I just learned that the Art Institute of Seattle has closed. This is bad news — I knew people who went there and others who aspired to go there. It seemed like a good place, and the closure is doing deep harm to people.
The Art Institute of Seattle will close abruptly on Friday, leaving about 650 students in the lurch — without classes, professors, or possibly diplomas.
The Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), a state regulation agency, announced the end of the school’s 73-year tenure on Wednesday, just over two weeks before the winter quarter was supposed to end.
These are students who’d sunk tens of thousands of dollars into their education, who are probably still carrying daunting amounts of debt, and who’ve now been told they pissed away years of their youth and all of their investment and will get nothing for their trouble. How could this happen? How can the government stand aside and let this happen? This was an accredited institution which, one would think, was an assurance of quality.
One clue is in a few key words in this summary:
The Art Institutes, a group of art colleges nationwide, has struggled with financial troubles for years; the company that owned them went bankrupt in 2017 and Dream Center Foundation, a faith-based nonprofit, bought the schools. Court filings show that since the purchase, the schools have grappled with financial issues.
Oh, here’s another clue: A College Chain Crumbles, and Millions in Student Loan Cash Disappears. Somebody skimmed off a lot of cash in this deal, not just from the Art Institute, but a whole mess of struggling colleges that were snapped up by a religious entity.
The affected schools — Argosy University, South University and the Art Institutes — have about 26,000 students in programs spanning associate degrees in dental hygiene and doctoral programs in law and psychology. Fourteen campuses, mostly Art Institute locations, have a new owner after a hastily arranged transfer involving private equity executives. More than 40 others are under the control of a court-appointed receiver who has accused school officials of trying to keep the doors open by taking millions of dollars earmarked for students.
26,000 students? This is unconscionable. The first problem is that these colleges were bought out by Pentacostal evangelical Christians with no experience in running an educational institution.
Dream Center is connected to Angelus Temple, which was founded by Aimee Semple McPherson, a charismatic evangelist once portrayed by Faye Dunaway in a TV movie, “The Disappearance of Aimee.” It is affiliated with the Foursquare Church, an evangelical denomination with outposts in 146 countries.
Buying a chain of schools “aligns perfectly with our mission, which views education as a primary means of life transformation,” Randall Barton, the foundation’s managing director, said when Dream Center announced its plan.
But Dream Center had never run colleges. It hired a team including Brent Richardson, who worked on the conversion of Grand Canyon University to a nonprofit as its chairman, to lead the schools’ corporate parent, Dream Center Education Holdings. He stepped down in January.
Alarms were ringing from the moment the takeover was proposed. Dream Center’s effort to buy the failing ITT Technical Institutes schools had fallen apart after resistance from the Obama administration. When it asked to buy Education Management’s schools, consumer groups, members of Congress and some regional accreditors raised concerns.
The second problem is more secular: the gang of idiots currently running the country, who are engaged in a thrilling give-away of our assets to line their own pockets.
Led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Education Department has reversed an Obama-era crackdown on troubled vocational and career schools and allowed new and less experienced entrants into the field.
“The industry was on its heels, but they’ve been given new life by the department under DeVos,” said Eileen Connor, the director of litigation at Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending.
Ms. DeVos, who invested in companies with ties to for-profit colleges before taking office, has made it an agency priority to unfetter for-profit schools by eliminating restrictions on them. She also allowed several for-profit schools to evade even those loosened rules by converting to nonprofits.
That’s what Dream Center wanted to do when it asked to buy the remains of Education Management Corporation.
Schools are just plunder to these people. One has to wonder, though, how the church’s “mission” would have been implemented in these secular schools, if they hadn’t run them straight into the ground.