Local college abruptly closes its doors on students

City College ready to help displaced students.


Jonny Rico

The hallways of the Art Institute building in Mission Valley were empty and deserted on Friday morning. By Jonny Rico/City Times

Jonny Rico and David Ahumada

The Art Institute of California-San Diego, closed its doors today, only days after alerting students and faculty.

Brittany Woodhead, a graphic design major who was approximately a year away from graduating with a bachelor’s degree, said she received an email on Wednesday alerting her that the school would close down on Friday unless an unexpected buyout took place.

Carolyne Cervantes, a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in culinary management, said she received an email on Monday about the possible closure of the school at the end of the quarter.

“On Wednesday, people at school were told that the school is shutting down on Friday,” Cervantes said. “There still hasn’t been an official email stating that it’s closed, but no one can get in.”

The closing is due to legal and financial troubles to the Dream Center, the nonprofit organization that bought the chain of for-profit Argosy Universities just over a year ago, which included the Art Institute of California-San Diego.

College officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The closure did not come as a surprise to Cory Walker, a 2016 Art Institute graduate who was on campus Friday morning hoping to retrieve his transcripts.  

“The last six months were worthless,” Walker said.  

Walker credits the fact that he has a job to his ability to learn on his own outside of the classroom.

“I learned more on my own and in my internships,” he said. “That’s why I have a job. A lot of the people that I went to school with don’t have jobs.”

Woodhead wasn’t surprised about the closure either. She just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.

“I had already started to look into transferring options,” she said. “I just didn’t think it would happen out of nowhere.”

As a military spouse, she figured she would have to transfer out of the Art Institute-San Diego but said “I thought it would be a little more planned out.”

Woodhead is now considering purely online options because she doesn’t want to go through the transfer process again if her spouse is relocated out of San Diego, which is likely to happen.

“Once is enough,” she said.   

San Diego City College is prepared to assist displaced Art Institute students.

“Students who were working on an associate’s degree can have their units transferred,” said Ray Wong, a counselor at the City College counseling center.

Wong and Edwin Heil, the co-chair of the counseling department, reached out to Christina Monaco to confirm the eligibility of transferring units from Art Institute to the San Diego Community College District.

Monaco, a district transcript evaluator, confirmed via email that any units taken at Art Institute after Spring 2011 are eligible for transfer.

“We also have the option of major modification, in case any class (at Art Institute) doesn’t have a direct equivalent (at City College),” Wong said.

According to Wong, City College has many programs similar to the Art Institute.

“We have a great graphic design program,” he said. “Our graphic design students are winning national awards.

“We also have other top notch art programs.”

Art Institute students who were working on a bachelor’s degree can also receive guidance from City College counselors.

“We may not be able to offer too many (class) options to students working on a bachelor’s,” Wong said. “(But) we will help those students build a pathway to a university.”   

According to Wong, Art Institute students are welcome to come to the City College counseling office for a “quick question appointment.”

A counselor can look at the student’s unofficial transcript and offer an opinion on whether that student is ready to apply to a university or might benefit from completing lower division classes at City College.

Wong strongly encourages students to apply and submit their official transcripts and have them evaluated by the district.