TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Art Institutes of Tampa, which has helped artists and creators pursue their dreams for the past two decades is permanently closing its doors as of Saturday.
On Sept. 22, The U.S. Department of Education said the Art Institutes informed the federal government that, on the same day, it would end its online instruction and cease instruction at eight locations in four states.
The Department said the closure impacts 1,700 students enrolled at the private, for-profit college.
Students and instructors are in shock with this abrupt closure and are left scrambling.
“I love this place,” said Ryan Barker, a former student. “I think that I succeed in my career because I came to the school.”
Barker returned on Friday to pick up gear that would have otherwise been thrown out. He had hopes of returning and becoming an instructor.
“I had a meeting three weeks ago with a Director here to teach here,” said Barker.
Mark Sullivan has been teaching digital video and film at The Art Institute of Tampa for the past seven years.
“I got a message last Friday basically that said The Art Institute was closing on September 30,” said Sullivan.
According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the former owner of The Art Institutes, Education Management Corp., filed for bankruptcy in 2018. This was three years after it settled a case for nearly $100 million with the federal government involving claims of illegal recruiting and consumer fraud.
The Art Institutes website lists all its’ eight locations closing:
- Miami International University of Art & Design
- The Art Institute of Atlanta
- The Art Institute of Austin, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
- The Art Institute of Dallas, a branch of Miami International University of Art & Design
- The Art Institute of Houston
- The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
- The Art Institute of Tampa, a branch of Miami International University of Art & Design
- The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta
“They’re confused, they’re concerned, they would like to know what’s next and we’re telling them we don’t have that answer,” said Sullivan, talking about his students.
Sullivan said enrollment has been down since the pandemic. He believes the closure will directly impact 40 to 50 students at this location.
“They’re in shock, they don’t know what to do right now,” said Barker.
The school’s website said it’s working to help with student transfers to make sure credits previously earned will go toward a program at another school.
“We’re losing something that was extremely unique to Tampa,” said Barker.
A spokesperson with The U.S. Department of Education shared this statement with 8 On Your Side: “We are committed to supporting students as they explore options to continue their education or apply for a closed school loan discharge. We have posted information for students at StudentAid.gov/closures.”