1 of 2
Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Fifteen Art Institute schools across the country, including the one in Salt Lake City, will be closing their doors. The school said it will not accept any more new applications, but it will open for two or three years, long enough to make sure everyone in a program will graduate.

SALT LAKE CITY — Fifteen Art Institute schools across the country, including the one in Salt Lake City, will be closing their doors.

For the hundreds of students attending in Salt Lake City, the news came as a surprise.

Tyler Wynn, 20, said he first heard the news on Facebook.

“It was an alumni posted on Facebook that the school was closing,” Wynn said. “I thought he was just being a jerk or something.”

Then school administratorss came in and told students the school was closing down, he said.

“They talked to us and said that everything was going to be OK,” Wynn said. “They were going to make sure that everybody got all their classes that they needed and got their degrees and would be good. They said they would stay open until everybody was out of the school.”

About 325 students attend the Art Institute of Salt Lake City, and school spokesman Chris Hardman said he expects the school to remain open for two to three years.

“We intend to fulfill our commitment to help our students achieve their education and career goals, putting them on the path to a life of creativity," Hardman said in a prepared statement.

Art Institute officials would not comment on whether they made the decision based on new federal rules that begin in July requiring for-profit colleges to better prepare students to get jobs or risk losing federal loan funding.

Hardman said the decision was based on low market demand.

Wynn is part of the four-year program at the school, and getting a bachelor’s degree in digital filmmaking and video production. He said he was stressed out when he heard the news, but talked with an academy adviser who he said reassured him the school would remain open until he graduated.

So far, Wynn said he has spent close to $70,000 on his education at the school. With one more year to go, he said he will probably graduate with $100,000 in student loans.

“I hope that the fact that the school is going to be closing down won't affect my career path,” Wynn said.

Joshua Dilleshaw, a sophomore at International Culinary Schools at the Art Institute, will also complete his degree in about a year.

“They just told us they are going to finish graduating everybody out, but they they’re not accepting any more new applications,” Dilleshaw said.

The 27-year-old said he was concerned when he heard the news, but he now believes that he can still get a good education while finishing up his degree.

“I have faith that a lot of the chefs that we still have are going to stay and stick it out,” he said. “I know we are bringing in new chefs to help keep the program going.”

But not everyone is convinced the school will remain long enough for them to earn a degree.

John Haymore, who hopes to graduate next year, said what’s going on in the school is scary.

“There’s been things that have happened,” Haymore said. “They said that they would stay opened for the remainder of the students, which is a two- to three-year plan. But the same month they sent out that email, they completely gutted out the office, they started getting rid of equipment that the students use, (and) they are getting rid of staff. So if they’re planning on staying open for three years, why are they already getting rid of equipment and resources for students that are going to be there for three years?”

Haymore said he's also concerned that if the school closes early, he won’t be able to transfer the credits he earned at the institute to another local school because they have different accreditation.

Like all accredited colleges, “we have no control over which schools will accept our credits,” school officials said in a statement.

Haymore wants to know now whether he needs to make different arrangements for his education before putting more money into the school or before transferring to another Art Institute school in another state.

In a written statement, Hardman said the Salt Lake City location has about 60 faculty and staff members. A handful of those employees, mostly in the admissions department, were let go when it was announced no new students would be allowed into the school on May 6. Those employees received severance benefits.

Contributing: Nkoyo Iyamba