To get started, let’s share our stories of going into debt to attend a for-profit school. Your fellow debtors want to hear from you. You can even share an image that tells your story better than words, if you prefer.
I attended the Art Institute of California - San Diego from 2003-2006.
I had just graduated from the University of Arizona with a Media Arts degree. I wanted to pursue film, but the equipment that they had for me to learn on at the University was very outdated. I was preparing to buy my own digital equipment to learn on when I saw the advertisements for AISD.
I went to the open house, where they paraded all of their amazing equipment in front of me, including the new Canon XL1s cameras. The recruiter made it sound like Ai was the only responsible alternative for someone like me. He said that buying my own camera was a bad idea, when I could use that money to go to the school and learn from their program and use their incredible equipment. Even after I graduated I could always check out their equipment, too! He made it sound like it was a good deal, but I was still skeptical and I knew that it was a big financial commitment. That is when he showed me the job stats.
The stats at the time that I remember seeing were 94.7 percent placement rate in the related field. It sounded too good to be true. I went home and checked the internet and found that on their site they listed similar job placement rates for all of their schools across the US. I decided to go back to talk with the recruiter, along with my father.
I had already had a pretty good higher ed experience from my time at the UofA, so I was trusting in the value of college and did not think in a million years that they would be able to lie to their students on such a wide scale. I believed the stats I was shown because I had no reason not to. What school outright lies to their students? Even if they did, they couldn’t get away with it, could they?
During the second visit, the recruiter asked to speak with me alone. He used what I now know to be what is called boiler room tactics when I was not quick to sign. He used my father’s presence to pressure me- “What will he think if you decide not to pursue this after everything I’ve shown you? You don’t want him to think that you’re not serious, do you?” Again, he stressed the job placement stats, saying “You’re a good student, aren’t you? There is no way that you would fall into the small percentage of students that don’t make it, right?”
Finally, I said that I would only enroll if they were able to take more of my transfer credits from the University, because there was no way that I was going to pay $1000 for ENG 101 again. He said that he would have to talk to his supervisor and left for a little while. I remember sitting in his office, thinking how legit it all felt, how welcoming they were, how maybe I was being too cautious and I did need to take a chance for my future. If I applied myself, it would all work out for the best.
He came back after 20 minutes and informed me that they would be able to take more of my transfer credits, but I would have to sign today if I wanted to get in for the next quarter start. Apparently, they were maxxed out on the students they could take (one of the many bald faced lies). Finally, I signed the enrollment papers. I was happy. This was for my future. It was an investment.
I could write a novel about my terrible experiences over the next 3 years at the school, so I’ll try to summarize best I can. The film program, I soon found out, was actually almost non-existant. The equipment was almost non-usable by students-- it was on lock down for just the professors to use and their students. Unfortunately, there was only one film teacher at the school and 3x the amount of students trying to get into the small film classes. My second year in I was finally able to make it into a film 101 class, which was terrible. I knew something was amiss so I decided to exit the program and leave this school behind.
When trying to exit, they did everything that they could to keep me in. They used the loans that I had taken out so far as a threat. “Do you really want to have all that debt and no degree to show for it?” and “If you leave now, we get to keep the $5,000 that we hold until you graduate and you can’t get that back.” They spent over an hour, the dean even came in to convince me to find another avenue into film and just get the degree-- because the degree and the job placement meant something.
I started learning sculpting in hopes of going into prosthetic makeup effects in film. I was pretty good at it, but I was self-teaching in my own time while taking so many classes in subjects that I had absolutely no interest in. I managed to have a decent portfolio by the time that I finished, or thought I did…
While there I witnessed the school admitting people that had absolutely no business being there. Mentally handicapped, severely physically handicapped, the homeless-- none of them should have ever been allowed to get into this much debt when there were far better options out there that did not include the debt. It was one of my first clues that the school was a shady operator. I never thought that they were outright criminals, though.
I blamed my lack of success after graduating on the economy, the highly competitive industry, at my lack of skills… I blamed myself. Like so many from there, I was living in shame. I kept working and kept thinking that it would get better and this was just “how it was” and “the debt was normal.” It was not until the Corinthian closures in 2014 that I became aware of the depths of the criminal, predatory behavior and how they preyed on their students for decades-- and how the gov and accreditor lack of oversight allowed it to happen.
I attended the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg from 2007-2010. I was lured in by falsified career stats that boasted high employment for graduates and Inwas told that grants and aid would help me afford college. Inwas also told my education would be state of the art and hands on. When my mom and I sat down in the recruiters office, we were in a boiler room environment where we were pressured to enroll before the next start date. Did I “want to stay in a dead end job forever?” Didn’t my mother “want a better future for [her] daughter?”
We told the financial aid people we could not afford the school and that we wanted to think about it. But they convinced my mom to just run the numbers to see what loans we qualified for. We were reassured that this was a worthy investment and that once I graduated my degree would pay for itself. How could I not be successful if I worked hard? Over 92% of graduates at the campus were employed in their field, according to the placement statistics we were shown.
So I enrolled. And I learned it was all a lie. Classes were not hands on. Equipment was outdated. We watched YouTube videos during class. Teachers would frequently just not even show up. It was a disaster. My education was abysmally subpar. I graduated with honors and learned my degree was a joke. I have battled depression over my financial situation. I have strained relationships with my parents in part because of the debt. Theres a lot I could go into about my time at the end school and my life after but this is the basics of my situation
I attended the Art Institute of California Los Angeles. Currently the school is shut down.
I first heard of AI when I was looking for a film program to enroll in. I clicked a “send me more information” when I saw an ad for AI and I remember it being a trade school. The very next day I was called by a representative from AICALA named Tom Krauss. I asked him many questions about the program, including pricing, payment, quality and if it aligned with my career goals. He was very reassuring that the cost was affordable, it would be handled by Federal loans only and grants and that their program is by far superior than state schools because their professors are industry professionals and get their students jobs majority of the time. The program would be flexible with my time(I work full time as well) and I could always use the labs at any hour to complete my projects. Mr. Krauss even showed me the statistics of their graduates being placed in the field ( 90%!! Success rate). They would have career counselors to guide me every step and head hunt the best jobs. The biggest selling point was their “alumni benefits”. Mr. Krauss explained that AI alumni can go to any AI in the country and use their career services as well as their studio or lab equipment(in case you get a job in another state). He also said film students ,after graduation, had alumni privileges to check out film equipment to keep their portfolio up to date and obtain jobs easier (in film if you got equipment you got the job). This really pushed me to enroll as all the film programs I checked out did not offer these benefits. I explained I intended to pursue a master degree and he told me their credits were accepted at state schools.
Mr Krauss constantly called every other day over a two month period to get me to enroll. I originally planned to start in the fall semester which was half a year away but he kept telling me if I was serious about this school I would enroll earlier. He constantly kept using this tactic when I didn’t submit my application on time(I was trying to decide) or he would say the school is only for students who can handle the work load. I am an A student so to be spoken to like this really played with my head.
I enrolled mid May (mid quarter start)and was told my education would cost about 40-50k once it was all said and done(including housing).
I was told my Federal loans covered the cost and given a list of grants and scholarships to apply to. Upon submitting some applications I was informed that majority of the ones listed did not give them to “forprofit schools” just state schools. Seemed odd at the time but they told me not to worry Federal loans can cover it.
Half way through my education, I needed to move home for a family issue. Before doing this I asked if the AINY could let me finish my classes and my counselor had given me the go ahead that it was all taken care of. I moved home to NY and went to sign up for classes. I was then informed that none of the classes I needed to finish as an associate’s degree were available until a year later(no students in their program were at my level). The counselor was completely incompetent and couldn’t understand why I’d be upset.I checked if any NY State schools could take me and then learned AI credits were not transferrable to most state schools. I eventually transferred back to AILA and moved again. I continued my education for my bachelor’s degree.
During the course of the program, the program started deteriorating gradually. First our full time staff was fired and only a few rehired as part time.Classes became overcrowded. They went from groups of 8 students to upwards of 30. The school started taking on more students that it had space for. Equipment became increasingly hard to rent to complete projects and it interfered with school work. Lab hours were cut from 24 hours to just being open 9am-8pm. Our professors were barely working in their field(I did love them and they at times were trying to tell us the school was a fraud or more expensive than we thought).
The studios we shot in were not industry standard. They certainly looked good to potential students but when using them you learned they were not proper “studios” to learn on. Ceilings were too low amd not industry height needed for lights and we could barely could fit any equipment in the studio. It was a joke and not professional at all. My professor used to say it was the school putting lipstick on the pig.
Throughout the years I was there,I kept getting called out of class mid semester and told to go to financial aid. (staff was cut there too, so waits would be long and only a few counselors to see thousand of students, effectively missing class). Once there , my counselor informed me my funds from the government had run out for that semester and I would not be able to go back to class until it was paid. The counselor would offer a “creative education loans” and said they were federally backed(implying it was a Federal loan). I was never once adviced on interest rates or payment or terms of the loan. I simply was told they found more money, please sign this line here and then I was ushered out.
As graduation neared , I made appointments with my career counselor (again only a few for thousands of students). These professional head hunters turned out to have no prior experience and would just send me Craiglist ads or readily available job listings that barely connected to my degree. I received no help finding a permant job or a mentor to work with, and graduated with no job. After 6 months they told me they could not longer help me anyone cause I was not in school.
At the same time I was graduating the school started quietly cutting "alumni’ benefits. I was schocked to find they would no longer let alumni rent equipment or even use the computers. I organized a student protest and we signed a petition with signatures from the student body arguing we paid for this education with a promises of use of equipment and labs after graduation. We held a meeting with the president and we were told there was nothing we can do.
At the same time, senior students would hold a screening ceremony to view our portfolio pieces. When I started school,the screenings were held in an actual theatre and we met employers this way. It was drilled in out head during the course of our education that we needed to present ourselves as professional and thesis was the time to show ourselves to the industry. My senior year the budget for the senior screenings was cut and they moved it to the school in a small conference room. The seniors again sat down with the President and argued this was not the standard they taught us to hold ourselves, the room was a joke. Eventually out department chair and the student body raised our own money to rent the theatre out.
Upon graduation , I was informed I owed close to 100k. My Federal loans had been maxed out. I had 3 private loans taken out with exorbitant interest rates.
I had threaten to sue the school over not being able to use the equipment. I had a student manual that stated this benefit and leveraged it.The president privately told me if I kept my mouth shut and stopped making fuss, I could use the equipment. That lasted for about 6 months after graduation and then I was cut off completely from renting equipment.
I filed my defense for repayment through the department of education well over 4 years ago. My Federal loans have been in administrative forbearance since and my private loans are passed their statute of limitations(I never paid).
My credit is in shambles but I am slowly rebuilding. I cannot buy a house, I just recently started saving for retirement but it is definitely hard considering the years I fought with these loan providers. I still do film and work part-time as well to keep me afloat.I am in school to become a paralegal (focus on debt and entertainment law) Just wanted to share my story and I hope more do too.
My name is Rick.
Back in 2009, I decided that I wanted to advance my career so I went one day to talk to an ITT rep.
I wasn’t sure about it because what they were telling me, that I could go nights, my books were covered in my tuition, I was guaranteed to have a job in the field I went to school for, and that my GI bill would cover tuition as long as I enrolled before my end date on my GI bill. It seemed to good to be true but I was Assured that it was. Well I did go at night and the books were included in my tuition but that is ALL. 6 months in to my curriculum I was called to finance office where I was told that my GI bill would not pay for my school and that I would have to Take out Federal student loans and Private loans to cover my tuition. When I asked why my GI bill wasn’t covering my tuition they told me that it ran out and I could no longer use it.
After 2 years and over $50,000 in student debt, I have nothing to show for it, my Degree isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, and ITT shut its doors for good in June of 2016.
I only signed paperwork for (1) loan from PEAKS and somehow now have 4. Two of with are dated after I graduated. How does that happen. and when I disputed it they told me that they have legal documents and that I either pay or get an attorney but they will win anyway.
I need help, I wouldn’t have a problem paying back my student loans but I was told that my G.I. Bill would pay for it which was a lie and then after my first year I was told that if I did not agree and sign paperwork for a Private student loan from PEAKS that I would not be able to finish school. TO me this is FRAUD , beyond a doubt. I am beyond pissed about this and it seems that no one cares and that this school can get away with this and the students are stuck with a huge bill for something that is worthless.
Ami, I went to the International Academy of Design and Technology in Schaumburg and I had a very similar experience! Same lies about the students who graduated and worked in their fields. Lies about how qualified the teachers were and said that our teachers were industry professionals which they were not. Hang in there!
Are you still local to Schaumburg? If so, maybe we could organize locally and meet up!
Ai Schaumburg is closing in December and I am so happy they cant scam folks in my community any longer. Its a small victory and it feels symbolic after fighting back for so long.