Colleges’ sudden closure leaves San Diego students in a lurch

The Art Institute in San Diego has suddenly closed amid a wave of for-profit college campus shutdowns.

SAN DIEGO — The sudden closure of a local art school is leaving students’ academic futures in doubt — a scene that’s playing out across the country as more than 20 for-profit college campuses shut down.

The Art Institute of California in San Diego is one of several in the state, including a Los Angeles branch, closed for good Friday amid legal and financial issues.

The art schools are part of a larger, for-profit higher education system that also includes South University and Argosy University. Between the three, 22 campuses across the country are shutting their doors Friday.

A handwritten note accompanied a sign with instructions for media inquiries at the recently closed Art Institute in San Diego.

The closures come after the US Department of Education cut federal funding for the college system late in February. Students complained that the college was failing to pay them credit balances and other debts, a letter from the department said.

The school system filed a motion for emergency closures on March 6.

The colleges had recently had a change in operators, and new owners Dream Center Education Holdings had been trying to convert some of the colleges to a nonprofit model.

“We have worked day and night … to find the best path forward for students,” Mark Dottore, a court-appointed receiver for DCEH, said in a statement released to FOX 5. We are extremely disappointed with this outcome but continue to provide services to students to help them transition to one of the dozens of higher education institutions offering assistance to them or, where they choose to do so, to apply for student loan discharge.”

The Art Institute has a closed school information page with resources.

The Department of Education also has a Q&A for students dealing with school closures. Students can contact Federal Student Aid online at StudentAid.gov/feedback or call 1-844-651-0077 Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. until 5 p.m. PST.

Congresswoman Susan Davis, D-San Diego, criticized the education department’s handling of the closures Friday, saying the federal government didn’t protect students. Davis, a senior member of the House Education and Labor Committee wrote:

“Thousands of students have had their lives turned upside down because the Department of Education failed in its responsibility to protect students and taxpayers. What is even more shocking is that there were steps the Department could have taken to mitigate the impact on students – such as alerting students of (the) schools’ predicament, blocking Dream Center’s attempt to acquire Argosy or its switch from a for-profit to a non-profit entity.

The Department also continued to allow deceptive marketing that recruited more students despite the shaky financial ground on which these schools stood. The Department’s responsibility is to protect students and taxpayers and it should now take action to make these students whole.”

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