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Art Institute Shutters; Students And Teachers Shocked

Outside the Art Institute of California-San Diego in Mission Valley, March 8, 2019.
Matt Hoffman
Outside the Art Institute of California-San Diego in Mission Valley, March 8, 2019.

The Art Institute of California – San Diego has officially closed. Students said the school still had two weeks left in it's most recent quarter when they got news of the closure.

"The Art Institute of California – San Diego has closed," said Mark Dottore , the court-appointed receiver for Dream Center Education Holdings. "We have worked day and night since the institution entered into receivership under Dream Center Education Holdings to find the best path forward for students."

Many students said the same thing — news about the closure suddenly came this week.


"It’s pretty frustrating," said Franklin Benham. Benham is a fashion marketing and management student. "It’s like nobody has an answer and they expect you to have an answer."

Culinary arts student Angela Armstrong had a similar experience.

"Honestly I heard about this two days ago," Armstrong said. "It was a big for everyone no one knew it was coming."

Armstrong was in her final quarter of school.

"I was a pending graduate so after this quarter pretty much I would be done with school but unfortunately do to funds and such... but since I am a pending graduate I get to receive my degree," she said.


Others were not so lucky.

"I had 173 credits and I needed 180 to graduate," said Ben Orloff-Falk, an audio production and engineering student. He said he recently transferred from an arts institute in Colorado and was told he would be able to finish his degree.

"I’m more pissed off that the people lied to me blatantly to get me to come here to this school," Orloff-Falk said. "Because I know for a fact I called the administration here while I was trying to figure out my next steps in Colorado and they guaranteed me they would be open."

The closure is affecting staff just as much as students.

"This is a great facility — a great building and I just now I’m getting emotional," said Chef Instructor Kenneth Hargreaves. Hargreaves has worked at the school for 10 years and will miss one thing. "The students," he said. "As an educator, it’s definitely not about the money."

News of the closure hit him hard.

"How do I feel about the closure? You might not like what I’m going to say but I’ll keep it professional — it sucks," he said.

Hargreaves said students will suffer the most from this.

"You’ve got all these people suffering that have nothing to do with it," he said. "All they wanted was a quality college education."

Hargreaves had one message for students.

"Culinary students and AI (Art Institute) students if you’re watching this just move forward," he said. "Understand that it’s bad what just happened — but know that a lot of your instructors out here really do genuinely care about your education, genuinely do care about what you’re going to do in the future... Turn a negative into a positive. You’re responsible for what you’re going to do in the future. Don’t let this stop you from what you want to do. If you’ve got a goal that you want to do, keep moving forward."

The school said it plans to try and help students transition to other schools. Friday students said it hosted a workshop with local colleges who might be able to accept transfer students.

"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,” Dottore said.

VIDEO: Art Institute Shutters; Students And Teachers Shocked
Art Institute Shutters; Students And Teachers Shocked
A spokesman said Friday no buyer for the school was found and the school has officially closed. You can hear this story and other local news every morning by subscribing to San Diego Stories, KPBS’ daily news podcast. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.