 year private university 8 years prior, but was leaving NYC and wanted to learn photography). They pursued me relentlessly and aggressively like the mob. I was really put off by the entire situation and declined to move forward.

The Art Institute is one of the biggest scams out there. They rip people off, lie to them about getting them employment when they get their degree, and leave their "graduates" twisting in the wind. There are a lot of articles out there regarding the issues with this "school." It absolutely sucks for anyone who paid to go there. Class action lawsuit? They really need to go down like Trump University did.

There are tons of news articles and people's own stories (blogs/posts) of their personal experiences. Here are a few.

https://thinkprogress.org/why-students-say-their-degrees-from-the-art-institute-are-worthless-c346be20d899/

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/22/thousands-of-students-who-say-they-were-defrauded-by-the-art-institute-awaiting-an-answer-from-the-government--.html

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/money/advice/a15264/college-money-scam/

https://genprogress.org/the-art-institutes-use-predatory-admissions-tactics-to-trap-students/

5

@3 How is my life a string of failures? You don't know me!!! What i have shared here on SLOG is literally 2% of my life.

I have had a productive, successful life lived nearly entirely on my terms. I have done almost everything I ever wanted to do in life and my illness and disability are not personal failures (and if you believe that then I expect you believe all sick, disabled, and dead before their time people failed at life).

Fucked up shit happens to people every day. Death happens to people every day. I continue to have a good, full life. I live by the Pacific ocean. It's not the way I saw my life turning out, but I am not dead, yet. I am going to be killed by the progressive, degenerative neuromuscular disease I have. Actually, that's not true, I plan on taking advantage of Oregon's Death with Dignity law and killing myself before my disease takes my life.

I expect that will make so many people here, including you, so very happy and that says way more about all of you than it says about me.

6

"Faith-based" Dream Center Foundation. Yikes! ...reason #10,002 why #ReligionPoisonsEverything

7

My sympathies to the faculty, students, and former graduates (myself included.)

For anyone looking to continue their education, I highly recommend the programs at LW Tech in Kirkland. The campus culture there is amazing compared to what I experienced at AIS, and only as one of the many people disserved by a private institution stuff I realize how valuable the word "public" is to education. Lake Washington is the only public votech school in WA. From the students to faculty to leadership, I'm a big fan.

Plus, the ridiculous bakery and restaurant at LW! Remember how AIS culinary sold the student food via a $35 prix dice menu, so no student could actually afford to eat there?

8

@1 Knat, @2 & @5 xina: I share your pain re the AIS diploma mill. I'm glad it's closing and that all my loans are paid off. Geez--a depressing-as-hell concrete building that looks like a prison for an art school? AI schools are an atrocious for-profit scam, up there with DeVry, ITT Tech Institute, and Barbizon School of Modeling.
@4 German Sausage: I know, right? lol Norman's just pissed because Mother won't let him use the car, nobody stops at the Bates Motel anymore, and his life is a string of failures.

10

@6 blackhook: I know---I caught that, too. Brrrrr!
@7 ogbog: AIS food prices were truly ridiculous in the '90s. I don't even want to know what extortionist rates they're charging now. Thank you for sharing about Lake Washington Tech.

11

@8 OMG I remember Barbizon coming to my high school in the '80s trying to recruit the girls!

12

@11 Those Barbizon ads were next level. In High School, I actually wanted to go to AI when I graduated to study art. I'm so glad I couldn't afford to.

Our version of this in SF is the Academy of Art. Basically, a real estate empire using the tax exemption of an educational facility—similar scam the church that bought AI is running.

13

@7 Sometimes I forget this about myself but I actually went there starting my senior year in high school and finished a little while after HS graduation. Great experience overall, met people from all over the world there, and totally affordable.

14

I went to AI Chicago. The instructors there were amazing, industry experienced and dedicated. I really appreciated the instructors, they cared and I learned a lot. At least that was my experience along with my closest peers.

January 19th 2018 Dream Center completed their acquisition of AI -Chicago. We were told that our school was a non profit institution once Dream Center became the owners. We did not find out until a week before our fall semester, at the end of our summer break mind you, that on the 19th of January we had lost our accreditation and on top of it all the school was closing after that year's Christmas break. They let us continue TWO QUARTERS WITHOUT TELLING STUDENTS THE STATUS OF THE SCHOOL'S ACCREDITATION. ISN'T THAT FRAUD? I had only 2 quarters left by then. I had decided to just finish out. Dream Centers Education Holding left a lot of students AND instructors devastated, hurt, confused, and lost. They lied to us. This is supposed to be a Christian Organization and they played with our money and lives. I'm almost sure a hand full of students went to Seattle to finish out their education just to relive the nightmare once again. Going to one of the other AI institutions outside of Chicago was a option to continue and complete courses for our degree.

What really pisses me off is this situation had gotten very little coverage. There were protest and the news networks were contacted but nothing had happened except some students are seeing Dream Center on our credited statement. We are still fighting.

15

I haven't kept up, and AI did have something of a mixed reputation back in the day, but I do know quite a lot of 1990's and early aughts grads who did actually go on to pretty successful careers in the music business and who are still working. I feel bad for the students who will have a hard time finishing their education in a credentialed way.

16

@11 xina: A girl from my high school senior class got recruited and went to Barbizon. She must not have made it to the glamorous fashion runway, because I didn't hear if she graduated and made professional modeling her career. It's so weird---I never attended Barbizon, myself, but remember their ad slogan: "Be a model---or just look like one!" in newspapers and on TV.
@12 & @13 Dougsf: Scam schools really do bite the root. It's criminal what they get away with. The ones that go out of business and have to close get no sympathy from me. Thank you and ogbog (@7) for sharing your positive experiences about Lake Washington Tech in Kirkland.
@14 Tifanity: I'm really sorry that happened to you.

17

@15 Mr. X: I am still wondering to this day if I should have dropped the Visual Communications program for an AS in Music Business instead. I was just out of the service initiating my Montgomery G.I. Bill for education funding as a veteran.

18

@17: If nothing else, we always got free weekly paper copies of The Stranger hot off the presses. AIS introduced me to Savage Love and I've been a Dan fan ever since. Does anybody remember Love Lab / Lust Lab and I Saw You....?

19

The poor financial stability of the organization which owns the school is what is addressed by this email sent by WSAC, not its accreditation. The interesting thing is that someone or some organization could buy this accredited school for a song. To this moment, the Art Institute of Seattle is accredited by Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities to award Bachelor and Associate degrees, which is in itself a million dollar value. The Interior Design program holds a CIDA certification- one of three schools in the state.
The school is in receivership. This means that the purchaser of this school can buy it free of the encumbrances of the parent company's debt. This school has always been a financially productive organization. Its surplus was siphoned off to other schools in the EDMC/DCEH system. For about the price of a waterfront home in the Seattle Area, one person, or an organization could buy this school bring it back to its 80s-90s-late aughts or even Burnley School day glory- after a retitle and rebrand.

20

I hope all those for-profit schools go down in flames...but, yeah, it really sucks if you're someone who fell for their scams. I luckily dodged that particular bullet. When I attended Shoreline Community College in the mid-90's I had to watch a video about student loans and talk to people in the financial aid department before I was able to get a loan. The seriousness of borrowing money was made very clear from the get-go. Happily, I only borrowed about $2,000.00 because grants and the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation paid for most of my schooling. Unfortunately, I was disabled when I attended college and my disability got worse--so, I'm not working at all but still have to pay back those loans.

Far too many people "poo poo" community colleges, tech schools (I loved my drafting/engineering classes at Renton Technical College) and public schools like University of Washington. They fall for the hype and "glamour" of the Art Institutes, the Corinthian Schools, Full Sail, etc. and rack up horrible debt. Some of them are really kind of naive and stupid, if they don't even bother to read the small type on loan applications. My motto, learned the hard way: If something sounds too good to be true...really investigate it and/or run like hell. I would've made a lousy Graphic Designer and it had nothing to do with the education I received at Shoreline Community College.

21

I went to AIS. My classmates used to comment on how the admissions people were really friendly and helpful.. right up until you wrote that first check.

They totally lied about graduates career prospects, and the level of professional assistance given to graduates. When I graduated, their “career assistance” consisted of emailing me job listings from the Seattle Times.

That said, I did acquire some useful skills. Don’t miss it at all, though. For an art school, it felt more bleak than any office I have worked in since.

22

Who the fuck is the "Dream Center Foundation"? They're the ones that need to be investigated. My son worked at AIS between 2000-05, and it seemed like a classy school with a lot of creative energy. Then.....Goldman Sachs got involved in the management and finance and killed the golden goose. Now comes the "faith based" foundation - why would THEY be interested in any art institutes??

23

This is all on the vultures at Goldman Sachs who sucked every last drop of equity out of the schools. The North Campus building, which housed the headquarters for RealNetworks and Zulilly, three entire blocks of the waterfront, was sold for $15 million at the absolute bottom of the market. A building that brought in $6 million a year in rent alone was sold for a little more that twice that. All so that some Goldman exec could give himself a $15 million bonus and bounce. That was a $100+ million building and home to two of the colleges they owned!

The school then had to rent back what was their own building for $600,000 a year after that.

After racking up billions in debt, Goldman defaulted on their loans and gave up all the schools to receivership. The receiving lender had no experience with schools, so they sold out to Dream Change. Dream Change figured out what a shit show it was and last month relinquished the Art Institutes to something called "ECH"... and now ECH is bankrupt.

There used to be 3,000 students and revenue of $80 million a year at AiS, and now it's 600 forgotten (mostly military veteran) students, a skeleton crew of part time faculty with no department heads, and revenue 1/10th of what it was 8 years ago.

If anyone gets sued in this, I hope it is Goldman Sachs.

24

@18 I remember those columns, but then the Stranger was a folded one sheet layout when I first started reading it. #olds

25

@19 babyfeet: If someone or a group could snatch AIS from the "Dream Center Foundation"...
@20 DrummerGirl: I'm glad you have had good community college experiences, too (re Shoreline Community College and Renton Technical College). I agree--Skagit Valley College has been good to me, with an AS in Music that led to my BA of Music from Western Washington University and further certification through the Berklee School of music (Boston, MA).
@21 spaceapple: That's about what happened to me, too. AIS in the 90s was world famous for boasting a "90% job placement for graduates". But that was the rub---graduates--as in most RECENT graduates from THAT academic year got job placement assistance that usually lasted only one year because---!!!----those "really, really GREAT jobs" had to be made available for the next set of fresh AIS grads the following year (see how that works?). If you were an alum after one year or longer it was suddenly like they didn't know you--you were SOL and on your own. Something akin to GEICO's equally false claim that they "MIGHT save you 15% or more on car insurance".
@22 leftist: I share your curiosity. Methinks "The Dream Center Foundation" is an unscrupulous bunch of blood-sucking scammers out for profits. Caveat emptor, folks!
@23 CaptainChampion: Spot on, agreed, and seconded.
@24 Dougsf: Those were the days, huh?

26

@19 I get the financial issues although for AI -Chicago they knew the school was closing 6 months after the purchase, that's fishy. Let's say the school didn't close, why take money from students and loans without informing us about the accreditation? This LLC is not trust worthy period.

27

As a business AI is shady, predatory, and oversells expectations to suburban kids with big dreams. But I went there 17 years ago, had some great teachers, found inspiration, got a job in the field I wanted... I just finished my Ph.D this year, and 100%, I would not be at this point if not for my time at AI. Good riddance to the DeVry of art schools, but man -- it's a tiny bit bittersweet.

28

A different education option for anyone in Game Art and Animation, Game Programming, VFX for Film, and Game Design is the Academy of Interactive Entertainment here at Seattle Center. (https://aie.edu/)

We're very different from schools like the Art Institute in a number of ways. First, we're non-profit and have been run ethically and professionally since 1996. Second, we're not an academic school but more a "21st century trade school." It's a model based on simulation of an indie studio and runs on a clock hour model leading to a certificate. Tuition for a full year is $21,500 total.

A.I.E. is nationally accredited by the Council on Occupational Education and has a required completion rate of over 60% and a job placement rate over 70%. (If you feel you've been misled by such claims in the past, we're happy to explain them to you fully.)

A.I.E is having an Open House on March 9 starting at 10:30am at our campus in the Armory Building at Seattle Center. More info on the website.

If our kind of college appeals to anyone affected by the Art Institute's imminent closure, we'd be happy to speak with you about the options. We seek active partners more than passive students.

Source: I am the Head of School of the Seattle campus of the Academy of Interactive Entertainment.

29

@15 I was involved in hiring AI grads in the time frame in which you speak including some guest lecture spots, giving tours of our facility and prepping the kids for what it's like to work your way up in the biz. We hired entry level students at minimum wage for basic tasks. Well over a few dozen during that time, around 12 years or so. I can think of only a handful that made it to full time, gainful employment in the industry. And I'm not talking about being a sound guy/gal at the Off Ramp or Under the Rail back in the day. Most went into other fields unrelated to entertainment or entertainment technology. A good number, perhaps a majority were entitled, inexperienced and not yet mastered in their craft and not willing to pay their dues.

AI cranked out too many people of dubious quality and too many in general to field the limited slots available in the industry as a whole. AI marketed an unrealistic view of the jobs market in the entertainment business. It was a program to enter to learn how to use "toys" and not so much the concepts that build the basis of a long career. Knowing how to use the gear is the easiest part of the gig.

Deserved or not AI "grads" are widely looked down on in the industry as a whole. Much if it is undeserved but the ratio of those that buy their way though the program with no marketable skills far outnumber those that make it through the program and have good career paths 10 years on.

30

Not quite as reductive as all that -- small schools are closing all over the country because of generational dip in enrollments demographics. Humanities/arts programs are unattractive to students worried about debt and jobs. But yes, if a school is in trouble AND it cuts faculty, that's just....more trouble.

31

Is the Film Institute of Seattle next?