Debt Collective members who attended Art Institute have been fighting for debt relief. They have been building power against EDMC, the former owners of AI and other schools (including Brown Mackie and Argosy), and pressuring the US Department of Education to cancel their debt. While we continue to work together to build power on the ground and in the courts, Dream Center (the new owner of AI) announced dozens of campus closures earlier this month.
What current students at Art Institutes, Argosy University, and South University should know
Education Management Corporation (EDMC) operated the predatory for-profit schools Art Institutes, Argosy University and South University. Less than a year ago EDMC dumped these schools under the guise of converting them to a non-profit by selling them to the Dream Center. This was always a shady move. We now know what we have long suspected: there was never any intention of turning these campuses into high quality non-profit schools for the benefit of students. Instead in late June/early July this year EDMC declared bankruptcy at the same time that the Dream Center announced it would be closing 30 campuses (see a complete list of campuses below).
The Debt Collective demands that
- Current students get their money back.
- All students should have all of their debts discharged.
We make these demands knowing full well that the Dream Center is trying to trick students into signing their rights away. In this process students are not being giving all of the information they need in order to understand what their best options are.
You could have a right to get all of your federal student loans discharged!
When a school closes down, there is supposed to be a closed school discharge. This means that if you are a current student you should have ALL of your federal student loans for attending that school wiped out. For many students, this would be the best option. However, there is a catch. In order to qualify for a closed school discharge your school needs to close while you are a student there, or within 120 days of your withdrawal. It looks like the Dream Center is trying to deliberately engineer a situation in which students are either forced to sign their rights away and choose a terrible option, or be forced to withdraw and be stuck with all of their student debt. Dream Center is keeping these campuses open longer than 120 days to deny people the closed school discharge to which they have a right. One reason they might be trying to do this is that the Dream Center would be forced to reimburse the Department of Education for all loans discharged through the closed school discharge.
So what should you do?
UNTIL WE GET MORE INFORMATION, DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING. Instead, request a leave of absence. Students who are on a leave of absence when a school closes still qualify for a closed school discharge. There is still a lot that we don’t know and you shouldn’t be pressured into making a decision that could haunt you for the rest of your life until you get clarification about your options. Tell the Dream Center that you need more information before you make a decision. A leave of absence will allow you an opportunity to research your options and get a better sense of what the true consequences of this decision are. If the Dream Center refuses to grant you a leave of absence, contact us immediately and tell us what happened.
GET ORGANIZED TO DEMAND DEBT CANCELATION. Current and former students are getting organized to demand more information, hold the Dream Center and EDMC accountable and inform their classmates as to what is going on.
Join the Debt Collective to connect with other AI students from around the country.
Join with local current and former students to organize protests on your campus. Distribute fliers to current students so that they know their rights.
DEMAND MORE INFORMATION. Contact your Senators and Representatives. Demand that the Department of Education explicitly clarify that all current students will qualify for a closed school discharge. Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed in your local newspaper. You can use this template. Letters to the editor and op-eds are two of the best ways to put pressure on your local representatives to take action. They also help spread the word and inform your classmates.
Share the word on social media. You can use some of these sample posts, and make your own! Use your creativity to make memes. Make sure to tag your representatives and the Department of Education.
For more information about these closures see the Project on Predatory Student Lending.
List of closing campuses
California: Inland Empire/San Bernardino, Orange County/Santa Ana, Sacramento, San Francisco
Florida: Fort Lauderdale
Illinois: Chicago, Schaumburg
North Carolina: Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham
South Carolina: Charleston
California: Inland Empire, San Diego, San Francisco
Utah: Salt Lake City
Michigan: Novi North Carolina: High Point Ohio: Cleveland