The Art Institute of Pittsburgh abruptly closed its doors on Friday, leaving faculty and staff unemployed, and students with uncertain futures.
According to the for-profit college, as of January, 230 students attend the Strip District location while nearly 2,000 take courses online.
“I was just kinda … shell-shocked,” said 25-year-old Vanessa Rumrey, an online student in Gulf Shores, Ala. Rumrey said she was going to complete her a Bachelor of Science in game art and design at the school this year.
Students received an email from Cleveland-based receiver Mark Dottore on Friday afternoon announcing the school’s closing.
“I am writing to share the difficult news that operations at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh have discontinued and the campus has closed,” said Dottore. “We have been working day and night to secure a path forward for campuses in receivership and most importantly, for their students. With my apology, the acquisition of your campus fell through.”
Dottore took control of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and several other for-profit colleges from Los Angeles-based Dream Center Education Holdings in January, after the schools entered federal receivership. Dottore did not respond to WESA’s requests for comment.
This closure of the Pittsburgh art school is a sudden reversal from an email that Provost Jen Cooper sent faculty on Thursday, which WTAE reporter Beau Berman tweeted a screenshot of on Friday. It stated that there would be “no school closure” because the Art Institute was, “diligently working with an interested buyer to complete change of ownership.” Cooper had instructed faculty to, “Please continue to attend classes as scheduled.”
Though the art institute shuttering was abrupt, the school’s future had seemed terminal for months.
In January, before Dottore took over, Dream Center Education Holdings announced plans to close the school by March 31. It then laid off its entire admissions and career services staff, along with portions of its human relations and information technology departments.
Students who were paying tuition with federal loans may be eligible for 100 percent student loan forgiveness, provided they don't transfer to a simliar program at another institution. Though that’s not an option for everyone.
Rumney estimates she’s spent $25,000 of money her mother had saved for her education on tuition at the Art Institute. She said she’s hoping to find another school that will accept her credits, so she can finish her degree.
“I wish [the] school had done a better job of being a bit more transparent,” she said. “They just pulled the rug right from under our feet.”
*This story was updated on Monday, March 11 at 12:50 pm.