US Gov Sues The Art Institutes for $11 Billion Fraud

The Art Institutes, one of the nation’s largest for-profit school systems where people can receive an education in photography, has come under fire. Last month, the US Department of Justice filed a massive lawsuit against the company behind the schools, Education Management Corporation, accusing it of fraudulently collecting $11 billion in government aid by recruiting low-income students for the purpose of collecting student aid money. Whistleblowers claim that students graduate loaded with debt and without the means to pay off the loans, which are then paid for with taxpayer dollars.

David Walker at PDN writes,

At the Art Institute of Pittsburgh campus alone, there were reportedly about 600 photography students pursuing a bachelor of arts or associates degree as of last summer, says Kathleen A. Bittel, the whistleblower whose testimony before a US Senate committee last fall helped trigger the federal lawsuit against EDMC.

[…] “Where are 600 photography graduates going to go? You cannot absorb that many in one city. How are they going to make money?” she says.

Bittel says EDMC had plans last summer to increase its photography student enrollment by adding a 12-15 month diploma to the program. The new degree was intended to attract students who wanted a “quick fix” in the form of a degree they could earn faster than an associate’s degree with minimal effort, Bittel says. “If the bachelors students can’t find jobs, where are the students with [12-month diplomas] going to go?”

One former student they contacted commented that, “It’s like they’re pumping photographers out like little cookie cutters.”

The Art Institutes: Legitimate Photo Schools or Accessories to Fraud? (via DWF)

Image credit: The Art Institute of California – San Francisco by sebastianjt

  • 540386

    I am a graduate of The Art Institutes, and I can confirm the culture at these schools is to rake in the cash and care little about the quality of the education. The admissions directors are rabid about getting every student enrolled they possibly can. They practically harass you to apply if you’re only considering. They don’t even look at portfolios as part of the admission process. There is no prequalification to be an AI student. Some of my classmates were jokes… their talent was awful. Not hating on them, but they need a different career path, their creative eye and design skills just don’t cut it. Many of those same students work in restaurants now. I had several great instructors who made a big difference in my training, but overall my education was not worth the price tag. I felt like I got a tech school education for a private school tuition. As such, my degree is in a box in the attic, not on my office wall. Not exactly proud of it.

  • Kitty O’Reilly Martel

    My daughter attended the Art Institute in Chicago. She did not live on campus and her tuition was $60,000 for a bachelors degree in Web design. What a waste of money. She barely makes over minimum wage and will be paying student loans until she dies.

    All my nieces and nephews who never attended college make much more money than she has. Very, very stressful.