Declining enrollment is one reason why the owners of the Art Institute of Charlotte say they are closing the school. The Los Angeles-based, non-profit Dream Center Education Holdings announced the closure this week, along with Art Institutes in Durham and Charleston, SC. South University in High Point, which Dream Center also owns, will close as well. About 3,000 students will be affected.
Last year, just over 800 students were enrolled at the Art Institute of Charlotte. Dream Center officials are advising students currently enrolled to continue with their classes for now. In a press release, they said they are still looking into, “viability of our current offerings,” at the sites.
On Monday, posts were placed on the schools’ websites stating that no new applications are being accepted. Dream Center officials have not given many specifics for closing the schools. They say declining enrollments at some schools played a role in the closures but did not name the schools. Some of the schools had their accreditation removed, but that was not an issue at the Durham and Charlotte art institutes. Both had their accreditation renewed last month.
“I had not heard any rumors that the Art Institute could possibly close so I was shocked and disappointed,” said Monica Smith, known as ‘Chef Monica.’ She graduated from the Art Institute of Charlotte in 2012. She’s been a chef contestant on Cutthroat Kitchen and other national cooking shows. She was the keynote speaker at the school’s graduation in June and says she thought the school was thriving.
"It's heart-wrenching. It would be for me, especially if it was your dream to go to the Art Institute. I hope it is a situation where the students will be able to, for those almost finished, to continue,” Smith said.
Dream Center officials acquired 33 schools last year for $60 million from the for-profit, Pittsburgh-based Education Management Corporation, which owned art institutes and colleges across the country. According to Dream Center’s website, 19 are no longer taking applications. Prospective Art Institute students are being advised to apply to other schools. The closest one to Charlotte is in Atlanta. Students are also steered to Art Institute online classes but Smith says there’s no substitute for hands-on instruction.
“It’s insensitive for whoever is making decisions that they're to think that online classes would be any level of compensation for students being in class, being able to create and put their hands on and working with other students in creating the next outfit, bag, shoes, style, dish, you name it, everything that the Art Institute offers. There is no compensation for that,” Smith said.
But Dream Center officials say there is a shift in demand for online classes, which played in their closure decisions.