The Art Institutes: Legitimate Photo Schools, or Accessories to Fraud?
The Art Institutes, a for-profit chain of colleges that offers degrees in photography and other fields, is training aspiring photographers by the hundreds at locations all over the country, as well as online. Many of the students graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, and dim career prospects.
The US Department of Justice recently sued the owner of The Art Institutes–Education Management Company–for using illegal recruiting methods to collect $11 billion in government-backed student loan money since 2003. EDMC, which is partly owned by Goldman Sachs, denies the charges.
EDMC owns several chains of for-profit colleges, so The Art Institutes doesn’t account for all the student loan money going into the company’s coffers. But former AI recruiters, career counselors, and students interviewed by PDN say that EDMC and AI are preying on low income students who lack the skills and preparation they need to succeed in college, or who lack the knowledge to explore far less expensive educational options available to them. “You’re really kind of ruining peoples’ lives. There’s no nicer way to put it,” one former EDMC career counselor told PDN.
EDMC see it differently, of course. “We offer a pathway to a higher education for many students who are not being served by traditional higher education,” a company spokesperson said.
Students, faculty, alums and employees of Art Institutes programs can post their comments and experiences, or their reaction to the Department of Justice law suit, here.