Dream Center Education Holdings recently disclosed its intention to shut down 18 Art Institute locations throughout the U.S. 

Dream Center Education Holdings, the company that owns a large chain of one-time for-profit colleges, announced it plans to close 18 Art Institute locations across the country. Students in Portland, Michigan, Raleigh-Durham, and other cities will soon be forced to make some hard choices about how to continue their education, The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C. reported

Dream Center stated that it was no longer viable for the company to continue running 18 of its 31 Art Institute schools. The company pointed to declining enrollment numbers and an increased demand for online learning as the reason for the closures. 

The news about the school closings came out in later June after an internal memo was leaked. This memo was sent to employees notifying them that certain schools would no longer be accepting new students. The memo stated that the decision was reached after spending several months closely evaluating the company’s various education systems and recognizing the need for change.

This announcement leaves many students in a difficult situation. Students can choose to stay at their current school through the fall semester or transfer to another location. Dream Center spokesperson Anne Dean recommended that current students “continue to attend class as scheduled." Other school closures in recent years have left students in limbo, with no degree and student loan debt to repay – with Corinthian Colleges as one example. But for-profit colleges aren’t the only schools shutting down and leaving students in a tough situation – it’s been happening at nonprofit schools, too.

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If they choose to stay, students will be offered a 50 percent tuition reduction for any remaining classes. They do have the option to transfer to another Art Institute in a different city or take a $5,000 voucher and apply it at an unrelated arts school.

However, this isn’t sufficient for students at the 55-year-old Art Institute in Portland, which is scheduled to close on Dec. 31, 2018. Students and faculty members started a GoFundMe page in an attempt to raise money to buy the school from Dream Center. So far, the page has a long way to go before reaching its fundraising goal.

The Art Institutes were previously owned by the for-profit company Education Management Corporation. However, Dream Center paid $60 million to acquire over 100 college campuses from EMC in 2017. According to the Department of Education, the schools have faced accreditation issues this year and are only eligible for Title IV funding, which disperses federal aid on a month-to-month basis.

In North Carolina alone, two different schools are set to close, affecting nearly 3,000 students. And students across all campuses are concerned about whether other colleges will be willing to accept their credits.

However, current students do have rights under both state and federal law, depending on their circumstances. These rights could include federal student loan forgiveness or a recovery of lost tuition. Nazneed Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Justice told the News & Observer that students should contact the Department of Education to find out what options are available to them.