Former Art Institute Students Are Now Planning Their Next Steps

Mar 15, 2019

A week after the Art Institute of Pittsburgh abruptly closed, students are left with few local options.

As of January, 230 students attended the Strip District location while nearly 2,000 took courses online, according to the for-profit college.

There are several out-of-state partner institutions that have formal agreements with the Art Institute where students could finish their degrees. But options closer to Pittsburgh could be more challenging. Not all credits from the for-profit school will transfer to other private or public institutions.  

At a college fair Thursday organized for Art Institute students, Marsh Caro, 19, said he is optimistic that he will transfer to a nearby school.

“I definitely don’t feel like I was dumped on the street left with nothing to do,” he said. “Although, I know a few people feel that way. I know there are some people in there who are trying their best to help us find options.”

Caro was taking courses toward a media arts and animation degree, although he is now more interested in schools offering studio arts. He was receiving benefits from Veterans Affairs to pay for tuition and housing, since his late father served in the military. Now that his school has closed, he has the option to extend his benefits, but he will need to start school soon so they don’t lapse.

Mitchell Bauer, on the other hand, will start over.

The 25-year-old spent three years building a game arts portfolio. Now, he’s going to file for student loan forgiveness that’s available to students when a school closes, and he will attend a trade school for a 3D modeling program.

“With game art, you really only need a portfolio. People get hired all of the time with just a really good portfolio. It’s a hard field to get into. So having a degree really doesn’t guarantee you anything,” he said.  

He’s also looking for a job because he hasn’t received his financial aid refund.

“I’m already behind on rent and I’m scrambling to find money.”

The federal receiver appointed to handle the Art Institute’s finances wrote in court filings last month that the system of schools had misused nearly $13 million of student loan money.

Nine schools met with students Thursday at the Pittsburgh Technical College in Oakdale. Many said Art Institute students would have to apply to the school as any transfer student would. Some schools, though, are offering transfer scholarships, application reviews and tuition matches to help remove barriers for students who are trying to finish a degree.

The Community College of Allegheny County also offered informational sessions to students on Thursday, to meet with faculty and discuss the transfer process. Provost Stuart Blacklaw said the Art Institute’s accreditation status will be helpful for students.

“The expectation is that credits earned at Art Institute, when they match what we offer, we would be able to award credits," he said. "In some cases there will be course work in areas of study that don’t perfectly match. But, that might transfer anyway as a general elective credit. But basically those could be able to count toward the 60 credit hour requirement for an associate’s degree."