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

  • anonymous

    I have no idea where YOU are getting your information from – perhaps because of the secrecy surrounding the truth. As someone who worked in Ai for many years, recruiters most definitely receive bonus’ based on how many students they enroll in the school. As a matter of fact, if they constantly can not meet their percentage goal per quarter they are let go and replaced with someone else.

  • Butcher

    This happened to my son and many of his student friends. They have huge debts in loans . What they promised in getting jobs was false.

  • ft.laud

    I know someone who has just started classes at the Art Institute of ft. lauderdale for photography. She has absolutely no experience, no portfolio, and DOESNT EVEN OWN A CAMERA (besides the one on her phone) and somehow she was accepted…

  • beefcake

    Sounds like every major ever….college is over saturated in every aspect and our country doesn’t bother to manage it like other because there are Companies behind most institution….

  • Joseph Borrelli

    as former student when i first enrolled i was told it was 89.9 job placement, that was totally bs. i had extreme writing problems from learning disabilities that some what effect my career that they over looked. as i got to career placement i asked the same question to councilor and her response was that private. they cheated me and many other i had maximum state grant from ny state, even with that i rack up with out interest 30k for degree that completely worthless.

  • Charlie Knight

    The best photography school I know if is Springfield Technical Community College in Springfield, Massachusetts. The price is that of a community college and the excellent education and the equipment used is like you would find in a private college. I have been astounded at the quality of work produced by these students.
    I started my post high school education with Famous Artists Schools and although I did not gain employment right away from that education, I did gain the skills to do many free lance jobs and draw on that training today when i compose things for the graphic arts projects I do.
    I am not certain that all education needs to lead to a job. In many cases the education one receives is far more than is needed for a job. Some employers know that and do not want to hire people that have to many skills. So my advice is to “dumb down” your resume so they think they are getting someone they can train their way and you will not “cause waves”. Then get hired and learn and make the connections needed until you can branch out to something else.
    The fact that our government brings a law suite against someone does not mean the government is correct, it just means they have filed a law suite. Given the most recent administrations I fear brining a law suite seems to be another means of political control. So look at all sides of the story before we condemn Ai.
    But if they have done wrong, lets hope this means they correct the wrong.
    My own feeling is that a good deal of the blame falls on the shoulders of the federal government that makes loans and seems to do nothing to see that these educated people are used in some way in government positions.
    They need the talent. They trained the talent. But now they don’t want to use them. Seems strange to me.
    Who is able to sue the federal government? Yup, same answer I got. No one.

  • Charlie Knight

    By the way, talking about Ryan Troop’s comment.
    The same thing is true of the emergency cell phone program started under the Bush administration and has been blown out of all proportion under the Obama Administration. These people are outside the welfare offices almost accosting people to badger them into signing up for these “free phones”. I overheard them talking to each other. They get so many dollars per application. Does not matter if the people can use the phone, need the phone or will be denied the application, and hence maybe hurt their credit, all that matters is that the application is made and the person assisting in this application gets the commission money.
    That is an awful scam that all of us pay for.
    Who is going to be suing the federal government for this waste on our behalf?
    Yup, same answer I got.
    no one.

  • yeomen1987

    For profit colleges are one of the most screwed up things in the US. Recruiters that are even worse then recruiters in the military. At least the military isn’t selling you debt but an actual job. All for-profit schools do is sell you high-debt low-quality education with the false promise of a good job. Nearly every for proft school needs shut down.

  • yeomen1987

    If someone has a B.A. in English from a good (state) school they are elligable for many government jobs in the FBI and other government agencies that pay fairly well. They can also get jobs as editors etc… It’s not as much a crap degree as many would think. But that is beside the point. Your art degree’s are crap degree’s. Degree’s that fall into art’s and sciences have some merit, even if it’s only a little.

  • WKYA_Radio

    Um, DON’T LET HIM GO. it’s pretty clear,

  • Monica W

    “Spelt” is the correct UK spelling, which is used in the UK, Canada, Australia, and pretty much everywhere except the US.

  • In Debt

    Same can be said for any number of schools..Art Center, CCA, CalArts, etc. Not selective enough, pumping out “artists” into the world, not enough jobs. I am 150 Grand in debt for an Illustration degree and make around $12/hr and live in San Francisco to boot. Who is going to pay my $1500 + interest loan payments? I think the government should sue all Art Colleges. Especially the ones promising success for how much they ask you to pay. It’s disgusting.

  • LB

    So how does this help the thousands of us who regret ever having gone to AI? The students are still stuck with 60k in loans and can’t get jobs.

  • ArtsEducated

    I’ve read your other comments and I’m compelled to put in my 2 cents. You keep mentioning CalArts, but do you know why they’re considered a good school? Do you know why students come from all over the country to go there? If not, please look further. Another commenter said that “AI is the McDonald’s of art schools.” I’m sorry to say it, but they are. AI does not prepare students, or even teach them the necessary skills needed to succeed in the industry. Let me tell you, AI is the laughing stock of all creative fields (especially in Film and Animation). It’s very rare that a graduate from AI is highly regarded in the industry. A select few may get jobs yes, but those jobs won’t be the rock star jobs that AI sells to their students. They just don’t have the skills as a professional. Entertainment is tough and there are plenty of talented, hard-working individuals out there who are applying to the same jobs as AI grads. The school sells you dreams of becoming an artist (of some sort), but falls short of actually training you for professional work.

    PCC (Pasadena City College) is an excellent school for an introduction to arts. Ask yourself, what is it that you want to do? Do you actually like art? Do you draw or paint all the time? Keep this in mind. For everything that you THINK you might like to do, or sort of do- someone else eats, breathes, and lives it. They are also your competition. Ask yourself if you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make it into ______________ (fill in the blank with desired industry). If not, then AI or the arts is not for you. If you just want a college education, better to go to a regular school.

    There are much better schools for creative fields than AI. A lot of them specialize in their respective fields- the school is known for that. All of those respected schools also have only ONE campus in ONE location. AI has hundreds. Education should not be like shopping at Walmart. Some of these schools are prestigious for a reason. If you’re really serious about your arts education, check out Art Center College of Design, Rhode Island School of Design, Parson, Fashion Institute of Technology, or your favorite- CalArts- to name a few. You get what you pay for. Bargain priced education = bargain priced jobs.

  • wodaji

    I was all signed up and ready to go there until I spoke with their “financial adviser” on the costs of the program. The way they have it set up, you’ll be able to almost graduate and they will have all your loan and grant money. They actually said that a lot of people on the GI Bill are able to make it when they combine student loans, grants, and the bill all together.

  • ituri

    While they are still overpriced IMO, I believe the majority of the AI’s are now accredited. There are some AI’s that are not affiliated with the parent company somehow (not sure how that works), so they might not be accredited.

  • ituri

    I agree that college is what you make of it, and AI has (had…) some amazing instructors. You CAN get a great education with them. IF you invest yourself in it.

    However, they can’t continue this practice of abusive recruitment. Even the military had to limit how much in GI benefits would go to for-profit schools like AI because they were aggressively recruiting military for the guaranteed GI money they brought in.

  • ituri

    Dude… get an apartment with 2 or 3 friends. If housing is your only complaint, that’s a solvable problem…

  • Del Ammons

    I got my bachelor’s degree in media arts and animation at the art institute of Pittsburgh dec.2010. It’s about time that the Art Institutes were exposed! There was no job search help after graduation, not one animation/media arts company was even at my portfolio review! It’s 2013 and I’m still working survival jobs because there’s no animation industry here(pittsburgh). The recruiters tell you that there’s a 90% chance that after graduation you’ll get a job! I know people who are graphic designers, with a lot of GD companies, and still can’t get a real job.

  • Joshua

    He said “you” referring to the OP. Star didn’t say “they clearly don’t teach English skills to anyone at AI”. Then you would have reason to defend your alma mater.

    But even then, no reason to get personally offended. I’m at one of the best engineering schools in the US (I’m not engineering though) and the engineers have some of the worst English and language skills! They obviously don’t emphasize it in their studies, and aside from that, our international students make up a good chunk of those engineering degrees. Their resumes are always impressive in terms of content, but sometimes need major overhauling because they’re so jumbled, riddled with typos and misspellings, and lack organization. They don’t push nearly as many writing classes as liberal arts or business management majors in the engineering program.

  • uberliberal

    Do not let your son go to AI under any circumstances. These for-profit schools are a rip off and a better education can be had at any community college. Here’s the deal: I am a former employee (PhD – great school, worked on faculty for over a decade while the school sought various regional accreditation privileges). After some schools received accreditation, they jettisoned all highly credentialed faculty/administrators who knew anything about real education in favor of lesser credentialed individuals who could not complain without losing the position. They are anti-union and anti-education. Faculty are threatened not to tell the truth to students if they want to continue teaching. The online school is a travesty and teaches at a level lower than 13th grade (not a joke at this school). At best you will pay $100,000 for a bachelor’s degree that provides a great high school education in the arts. Students who did well and obtained positions in their field of study would have done well elsewhere too. The breakdown goes like this: 25% would do well anywhere, 25% benefit from the faculty influence and specialized knowledge; they also move into the group that can do well; 25% will graduate but with substandard portfolios; they were underprepared for college and will barely complete the 13th grade rigor required to graduate; the remaining 25% are not employable anywhere; they have too many learning disabilities/family issues that cannot be addressed in a quarter-based curriculum; there are no deep support services and these individuals would probably fail everywhere, especially if they can’t make it here at the vocational high school. AIP is not a good school but it does have great faculty in the on-ground program. The online program is a farce. Take it from one who knows; this is a waste of your child’s time and money.

  • Alex

    Although, I do not condone EDMCs actions of collecting commission from recruiting, this is a great example of there being a lack in common sense these days. If you go to any for-profit school you should expect that to them you are just a paycheck, University of Phoenix recruiters are a good example of aggressive recruitment, even more so than AI in my experience. Speaking from experience as an AI graduate, during the recruitment process, they did ask me to bring in samples of my work and write an entry essay, I was accepted, which I knew I would be because I knew they wanted my money, as any school does, when it came time to go over the cost, I had my dad with me, and both of us did the math together on exactly how much it would cost and how much to take out in loans, we mostly ignored the recruiter during this part of the process because again we knew she was just trying to sell to us, you always need to read the fine print. Furthermore, I’m sorry to any photographers out there, but my common sense tells me that photography is a dead-end degree, no matter where you go for it, and common sense also tells me that there is very little demand for photographers so no jobs. When I signed up for AI I knew I wanted to take fashion marketing because I wanted a business skill that could be applied almost anywhere (marketing) so I knew there would be many job options for me, but I knew I needed to go to an art school for marketing because I learned things better through creative mechanisms and before when I went to a state university I felt lost, it was too big and I barely even saw my professors, I wanted to go somewhere where I would receive more personal attention. AI was the perfect fit, the instructors all work in the field they teach, class size was always under 30, I was very close to my instructors and still contact them today for advice. I received an internship as soon as I graduated and am now working in my field at a great job. AI also does a great job connecting you with a career advisor who finds jobs for you based on your needs, makes sure your resume and cover letter are in top form, and provides you great resources for job hunting on your own. When I talk to my friends who went to state universities they didn’t receive any of that attention, they’ve graduated and are still working entry level jobs at restaurants and retail stores because they have no idea where to start looking for a job in their field. The point is, no EDMC shouldn’t be committing fraud to stuff their pockets, but that doesn’t make AI a bad school, you just need to be smart about finding the right college for you, your money, and your future otherwise you get duped. The world is not kind and will try to screw you over often, but if your smart and use your common sense you can avoid being a victim of fraud.

  • AnonFormerAIHStudent

    don’t let him. As someone who graduated with a bachelor in culinary management, I could have gotten the same thing at a state school and not be in debt up to my eyeballs. They promise the moon to get you in the door. Things like, oh, when you graduate, you will have the qualifications to be the exec chef and those positions make 75,000 a year to start. That is an absolute lie. No restaurant employing a hiring manager with a brain would hire in an individual who had just graduated to run their kitchen. You will be a cook upon graduating, lucky to make $12/hr. You won’t be the chef for at least 5 years. I switched focus about 2 years in to get the management degree because I realized what a scam it all was and wanted to be able to make enough to pay off my student loans in addition to live somewhere other than under a bridge.

  • Devin Hull

    That’s my school! Lol. I have a degree in Graphic design but its about the same. Almost all of my pay goes to loans and I have a decent job. Don’t comment thinking you know how it is based on articles. Go there and see how sh**ty it is.

    However I feel I got a great education. The job placement is what is BS.

  • john

    I went to the Art Institute of Seattle for video production and they do just pump out degrees. Anyone can go to the school, its ridiculous

  • Singrid

    This is only one of the horrific aspects of the Art Institutes. They have no criterion, fail students after 2 absences (causing them to pay for the course again), no security on campus, no writing center to tutor illiterate students, no system in place for testing and assisting students with learning disabilities, and have a disproportionate amount of veterans with P.T.S.D.

  • russellohh

    It was also the 11,000,000,000 in funds they received, but used to line their own pockets, not actually help out students.

  • russellohh

    Average salary at walmart is 22,000$, that doesn’t mean there aren’t district managers and accountants making $150,000. They could be a shill, but maybe not.

  • russellohh

    Don’t bother. I’ve worked in various animation teams for a few years now, and we definitely put Art Institute pretty low on the scale of places we trust. I’d just send your son to the nearest University and take a bunch of art classes. Do what he can on his own, and build a steady portfolio. Even 2 years at a major university will look better than the Art Institute of Whereever.

  • russellohh

    Framing guilty parties? You don’t need to frame them if they are already the guilty ones…

  • FormerStudent

    I went to Ai Dallas and was on my last quarter. I watched kids go through the final portfolio and pass with work that a high school journalism teacher would have axed and when it came my time with a portfolio I made myself with 30 quality photos I was trashed and all but called a failure and that I would have to return. After some research the sub-par students that passed were there on military funds or paying their own way with no loans. Myself and several other photographers, graphic designers, and fashion students looked into it and everyone we talked to that had gone there on loans and actually graduated took their final quarter at least twice. A few even thrice which is the max before they kick you out. I have seen many of these peoples portfolios that failed them and they were exceptional works. Also I was told that being on disability wouldn’t affect me getting loans and it didn’t but, when I talked to someone at the Student Aid office in Austin (govt. office) I was told I should have never been given those loans. Then two quarters before I was set to graduate I found out that Ai had never reported to the government that I had been enrolled there. They had it that I had taken over $40k in loans to go to a community college in Dallas. I am currently trying to contact the government because I have been able to start my own business but, I need an SBA loan for start up and I can’t get any information from the school on my loans. Another issues is their Financial “aid” office forged my signature on a promissory note and have started collection activities for $2k owed to the school when before I went into my final quarter I was clearly told by my financial adviser that my loans would cover everything and I didn’t need to worry. Simply put Ai and EDMC are scam artists on the highest level. They steal money from the government and lay the burden on the backs of people that may never be able to pay back the money owed. They already went after banks for fraudulent lending they should shut down these monsters for the same thing.

  • J

    I received a bachelor’s degree from the Art Institute. I am a war veteran. Before getting out of the military I scouted around for art schools while stationed over seas. The only school that interested me where Ai and SCAD. With the plan I was originally pitched my degree was going to run me about $65-$70k. By the time everything was said and done I owed over $100k. This was not realized until after I filed for my second year of student loans. While in school I used the Montgomery GI Bill to live off of and pay for school with student loaloaloans. I did this because we only get the GI Bill for 36 months. And by doing so I compressed my degree into a little over 3 years. I graduated into the worst economy since the great depression. No one was hiring. People with several years experience where getting entry level jobs. All the while the student loan companies coming for their money. I’ve managed, but it’s been a long hard road nonetheless.

  • FormerStudent

    Also on the same note, from what I was told months after signing the loan paperwork was that I was lied to about the accreditation status of my particular campus and from what I have heard from other colleges I have talked to (trying to transfer credits) They are still not a Texas accredited campus which means lies upon lies about being able to transfer school.

  • tobamese

    I’m pretty sure I know who you are. Always look for your name in the credit roll.

    You’re right about school being what you make of it.

  • Cliff Hess Jr

    One of the BIGGEST mistakes of my life was attending this school 30 years ago. At the time I was unemployed with a young wife and child and when I graduated There were no jobs. In the last thirty years I have earned less than $1500 using this “degree” in Visual Communications and I still have a mountain of debt to pay back.

  • J

    FYI I’m back in the military and not doing too bad. I agree with the comment below it’s what you make of it. I’ve found my path and believe it or not I will put my degree to use in the military. I retire in 10 years at age 44. I will make in retirement roughly what I make now and it’s a bit more than most of my peers.

  • Panda

    I went to the AI- Los Angeles. My main basis for choosing this school was having access to full equipment and labs after graduation at any AI. Needless to say it has been impossible to get equipment at any point after graduation.. They just give you the run around that they have to approve your projects and you can only have the equipment if a student currently enrolled does not use it. With a ton of student enrolled and low amount of equipment this is never going to happen. Unless your parents are rich do not go to this school, you can get the same education at a better state school for half the price. They do not help you get jobs after graduation and your minimum payments for your loads are around $800 a month. They will lie to you and promise you the moon to get you to enroll. With that much debt and no jobs you feel like your future is over.

  • SavageHenry

    What do you mean they “would” be serving you cheeseburgers? I’m pretty sure many of them are serving cheeseburgers.

    Congratulations to you though, and I do mean that. All that my hard work amounted to was $30k of debt, and I graduated with honors. I don’t have kids so I was able to work seven part time jobs at once. Then I decided to invest in myself a little further and go to a real school to get a real degree.

    I take responsibility for myself, and I failed. I blame AI, but I blame myself more for being fooled into purchasing at a high cost a worthless degree. My decision to go to AI was made in part by listening to people say school is what you make of it. The truth is that school is an investment and some investments should be avoided.

  • Ryu Hazuki

    And it was my biggest mistake only five years ago. I see they’ve been a horrible choice for awhile.

  • MM

    I have a Bachelors degree from AI in graphic design. I got a full time job through their job center within 2 weeks of graduating. At the time I was going, there was a 100% job placement for graphic design graduates. Choose a degree with more placement opportunities.

  • Justin Belcher

    If there’s any way that i can be a part of expressing my hatred for this school I’d love to be contacted (even better if i get money for it!)

    I attended the Art Institute of Los Angeles in Santa Monica from 2004-2010, I majored in Animation, The school eagerly excepted me (im from a middle class family in Ohio) They told me how i’d have a great job in animation and they’d help me get there. Right from the classroom into the work place. I told them I enjoyed 2D animation and loved concept design, and they said i’d fit right in.

    Well, as quarters passed, and years, I came to find out that there’s really no 2D animation taught at this school, That it’s actually churning you out for 3D in which, yes is the way of the future, it was just an art form i wasn’t interested in, nor interested in landing a career in it. So I switched from the Bachelors in Animation program into the Interactive Media and Design program.

    I loved this course much more than Animation, and it felt it would make me much more rounded and valuable in the world. It was a smaller program, and you had more one on one with teachers which i also liked. However, what they failed to tell me upon switching majors (which i might add they only let you do once or they kick you out of school) is that the program was in the process of changing to “Web Design and Interactive Media”, where suddenly everything became INCREDIBLY code heavy… and I honestly couldn’t keep up. And i ended up leaving the school in 2010. (which i don’t necessarily fault them for), however….


    1) False promises, completely and utterly false. They completely churn out Animation, Game Art, and Film students who go no where with there degrees, only one of my friends who graduated from the school actually work in the field…. the rest (with degrees) are still struggling to get by. One of my friends constantly get’s hired in the game industry, but he’s forced to work jobs non-degree student’s are working, and every time a game is finished… his department is shut down and they’re all let go.

    2) Absurdity. While i was signed for 2 Bachelor degree programs (and didn’t complete either) I had WELL over the amount of credits and completed courses to get an Associate Degree in both fields. However… since i was not int the Associate program, they would not allow me to get my degrees

    3) CREDITS DO NOT TRANSFER. Ai has this exclusive policy where if you transfer to another school (or from another school) majority of your credits DO NOT. There were plenty of students i went to school with where only there liberal studies and gen ed truly meant anything.

    4) They rope you in and feed of your naivety. I was a small city boy, now in this massively big city, and every time a payment was late or a loan “conveniently” had a change of rules, On the first day of class you were not allowed to get your school schedule until the school received it’s money. The Loan officers rope you in, and instantly send you back to fill out loans. Once approved, you can go to class. How they rope you in? well… they know most students probably fully don’t grasp the system, and on top of that being on a quarter system composed of 12 weeks of 4 hour classes (each) you only have 2 days to miss…. or you fail the class automatically. And… every day you miss a class you drop a letter grade. That’s right… missing one day of class, you automatically receive a B (that’s assuming you’d normally get an A in the class anyway. And on top of all of that, if you miss 3 weeks of school, you’re withdrawn from the school completely… let me put this into perspective…. the last day of class is usually a free be, you get your exam scores back and go home.. Well… about a year before i finally left the school, i was taking just one class for that year. I had missed a day of class, prior that quarter, and during finals week (week 11) I was unable to complete my project in time and did not attend that class because I already knew that if the project wasn’t completely, the likely-hood of passing that exam was completely non-existent due to the teachers words spoken through-out that quarter. So i had missed 2 days, and missed the final week (12) because who would torture themselves by going to class to only get the review that you failed? Well… because i only was taking one class that quarter, and didn’t show up for class, i was withdrawn from the school. And I had to re-register.. and guess what? ALL MY LOANS WENT UP. They weren’t able to get me on the same plan that i was already assigned to!

    5) School Housing, it’s a complete joke. They put some people in a incredibly nice apartment complex that looks like a resort hotel, while others are placed (and pay the same amount) for something that could easily be described as a slum. You’re placed in apartments with actual residents, not all students. some of which apartments were not exactly on the best side of town. Due to the fact we’re living in buildings not regulated by the school we are subjected to normal residents… some violent. I know in my stay, that in a neighboring apartment that students stayed in, There was an actual (non student) shooting. Also… one of our roommates brought in bed bugs, and it took a month (with me finally threatening health code violations) for them to finally do something about it. Me and the roomate i shared a room with, bought air mattresses (they took the beds and furniture out of the apartment and it took a week to replace them) and lots of insecticide, through out personal belongings, clothes, sheets, and the school only comped us $50 a piece, which barely covered the air-mattresses which were needed since we had no where to sleep.

    6) Teachers,I had some really great teachers and classes though, but there were some INCREDIBLY horrible ones too…One Was Paul Micheal Smith (i believe his name was) who taught 3D studio Max, he was a tough teacher, which is fine, but it was incredibly clear he hated his job, he was a jackass at times to his students, and clearly did not want to be there. Well apparently he acted in such a way because he disliked the school and was TRYING to get fired in order to collect unemployment, that and he had to be let go to get out of his contract. So he did what he could in order to get fired. Which he eventually was granted.

    Another Animation teacher of mine, who was teaching us the program Maya, would try to tell us he worked on very big movies, and was willing to leak information to us, which he conveniently never showed. Well it turns out that he actually didn’t work in the industry, and had been stealing students work to pass off as his own in his portfolio. He was physically removed from the school kicking and screaming.

    7) downsizing programs and up-sizing costs. There was a really great program at the school when i first started called “inside track” they were basically guidance counselors who really helped you stay on track with you life and school, which was unfortunately cut from the school. The Student parking was a night-mare as well.. because of the business park the school was in, you had to buy a parking pass for $90 a quarter (nearly $400 a year), to be able to park your car. So most students parked blocks away in residential neighborhoods to be able to even attend the school.

    So there you have my nightmare. I’m back home in Ohio working a job i love for a small event decor company doing graphic design making $11 an hour with no benefits, and over $80,000 in student loan debt, with no degrees to show for it. And i’m just another number to the school. In fact… again, only 1 friend i went to school with who received there degree… even works in the field they were schooled for. And to top it all off, most my credits wont transfer to nearby schools, so if i ever wanted my degree’s in a prompt manor… I’d have to re-attend an Art Institute!!!! and go through hell once more.

  • Josh K.

    Even those who excel in their fields are left heavily indebted. I spent four semesters in their audio production program many years ago. My funding was unexplainably cut off. I had a high GPA and no substantial credit blemishes. My experience from AI is that the school largely exists to farm debt and shill for Sallie Mae.

  • GL

    Yeah, and let’s put out more 3D animators than there are blades of grass while we’re at it.

  • that guy

    I agree.. Avoid AI. if you’re in LA/OC area I would recommend Gnomon, Art Center, or Cal Arts.. If your child is interested in visual effects and/ or animation. It’s important to note that Gnomon doesn’t offer degrees but certificates. That being said, if you want to actually learn from some of the industries best, it’s definitely worth looking into. It is a highly respected school and the instructors are some of the industries leading artist. Not to mention up to date facilities, constant workshops from other leading professionals and great networking with all major studios. But either one of these 3 schools will teach you what you need to learn and are respected in the industry

  • anon

    That explains why they were so high-pressure in my last semester to taylor my resume to get a job. I told them I wanted to freelance and the advisor was not happy. She told me it was a requirement to graduate. She pressured me repeatedly to create a resume. Edit after edit…

  • Math

    I also graduated from AiPh, in animation. However, I did get a job after graduating. There are companies always looking for illustrators, 3D animators/modelers, flash animation… ect. If you want a job in the industry, teach yourself in your spare time and apply, or ask to come in a few days a month for experience. Companies have lots of monkey work they need people to do.

    That being said. The AiPH financial aid office basically CONS ignorant students, who have fanciful dreams of a career, into HIGH interest PRIVATE loans, most from Sallie Mae… I know, because I was one of them.

    They get cash kick-backs for doing so. They should be required to give you an amortization table for your loans… and make sure you FULLY understand the debt you’re taking on.

    I’m currently paying $600 in interest ALONE ($875 total, for 15 years)… and Sallie Mae WONT renegotiate my interest. The loan ballooned back when I was only making 30k. It sucks, and theres no help. I now just try to keep others from making the same mistake…

    It wasn’t worth it, and now I’m stuck with it for life, like an incurable disease, hoping to hit the lottery.

  • russellohh

    They’re misleading students. When you pay tens of thousands of dollars to enter an “Art institute” you assume it is an actual school, and you will be taught actual skills. When you graduate $50,000 poorer and several years later, you believe you have all the leading 3D and animation skills. Then you get laughed out of interviews, where everyone sees your skills as a decade old, and sub-par at best. They WILLINGLY attend, yes, but they attend what they were erroneously led to believe is a school. From what these people are saying, Ai is not a school. I had applied to a similar institute once, looked into it, and backed away. Not everyone is that lucky.

  • russellohh

    I got into gaming for the passion and hard work. $41 an hour later, I’ve never regretted it.

  • Devin Hull

    Or pick a career that you love. Not one becaus it’s easy to get into. What kind of life is that?

  • VicVader

    It’s not just AI, it’s art schools in general. The problem is everyone wants to be a Graphic Artist, Animator, Illustrator, Video Game Designer, etc., and the problem is, there’s just not a lot of jobs out there. Granted, I am surprised at the level of some of my fellow students. I’m no Picasso, but some of these other students should NOT be in art school, yet, I see them passing all their classes with no trouble. As long as they turn in the work and show effort, they pass.

    It’s quality control that’s desperately needed at Art Colleges. They accepted me without even asking for a portfolio (granted I have 10 years corporate experience as a graphic designer), I was shocked that they didn’t ask to see a few pieces of work. So they do take anyone willing to pay…