Art Institute of Pittsburgh closes abruptly


David Heilman

Art Institute of Pittsburgh closed mid-semester with little warning.

Rebekah Waldron, North Campus Editor

Art Institute students around the country are facing recent news that their schools will close by year’s end. Altogether, 18 schools are no longer accepting new students, including campuses in Chicago, Nashville, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Pittsburgh.

The parent nonprofit Dream Center Education Holdings, based in Los Angeles, cited declining enrollment as the reason for its decision. Dream Center purchased 31 Art Institute schools in early 2017 from Education Management Corporation, a for-profit school operator in Pittsburgh, with the intention of converting all of the schools into nonprofits.

“After a complete and thorough examination of the three education systems in the [Dream Center] network to ensure they are meeting the needs of today’s learners, we did not see demand growth for courses at these campuses,” Anne Dean, a spokeswoman for Dream Center, explains. “This decision was made for a number of reasons, including a shift in the demand for online programs in higher education and in student populations at the campuses, which have resulted in declining, unsustainable enrollment levels for campus-based programs in these markets.”

Simon Fite, a 24-year-old head pastry chef, left the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2013 after two years in the culinary management program. “The cooking classes were hands-on and helpful, but like any college student, the general education credits seemed really irrelevant to my degree. As a culinary student, I interacted primarily with other culinary students. Not so much outside the program. It felt sort of cliquey.”

Fondly remembering his positive times at the learning center, “It was cost-efficient and affordable. It was just too hard to balance going to school there while having a full-time job. I had some really great instructors, especially Chef Panzera. He was tough on the outside, but a goofball once you got to know him!”

Alumni don’t expect that the closing will affect their careers in any way. “The degrees that came out of there still count and I’m still able to put [my time there] on a resume, which makes a huge difference. At least in culinary, potential employers cared more that you had gotten knowledge from a degree, and less so where it came from,” explains Fite.

For current students, however, the news will disrupt their current academic processes. CCAC has announced that they are working to accommodate students from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh to help them complete their educational and career goals.

Informational meetings have been held on the Allegheny campus in Jones Hall. Attendees of the sessions had an opportunity to meet professors, and speak with admissions staff and academic advisors. “I think it’s super helpful to the AI’s current students,” Fite remarks. “I think it’s a wonderful idea, as long as the credits transfer. The sessions even included free meals for the attendees, courtesy of CCAC’s culinary arts department.

A strong staple in Pittsburgh’s higher education established in 1921, the Art Institute closed Friday, March 8, after a deal to sell the school fell through. That left around 230 students who attended classes at the school and another 1,924 who were enrolled in online courses with an uncertain future.

Dream Center Education Holdings had previously notified the state Department of Education it would close the Art Institute by March 31.