Art Institute’s problems elsewhere raise concerns about Indy campus

Indiana higher education officials are on alert as the owner of The Art Institute of Indianapolis acts to close multiple campuses in North Carolina and faces questions about whether the system has misled students.

By the close of business on Friday, officials at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education had not been notified that the local school is in jeopardy.

Ross Miller, director of state authorization and reciprocity at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, said in a statement to IBJ that the agency is aware that parent Dream Center Education Holdings “may close Art Institute campuses in multiple states.”

He said the commission is “monitoring the situation at The Art Institute of Indianapolis closely, and continues to be in contact with ownership in order to protect students.”

Already, Dream Center has told North Carolina higher ed officials that it intends to shut down The Art Institutes in Durham and Charlotte as well as at South University in High Point, according to media reports from the state.

The move will affect 3,000 students in North Carolina, according to The News & Observer in Raleigh.

A spokeswoman for Dream Center—a not-for-profit that purchased The Art Institutes campuses from beleaguered for-profit educator Education Management Corp. in two stages in the past year—would not confirm the closures.

But The News & Observer obtained an email in which the director of licensure for the University of North Carolina system said that enrollment at The Art Institutes and high school “will cease for the upcoming term and the plan is to close all of the campuses by the end of this calendar year.”

Pittsburgh-based Dream Center was specifically created to acquire the schools by the Dream Center Foundation, a religious organization based in Los Angeles.

Anne Dean, the senior director of communications for Dream Center, responded to an email from IBJ, but did not say whether the organization plans to close the Indianapolis campus.

The location at 3500 DePauw Blvd. at the Pyramids had a fall 2017 enrollment of 500 students, according to IBJ research, and offers programs in design, film, fashion and culinary arts.

The cost of obtaining a bachelor’s degree at the school costs about $76,000, depending on the major, according to the institute’s website. Associate degrees and certifications cost significantly less.

The website for the Indianapolis campus continued through the weekend to urge students to apply—as did the sites for the North Carolina campuses. The social media sites for the campuses did not mention a possible closure.

Dream Center’s actions in North Carolina come as questions emerge about whether it misled students about the accreditation status of several campuses. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported June 19 that the Higher Learning Commission, a Chicago-based accreditation agency, had temporarily removed accreditation from four campuses, including two in the Chicago area. But the schools, the paper reported, never told their students.

The Indianapolis campus was not affected.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, is pressing the Higher Learning Commission about the accreditation issues. And, in a letter last week, he said he’s concerned that Dream Center has “not departed from the predatory practices” of the previous owner, Education Management Corp., which ran the schools as for-profit operations.

“I urge HLC to immediately investigate the allegations made in the Post-Gazettarticle and take appropriate action to protect current and future students,” Durbin wrote.

Education Management also operates Brown Mackie College, which was scheduled to close its Indianapolis campus in Circle Centre mall in June.

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