A reflection on the demise of creative trade schools.
Recently joining the death march of vocational education – training for mechanics, electricians, IT support, etc. – are creative trade schools. In early July, the Art Institute of Phoenix (AIPx) announced it will no longer accept new students. The 20-year-old West Phoenix for-profit college could join 27 other Art Institutes around the country that shut down after their new operator – Pentecostal nonprofit Dream Center Education Holdings – acquired the troubled system in 2017 from Education Management Corp., which filed for bankruptcy shortly after. Frequent PHOENIX photographer Rob Ballard, who received his bachelor’s in photography from AIPx in 2012, says he was saddened to learn of the closures. “[It] was expensive [the degree is currently listed online as $89,593 total], but it offered hands-on learning with professionals in today’s market,” he says. Last summer, all 16 North American Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Schools closed down, including the Scottsdale location, citing new federal regulations that impact the future of for-profit career schools with high operating costs. Not coincidentally, the acquisition of the Art Institutes by a 501(c)(3) with no education management track record has been criticized as a ploy to skirt those regulations. Up to 13 campuses outside Arizona will remain open, along with online degree programs. Local chefs, designers and photographers will have to shell out a lot more to get a traditional four-year degree – or move to Paris or L.A. – lest they go the way of the dodo.