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Art Institute of Seattle abruptly shuts down, leaving students scrambling

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SEATTLE - The Art Institute of Seattle has been around for more than seven decades. Now, due to financial reasons the institution will abruptly close on Friday, leaving students without classes, and in many cases possibly their degrees.

Outside the Art Institute of Seattle on Thursday, Q13 News saw students hugging and faculty members forced to say goodbye to their students.

“We are just saying goodbye, that’s what we are doing,” faculty member Ben Kerns said.

Kerns has been teaching at the institute for 11 years and called it an end of an era.

About 650 students were abruptly alerted on Wednesday that the campus was shutting down on Friday.

“Shock, stress, disbelief,” student Fancey Dubin said.

Dubin and Michael Smith are both veterans who receive stipends for rent as long as they are attending classes.

“If I don’t get into another school around here I won’t be able to pay my rent,” Smith said.

Then there are international students who may be forced to leave the country.

“If they lose their school they lose their visas and they either have to fly home or find another school,” Kerns said.

Kerns says one of his international students was so stressed over the closure he went to the ER.

“Over the last few months things came crashing down,” Kerns said.

The state agency that regulates AI says the institution has been struggling for years.

“Financially they are just not able to operate, and this goes to the fact that this is a multi-campus operation,” Don Bennett with the Washington Student Achievement Council said.

Bennett says other campuses have shut down across the country.

“What’s most disappointing here is how two weeks shy of this winter quarter we’ve got students adrift right now, we don’t even know if they are going to transfer the credits they’ve earned,” Bennett said.

Students say it feels like a slap in the face.

“I paid $39,000 over a year and half. How are we financially insolvent? That’s been gnawing at me,” student Mike Monroe said.

As students figure out their next steps, one nearby film institute is offering an option.

“If any student is within 20 credits of graduation we are adding a quarter start to our schedule so they can start April 1,”President of Seattle Film Institute David Schulman said.

Schulman says his interbay campus can absorb the students but it may not be an option for all the students.

“What am I going to do? What’s going to happen? I want to continue on with my education,” Smith said.

The US Department of Education does have a program where they would forgive a student’s loan if a school like this shuts down, but in that case students would not be able to transfer any of their credits they’ve earned.

The Washington Student Achievement Council is also hosting info fairs at the Art Institute of Seattle March 12th and 13th.  You can find more information here.

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