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By Don - Pittsburgh Event Photographer | Published January 1, 2011
The Absolute Minimum Industry
I might have mentioned before that I have a google alert set for Art Institute and EDMC and a few other things that email me alerts about those businesses. One thing I see a lot of are posts or Yahoo Questions asking if the poster should go to this for profit school or that one.
I’d love it if these kids and young adults would just do a quick search and see those that came before but, and this is more disturbing, I see an equal if not more amount of posts and websites and things set up by these schools and their sales people that try to fool people into attending them. If you read my last post you’ll see a blog post just like that. By the way – my comment is still awaiting moderation. I assume that if they ever get around to reading it they’ll probably delete it but it’s fun to see it hanging in limbo there – like it might actually make it.
In recent weeks I’ve been chatting with another anti Art Institute crusader named Mike. Mike is a great dude who was fooled into attending AI in New England for animation. It really struck me how sad a situation this is that Dave my arts business partner and I have been doing animation for the past few years and have begun to really make some money doing so with no schooling while this guy paid $80,000 or so to learn how to do it and can’t find work doing so.
Anyhow, Mike has been trying to help convince people not to attend the Art Institutes or similar for profit schools because he’s seen how devastating they can be first hand – he’s living it. Mike also served in the military. To me this makes it even more upsetting that these corporations are doing what they did to him – snatching the GI Bill from those that have put their lives on the line serving this country. Helping to ensure these ultra-wealthy extortionists have the freedom to provide the absolute minimum education for the highest possible price.
Mike has done a great job collecting a bunch of articles that he’s shared with me and I’ve listed links to them below.
In this post I also wanted to repost a comment I made on a blog just a few minutes ago that I hope will be approved so the person asking has a fair and fighting chance.
Become a photographer with no debt
Well – maybe not absolutely no debt, but the point of the comment I made which is reposted here is that you can do what I offer as the alternative before going to school or you can have the “placement councilor” call and send your resume to the same people after you graduate. For that help with placing phone calls they will charge you a fee between $50,000 and $100,000.
Don’t believe the hype
Some of the best photographers I know did not go to school for photography. My best assistants and second photographers (that I use for weddings) did not go to school for photography. Do not believe that you need a degree in photography to work as a photographer. These schools perpetuate that idea and it’s 100% false.
So I have to ask: do you want to get a job as an assistant to another photographer and learn how the business works, learn how to run the show from someone who is doing so before you’re paying about $500 a month on loans (for 30 years) or after. I ask because it will work the same either way. Either way – if you really want to be a photographer you’re going to do so no matter what. It’s just a matter of wanting to do so with or without $100,000, that’s one-hundred-thousand-dollars worth of debt that you’re stuck paying on no matter what else happens in your life, no matter if you have children, a house, or become injured and can’t work. There is no way out of paying it other than not taking it on in the first place.
A message to potential Art Institute students
Do NOT go to a for profit school for photography. The credits are worth as much or less than those from a community college and the education is on par with community college. The only difference is the debt they will put you in. Community College will cost you as much as 20 times LESS than a for profit school. When I say the credits are worth less I mean that they don’t usually transfer. Don’t trust their admissions sales people when they tell you they do. Call other universities and ask them if they accept the credits.
The for profit education model is not set up to educate you – it’s set up to take as much money from you as possible while delivering the absolute minimum in return. These schools are typically owned by ultra-wealthy conglomerates, in the case of the Art Institutes they are owned by EDMC of which Goldman Sachs owns a large share. If you are not familiar with Goldman Sachs they were one of the handful of financial firms that helped to cause the economic crisis we’ve been going through since 2007.
The “successful people” stories and percentages are bloated and lies. A career placement adviser admitted to the government that the company told her to lie.
Here is a quote from whistle blower Kathie Bittel who I’ve written about before. She works for the Art Institutes and has tons of stories like this:
“A Game Art and Design Bachelor’s Student (one who learns how to create video games) with 100K in student debt is working at Toys R Us in the video game department earning $8.90 an hour. I was told to “place” him as employed in his field because his work was with video games. “He needs to know the knowledge he learned to be able to help his customers decide which games to purchase.”
You really don’t want to take on all of this debt. Trust me. They’ve taken a great deal of money from me (and will have before all is said and done). It will take you upwards of 30 years paying as much as $500 a month before you’re through. Do you really want that? Can you really afford that?
Here is the alternative
What do you want to do in photography?
What kind of photographer do you see yourself being?
Think about that, take a few classes at a community college or hang with other amateur photographerrs, shoot as much as you can, even if you don’t have an SLR, shoot with your phone – anything. Then try to get a job as a photo assistant for a photographer that does work you like or works in the part of the industry you want to work in. Work very hard for this person, study what they do, learn to use light. All the while that you’re working there you should still be shooting, reading blogs like that of Chase Jarvis, Joe McNally, the Strobist blog, and so on. Find shooters you want to emulate and do so. Build a book (portfolio) and then start small, get a few clients and shoot whatever you can get paid to do. Learn how that photographer you’re working with deals with clients, how he/she does the bills, the budget, the other not-so-fun stuff.
The only difference is the debt
When you’re ready to strike out on your own you’ll know it. Just remember this – even if you pay to go to one of these for profit schools AT BEST they are only going to find you a job assisting, they’re only goal is to get you an “entry level” position. So I’ve got to ask – do you want to what I’ve suggested with or without $100,000 worth of debt? Do you want to owe $100,000 in exchange for them doing the absolute minimum – for them to make a few phone calls and email your resume for you?
News articles on the Art Institutes and other for profit schools
Check out these news articles that have all popped up over the last few months – these are courtesy of Mike:
One of their own instructors, Jeremy Dehn, from the AI in Colorado wrote an article that was published in the New York Times confirming the same issues:
Check this out, this is a meeting the New England Institute of Art had to explain to students that they’re firing staff just a few days ago. It proves they only care about their shareholders and don’t give a damn about students.
Meanwhile, like I said, their executives are making billions.
And more stories are coming out by the day.
To AI, they’re just using us as Funnels to get to the government funds.