Patti Wenzel

Does Milwaukee need another art school?

By - Jul 25th, 2010 04:00 am

Photo by Amanda M Hatfield via Flickr

There are numerous schools in Milwaukee where you can receive an art-centric education. Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Marquette University, UWM, Mt. Mary College, and Milwaukee Area Technical College are some schools that offer creative degrees in the area.

So do we need another school offering degrees in fields like Advertising, Film making, Graphic Design, Culinary Arts, Fashion Marketing, Interior Design, Media Arts and Animation and Interactive Media?

“Yes, because this is a great market,” Art Institute of Milwaukee President Bill Johnson said. “We feel there is a need for more educational opportunities here. We will fill a different niche than MIAD; we’ll be complementary and provide a valuable education.”

AI-Milwaukee (one of 48 Art Institutes across the nation) will enroll its first students in October at a 35,000 sq. ft. campus on Buffalo Street in the Third Ward. It will offer baccalaureate degrees in the aforementioned disciplines, along with an associate degree in Graphic Design. Johnson said degrees are designed to attract students with an “art bent” and prepare them for entry-level jobs in their selected fields.

“We focus on employability,” Johnson said. “Art Institutes has 40-plus years of success with 75,000 current students across the nation and more than 100,000 alumni.”

AI students take general education and business management courses, in addition to their specialty, so they have the soft skills of communication and critical thinking, according to Johnson.

Nancy O’Keefe from the Historic Third Ward is excited by the addition of AI to the neighborhood. “It will bring in more employees and people, plus the addition of the culinary school is important.”

Johnson added that he is looking forward to becoming involved in the art scene in the Third Ward, especially the quarterly Gallery Nights. The school will have its own gallery for student work on the first floor of the P.H. Dye House building.

MIAD President Neil Hoffman is not as benevolent towards the new neighbors. He’s concerned that prospective students and parents will be confused by the similarities in the names and locations of the campuses. He said MIAD plans to make their campus distinctive from AI with more signage and landmarks.

Art by Steve Johnson via Flickr

But he doesn’t see AI-Milwaukee as competition. “Our competition is not from a for-profit trade school. Our competition is with universities with art schools, an institution that gives out a real college degree.”

He touted MIAD’s high standards for incoming students, including requiring portfolios of work and previous artistic endeavors. “The only requirement they [AI] have is that you have a checkbook.”

Hoffman added that MIAD is one of only 36 schools in the nation that has Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design accreditation. This designation comes after proving the school has art and design specializations, BFA and/or MFA degree granting and dual accreditation.

AI-Milwaukee is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools and the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board. It does not have accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, something other schools in  the area have and that insures coursework and degrees are recognized by employers and other schools.

Johnson’s focus on employability, communication and critical thinking skills and providing an educational value is not a unique concept. So why choose AI, a for-profit college, over public and private institutions offering the same courses?

It isn’t for the low price. Tuition for a BA at Art Institute runs about $92,000, not counting room and board. A BA in Film making at MIAD will cost you $104,000; a BA from UWM-Peck School of the Arts averages $40,000 and Marquette Advertising majors will pay $120,000 for their degree. Mt. Mary College, well-known for its interior design and fashion degrees, would cost $86,700 over four years.

Many of the baccalaureate offerings at AI-Milwaukee are offered at MATC, albeit as Associate Degrees. But the publicly-funded tech school is a bargain at only $7,200 for an A.S. and $14,400 if you enroll in the school’s 4-year transfer program.

Graduation rates are deceptive, since the Department of Education only requires schools to report the completion rates of first-time, full-time enrolled students. This skews the numbers of for-profit schools like AI and publicly-funded UWM, which have large populations of students who have either attended college previously or attend part-time.

Photo by Amanda M Hatfield via Flickr

AI averages a graduation rate of 40 percent, based on first-time, full-time students who began classes six years prior to graduation. In contrast, Marquette’s rate is 79 percent, MIAD graduates 58 percent of its students and UWM has a rate of 43 percent. MATC has a graduation rate of 17 percent, with more than 20 percent of students transferring to other schools before completing their degrees.

Employment rates ares deceiving as well, since there is no way to tell if a culinary graduate is working as a part-time prep cook or a full-time head chef at a five-star restaurant. Since AI-Milwaukee hasn’t had a graduating class, a look at other AI campuses gives us insight. AI-Phoenix, which offers a similar academic program, reports that 87.9 percent of its graduates in 2008 were employed in their desired fields. AI-Minneapolis (where Johnson was previously president) had an employment rate of 89.6 percent in 2008.

Within 12 months of graduation from MIAD over 90 percent of 2008 degree holders are employed in their fields, with more than 80 percent staying in the Milwaukee area. MATC boasts an 80 employment rate for its two-year associate programs.

Finally, for-profit schools have been subject to congressional hearings on the practice of directing students to borrow the maximum in federal student loans– regardless of the need– leaving students on the hook for payback after the school has made its money. This has lead to a default rate by for-profit students and graduates of 21 percent, three times higher than the 7 percent default rate of students who attended public or private non-profit institutions.

So having another school focusing on art education can be a good thing. More outlets for people to learn or improve on skills is a benefit for all of us. But when deciding on a school, students and parents need to look at all the facts and benefits provided by an institution. Being informed from the start is the best way to ensure you fulfill your career goals.

0 thoughts on “Does Milwaukee need another art school?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great article Patti. As a graduate of both Marquette (College of Arts & Sciences) and a recent grad of MATC’s web design program, I stress that people make informed and educated decisions. Such colleges have upped the ante (so to speak) by catering to working adults. This is a positive change that many traditional schools (although Marquette is woefully behind on this trend) have embraced.

    While the numbers mentioned above may shock people, there are other things to consider such as financial aid and grants (which will reduce the amount owed) plus the name and reputation of the college/university.

    Running a college is a business, however people really need to understand who these people answer to, the shareholders or the students?

  2. Anonymous says:

    the quality of the staffing? this may be a great opportunity for teachers seeking employment. competition is good. the spokesperson for MIAD needn’t have commented, “all they need is a checkbook.” Persons enrolling at MIAD certainly need that too….

  3. Anonymous says:

    There’s a ton of money available from stimulus bucks…a great time to start a for-profit school. It’s the American way….

  4. Anonymous says:

    I believe the correct title of AI is Art Institute of Wisconsin.

  5. Anonymous says:

    A ripoff! A for-profit venture trading on the established names of Chicago’s Art Institute and the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, obviously designed to confuse you, to collect your tuition and make you drop out. Any prospective students had better worry about whether credits transfer or qualify toward advanced degrees at real colleges.

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