Art In­sti­tutes’ owner faces suit

Stu­dents say non­profit de­frauded them af­ter schools lost ac­cred­i­ta­tion

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Business - By Daniel Moore Daniel Moore: [email protected], 412-263-2743 and Twit­ter @PG­daniel­moore.

Four Art In­sti­tute stu­dents in Chicago have filed a law­suit against Dream Cen­ter Ed­u­ca­tion Hold­ings, claim­ing the non­profit com­mit­ted fraud by fail­ing to no­tify stu­dents it had lost in­sti­tu­tional ac­cred­i­ta­tion at four Art In­sti­tute cam­puses in Jan­uary.

Dream Cen­ter — which agreed to pur­chase most of the Art In­sti­tute col­lege chain from Pitts­burgh-based Ed­u­ca­tion Man­age­ment Corp. in March 2017 — was no­ti­fied on Jan. 20 that ac­cred­i­ta­tion was tem­po­rar­ily re­moved from four Art In­sti­tute cam­puses while the sale was un­der re­view.

Those schools were The Art In­sti­tute of Illi­nois in Chicago and Schaum­berg, Ill.; the Art In­sti­tute of Michi­gan in Novi, Mich.; and Art In­sti­tute of Colorado in Den­ver.

A Chicago-based re­gional ac­cred­i­ta­tion agency, the Higher Learn­ing Com­mis­sion, in­structed Dream Cen­ter to pub­licly post the new ac­cred­i­ta­tion sta­tus and no­tify stu­dents of the re­moval.

The com­mis­sion also re­quired school man­age­ment to ac­com­mo­date stu­dents “in light of this ac­tion, which may in­clude, if nec­es­sary, as­sist­ing stu­dents with fi­nan­cial ac­com­mo­da­tions or trans­fer ar­range­ments, if re­quested.”

But Dream Cen­ter con­tin­ued to state in its course cat­a­log that the schools “re­main ac­cred­ited” and left many stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff at those schools in the dark. In July, Dream Cen­ter an­nounced those four schools would be among 18 Art In­sti­tute cam­puses to close by the end of the year.

Ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, filed on Thurs­day in Cir­cuit Court of Cook County, the stu­dents learned of the ac­cred­i­ta­tion loss in June when they started the sum­mer quar­ter.

Af­ter that, the suit con­tends, school man­age­ment con­tin­ued to make false and mis­lead­ing state­ments, in­clud­ing that the schools were likely to win back ac­cred­i­ta­tion.

At a meet­ing in Novem­ber, the Higher Learn­ing Com­mis­sion up­held its ear­lier de­ci­sion, de­clin­ing to re­in­state ac­cred­i­ta­tion for those who had al­ready grad­u­ated in 2018.

An of­fi­cial for Dream Cen­ter did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Ac­cred­i­ta­tion — higher ed­u­ca­tion’s way of en­forc­ing qual­ity control mea­sures — is cov­eted by schools as a stamp of ap­proval. Com­mit­tees at the six ma­jor ac­cred­i­ta­tion agen­cies oc­ca­sion­ally drop in on col­lege cam­puses to re­view fi­nances, aca­demics, poli­cies and other mea­sures to en­sure schools are meet­ing min­i­mum stan­dards.

Ac­cred­i­ta­tion is typ­i­cally a re­quire­ment to re­ceive fed­eral stu­dent loan money. Some em­ploy­ers ex­pect a job can­di­date to have an ac­cred­ited de­gree, while oth­ers — par­tic­u­larly those who have grad­u­ated from the af­fected Art In­sti­tutes in 2018 — are more le­nient.

The law­suit comes as the Mid­dle States Com­mis­sion on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion, a Philadel­phia-based re­gional ac­cred­i­ta­tion agency, con­sid­ers whether to re­move ac­cred­i­ta­tion from the Art In­sti­tute of Pitts­burgh. Last month, Mid­dle States gave the Strip Dis­trict cam­pus un­til March 2019 to com­ply with its rules.

Daniel Moore/Post-Gazette

The Art In­sti­tute of Michi­gan in Novi, Mich., an­nounced in July it would shut­ter by the end of the year. The school, which opened in 2008, has taught hun­dreds of stu­dents from sub­ur­ban Detroit in the fields of cre­ative stud­ies, in­clud­ing an­i­ma­tion, culi­nary arts, fash­ion de­sign and pho­tog­ra­phy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.