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The Art Institutes | The Truth About For-Profit Art Colleges by Ben Wetzel

The Art Institutes | The Truth About For-Profit Art Colleges by Ben Wetzel

by Ben Wetzel

June 25, 2019

I wanted to focus on the Gaming Industry more than anything, so I left Texas for California. California had the largest amount of game studios in the US. I loved art, design, and video games, but I didn’t know what part of the game industry was right for me. In fact, I didn’t really know anything about it. The Art Institute of Orange County had a Game Art & Design program that would dish out a Bachelor’s Degree in Science in just 3 years. The degree, of course, was unaccredited, but that wouldn’t matter if the portfolio you produced was amazing. Sounds strange right? It was, and I can safely tell all you starry-eyed designers out there that it is 100% not worth the risk. 

Luckily, students these days have it a little easier. There are fewer for-profit colleges out there due to bankruptcy filings and Federal Trade Commission investigations. However, places like Full Sail University, University of Phoenix, and DeVry University are still in business. Full Sail University has a decent reputation and has accredited degrees, but they are a private for-profit University. NBC just recently did an investigative report involving Full Sail University targeting US veterans. “Are veterans really getting their money’s worth in terms of education?” was one of the major questions being brought up in their articles. University of Phoenix, which is owned by a private equity firm called Apollo Global Management, is currently being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission. That investigation has been going on since 2015. So please be very careful when choosing your higher education options. If you don’t think your portfolio is ready, take the time to get it ready. Don’t feel rushed to get into the art and design game if you feel your talents are not up to par. Taking art classes at a community college to brush up your skills may not seem glamorous, but it’s a much safer bet than going into debt at a campus/cooperation that may not really care about you or your education at the end of the day.

To be completely fair, it isn’t all bad. I did meet some amazing teachers that had a lot to offer. I also made some good friends and connections along the way. Connections are everything, the more people you know the better. Especially if those people are talented individuals. The Art Institute of Orange County did graduate some very talented people, and those people are still in the design, video game, or graphic art industry today. The thing is, a lot of those people that had amazing portfolios, and got good jobs, were already very talented when they came into the school. The school only really gave them access to courses, computer programs, and connections.

At the end of the day, just be careful. Don’t make quick decisions about where you want to go get your education. There are a lot of options out there, and not everyone is sincerely worried about your future.


By Benjamin Wetzel

Photo by Shopify Partners from Burst

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