Why Brooks Institute is shutting its doors

The visual arts school faces declining enrollment, moving expenses and the threat of losing federal funding and accreditation

Students at the Brooks Institute took their last classes ever on Friday. Last week, the photography and visual arts institute announced it would be closing its doors for good on October 31.

The news comes as a surprise to many, both within the for-profit institution and the community at large.

KCRW’s Jonathan Bastian visited Brooks to talk with students and faculty members trying to figure out what happened, and what to do next.

At a college fair set up by Brooks to help students figure out their transfer options, student Erica Jacks said she was devastated. “When I first found out, I thought it wasn’t true,” she said, “when I heard it was, I broke down crying.”

But some, she said, won’t have the time to transfer. “A lot of my friends are international, so now they have to head back home.”

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On their last days of class, shocked Brooks students attend a college fair to learn about transfer options.

The faculty was just as shocked as the students. “It has been a whirlwind the last few days,” said Jesse Groves, the director of Brooks galleries, faculty member and Brooks alum.

According to the school’s press release, recent changes in economic and regulatory conditions have had a significant, prolonged negative impact on the institution.

Groves points out several events he thinks led to the closure. First, enrollment has steadily declined ever since the 2009 recession. Secondly, the school has struggled to pass new federal gainful employment regulations designed to increase accountability for low-performing for-profit schools. Thirdly, Brooks may lose its accreditation if the national accrediting body ACICS, which has come under scrutiny, loses its ability to accredit schools.

“The other big factor is the challenge of the decision to move campuses,” he adds. Brooks was in the process of partnering with the city to build and renovate four new buildings in downtown Ventura. Groves believes the project created even more financial strains on the school.

“I imagine next week, when the student body disappears off the campus and we’re left to close things up, it’ll be a big loss to see this place shut down. It’s been a home for me.”

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