Examining the Duplicity of For-Profit Schools’ Photography Programs

If you read one lengthy piece today, make it David Walker‘s report at Photo District News on the US Department of Justice‘s suit against the Education Management Corporation, the for-profit company behind the nationwide Art Institute chain of schools. Though there have been lots of stories written about the government deciding to start investigating and punishing for-profit schools for their often less-than-honest methods, this PDN story looks at the photography programs specifically, highlighting practices like preying on low-income students, using psychological tricks to recruit them, and making absurd promises of lucrative employment in creative fields and then not delivering once a student had graduated with $100,000 of student loan bills in tow. It’s a fascinating, troubling read and well worth the time. Here’s a great quote from a former student:

He says, “I hate to get down on folks who get swept in because I was one of them. I spent five years in high school, smoking pot, looking for the easy way out, not willing to take things seriously or work hard.

“Art Institute sees those students, and latches onto them. They say, ‘You’ll be a photographer, or a graphic designer, or a chef.” Orkoskey says he was receptive because he was hearing from everyone–his mother, his teachers, and politicians–that he’d be a failure without education.

For further reading, we also recommend reading Design Info‘s response to the piece, with advice to students considering one of these programs.