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The Road Not Taken, and Amen to that.... - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
The Road Not Taken, and Amen to that....

Just yesterday, we got to talking about Emily's college career and the preparation it offered her for her dream career in animation. While that dream remains deferred, she did achieve a Bachelors degree from a nationally respected school with just-short-of-degree-honors grades, and a portfolio of work to be proud of.

Today, while looking up or at something else, I found a story about another way she might have gone. Eleanor and I both remembered it, and them, and we're both very glad in hindsight that she went the way she did.

I don't remember how she came to have an interest in the school- I hadn't heard of it at the time- but Emily wound up applying to a program called the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.  They quickly accepted her and were rather aggressive about trying to get her to commit even while her RIT application was still pending.  As we recalled it today, Eleanor remembers their admission people on the phone with her, trying to sell the product- and not getting the kinds of answers she was expecting about job placement, notable alumni or other objective things.  It was Em's first acceptance, and she was really pushing to get our blessing to go with it.  Ultimately, RIT said yes to her, and vice versa, but even into the late summer before her freshman year, Pittsburgh was still calling here, and was being rather pushy about it. Didn't she want to send in her room deposit before it was too late? She'd decided to go WHERE?  We gently suggested that they not call here again, and fortunately, they never did.

Fortunately for all of us, anyway. For multiple campuses of kids who did matriculate there? Less good fortune. This story dates to May of this year, but it still gave us a combination of relief and shivers. It begins with the tale of Jay Fabares, a young student who moved to San Diego for relationship reasons:

 A co-worker’s husband suggested attending The Art Institute of San Diego after seeing her drawings, so she decided to check out the open house.

“I was the first person in my family to go to college and they hadn’t helped me prepare for education, so I was basically on my own,” Fabares said.

The school was expensive, but the school said they could get her financial aid. They also told her that credits she’d already completed wouldn’t transfer. As a first-generation college student, though, “I thought that this must just be normal.”

But during her third quarter into the Media Arts and Animation program, she realized that her decision to enroll was a mistake.

“I was never even able to take a Flash [animation] course, which in the industry was unheard of,” she said. “I felt trapped –- after spending this much time and money toward the program already.”

The story goes on to note that these Art Institutes are all owned by a for-profit corporation that relies heavily on federal student aid  (and which went private last year so it wouldn't have to make public its financial data).  It's already announced the closing of about a third of its campuses (not yet including the one Ms. Fabares attends, or the Pittsburgh one Emily could have), and the complaints against it are sounding awfully like the awful Corinthian Colleges which went bankrupt and left thousands of students with little transferrable credit and lots of non-dischargeable student loan debt.

Rebekah Hancock-Murphy, 23, wanted to become an illustrator but opportunities were mostly far away from where she lived. Hancock-Murphy wanted to take care of her grandmother, however, so she didn’t feel comfortable moving far away. Then she saw The Art Institute of Houston (AIH), which was closer but allowed her to have “the college experience.”

“Since my grandma was there, I had to make sure she was okay. They told me I’d get plenty of financial aid so I ended up applying and it just wasn’t what I thought. The building was ancient and they were really behind on the technology. I was gobsmacked by what they were teaching me,” she said. But the price was high — she had to take on a huge amount of debt beyond the grants and federal loans she qualified for. Hancock-Murphy’s adviser recommended she take private loans on top of the federal loans she had already taken out, but she declined to do so. Now, AI Houston is one of the 15 campuses that will be shut down.

“As I was going through classes, my teachers would tell me the degree I was getting was worth nothing,” Hancock-Murphy said. “They would tell me that it was going to get me nowhere, so I better have a great portfolio.”

Yet the school did little to teach them how to develop those portfolios- and offered no discounts or even recommendations on software to help them develop their skills during and after the program.  She, too, ultimately wound up with little to show for the experience except debt.

There's a long tradition of exploiting artists for the financial gain of others.  Even lacking a stitch of talent, I fully expect I would've gotten a positive review if I'd ever turned in one of these matchbook-cover contest entries when I was a kid:

It's not just graphic artists that get suckered. Writers are sold false bills of goods by vanity publishers and edit-for-fee "literary agencies"- not to mention being expected to produce creative product "on spec" (i.e., for free) in hopes of getting name recognition or eventual paying gigs.

Not to mention years and years of blogging and never making a nickel off it.


2 comments or Leave a comment
weebleswobble From: weebleswobble Date: September 7th, 2015 12:47 am (UTC) (Link)
college educations dont seem to be worth the amount of money they cost. and those student loan companies seem to be nothing but greedy pigs.
tilia_tomentosa From: tilia_tomentosa Date: September 13th, 2015 12:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Good grief!
2 comments or Leave a comment