Western State College of Law maintains classes while area Argosy University and Art Institute campuses have closed
Western State College of Law students in Irvine were told by a March 7 email from their dean that the campus “will be able to hold classes at least through March 22.”
Since January, third-year students at Western State College of Law in Irvine haven’t known from one week to the next if final exams will take place as scheduled or if they actually will graduate in May, said Sydney McGregor, 32, who hopes to sit for the state bar exam in July.
The college, Orange County’s first law school, is part of a troubled chain of career colleges nationwide operated by Dream Center Education Holdings that were placed in federal receivership in January as options were sought to get out of millions of dollars of debt. Many across the country closed their doors Friday, March 8. There is a potential buyer for the law school.
“Argosy University locations in Los Angeles and Orange County as well as The Art Institute of California – San Diego and The Art Institute of California – Hollywood have closed,” Mark Dottore, the court-appointed receiver, said in an emailed statement Friday. “We have worked day and night since these institutions entered into receivership under Dream Center Education Holdings to find the best path forward for students.”
In mid-January, the beginning of what was to be their last semester, McGregor and her study buddy, Michael Caldwell, realized they had not received their financial aid. That’s how they learned the Irvine campus and the other Dream Center schools were in dire straights.
“We are caught in the middle of a gunfight, unarmed,” McGregor said. “I just held a student in my arms who was crying. This limbo is debilitating.”
A website connected with the Art Institute schools suggests that Santa Ana students investigate transferring to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. That school’s director of undergraduate admissions, Reid Raukar, said the Academy of Art would waive application fees for the students from shuttered schools.
However, Raukar added, transferring to the school is complicated and demanding. “We must maintain our academic integrity,” he said.
Dottore said the system continues to “provide services to students to help them transition to one of the dozens of higher education institutions offering assistance to them or, where they choose to do so, to apply for student loan discharge.”
The Education Department said the federal loan debt of affected students would be forgiven for this semester. Where schools close, students can seek help under a program covering school shutdowns.
That’s small consolation for McGregor, whose mother also attended Western State College of Law. “Before all this mess, I loved this school,” she said. “Students are suffering from something beyond our control.”
The New York Times contributed to this report.