One-Star: Yelp Reviews from Students of the Art Institutes
The mainstream media and politicians are finally waking up to reality and focusing on the student loan crisis. Many political pundits predict that the biggest financial issue of our generation will be the centerpiece to the 2016 Presidential election. In early March, President Barack Obama launched his “American College Promise” proposal which would provide free community college for all students who are enrolled at least half time and earning a 2.5 GPA or higher.
A month later, Bernie Sanders, the Presidential candidate who is being framed as a radical socialist long-shot by the mainstream media, introduced a bill for free public education, paid for by a Robin Hood Tax, a tiny fee on financial transactions which would raise billions of dollars. He is one of the most outspoken advocates against the current student loan system in Congress and frequently mentions the issue in his speeches, including this excerpt from the University of Iowa in February 2015:
“In my view, the most revolting aspect of the student loan crisis is that every year, the federal government makes billions of dollars in profits off of student loans – $127 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. We must end the practice of the government making billions in profits from student loans taken out by low and moderate income families. That is extremely regressive public policy. It also makes no sense that students and their parents are forced to pay interest rates for higher education loans that are much higher than they pay for car loans or housing mortgages. We must restructure our student loan programs to take the profits out of our system, and return them to borrowers in the form of loan forgiveness and lower interest rates.”
Last Monday, the Department of Education unveiled a new program to discharge the debt of students who attended any of the Corinthian schools which have closed down. However, this option will only apply to former students who withdrew on or after June 20th, 2014, leaving other students with the option to file a “borrower defense to payment”, a much more complicated option which requires a large amount of paperwork and no guarantee of success. In the Secretary of Education’s address to unveil this plan, Arne Duncan urged Congress to take action on for-profit colleges:
“This has to be a wake-up call to Congress…. Congress has to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, and, candidly, members on both sides of the aisle have been part of the problem. This is the time for Congress to act, and act in a bipartisan way.”
However, many student debt activists feel that his plan doesn’t go far enough. Debt Collective released a statement, standing their ground in the demand for a full and immediate discharge of the loans of Corinthian students:
“The Department of Education has been misusing taxpayer dollars for decades, funding up to 90% of Corinthian and other exploitative for-profit college chains. Hundreds of thousands of students were led into a debt trap funded by tax dollars. Automatic, class-wide discharges are not only just, they would also serve as a corrective for the Department’s flagrant failures to allocate public funds wisely. An automatic, class-wide discharge for defrauded Corinthian students would not cost taxpayers, as it would be offset by government profits on the student loan program.”
Activists aren’t the only critics of the Department of Education. Just this past Wednesday, Elizabeth Warren called out the Department of Education for their inability to help victims of for-profit schools like Corinthian Colleges while also profiting from our debt. She recommended moving the student loan complaint system to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:
“We don’t trust a bank to handle its own complaints, and we shouldn’t trust the federal student loan program to do it either. There are real reasons to worry about whether the Department of Education is committed to enforcing federal rules designed to help students.”
At one point during Duncan’s speech, he commented that “Sadly this will likely not be the last domino to fall.” In this one statement, it’s obvious that he understands that Corinthian is only the tip of the iceberg. Many other schools, including Kaplan, ITT Tech, and of course, the Art Institutes and other EDMC-owned institutions, are signing up students for predatory loans as we speak, fracturing the financial futures of our entire generation.
A few weeks ago, ThinkProgress interviewed students of the Art Institutes, and found that many of the classes were inadequate for their majors, and left them with no career prospects after they took out thousands of dollars in student loans. Other issues included the inability of students to transfer credits from Art Institute to other schools, and one instance where a teacher actually told a student that her degree would be worthless. ThinkProgress also interviewed a member of the Department of Education, who said “As EDMC phases out several campuses, the Department will closely monitor the situation to ensure that their students’ interests and futures are protected.”
To help illustrate how seriously the Art Institutes have failed a majority of the students they enroll, we decided to check out the Yelp reviews of their schools. What we found is not shocking at all, reinforcing the idea that these students are indeed victims who deserve the FULL amount of their loans discharged:
HIGH DEBT/BAD CLASSES
One of the most serious issues is the high level of debt incurred by Art Institute students, which is understandable considering that their tuition costs are comparable with private colleges. Usually this complaint was paired with the fact that many of the classes were inadequate, either due to lack of supplies, poor teaching, or the disinterest of the students in their classes, which can be partly attributed to Art Institute’s aggressive marketing tactics.
NO JOB PROSPECTS
Another common issue is that once students graduate, they discover that they have very few job prospects. The Art Institutes frequently lie about their post-graduate employment statistics, leaving students with high debt and the inability to work in the career they have supposedly been preparing for.
NO CREDITS TRANSFER
Not only do students have issues finding jobs with the degrees they earned from the Art Institutes, but their credits are also completely worthless, as they can’t transfer them to other schools, even other Art Institute schools. This leaves students with high debt and literally nothing for their effort and financial sacrifice.
To be fair, not all attendees of the Art Institutes have a negative experience. There are some students who were doing well, but then experienced a dramatic shift in the quality of their education as many satisfactory teachers and staff were fired. When learning institutions are for-profit, they are beholden to their stockholders, and priorities involve generating profit, not teaching students to prepare them for their careers.
Many students had issues with the administrative staff, especially the financial aid office. This was likely by design, as students were pressured into taking out private loans through predatory services like Navient, and weren’t given adequate information about their options and payment terms. This is why many students of Art Institutes are indeed victims, as they were deceived into making bad economic choices by the very same staff which was supposed to be advising them.
Even veterans who were supposed to receive a free college education through the Post 9/11 GI Bill were pressured into taking out student loans to attend the Art Institutes.
Some students did their research, and made the intelligent decision to not attend the Art Institutes, but still have issues with their admissions staff. Once these individuals filled out the online form for more information, or placed one phone call stating their initial interest, the admissions department would call back every day, even after uninterested students would say no repeatedly. This is a great example of Ai’s aggressive admissions tactics, which try to enroll students in their expensive programs while literally refusing to take NO for an answer.
Have you ever been a student of the Art Institutes or another EDMC-owned school? Are you having trouble paying your debts and has it negatively impacted your life? We want to hear your story. Connect with us at AiJustice@Angrymillennials.com. We will be sharing your stories in our next Art Institutes article. Be sure to follow AiJustice on Facebook and Twitter, and sign this petition, asking for student loan forgiveness.
We are not a loan!