My Student Loan Truth: Wilfredo’s Art Institute Story
May 9, 2019
Wilfredo Morales attended the Art Institute of York in Alabama, which promised him a degree and a job in graphic design.
Instead, the school convinced Wilfredo AND his mother to take out massive student loans, and failed to deliver an education. Now, Wilfredo owes more than $30,000 and his mother owes over $128,000 in Parent PLUS loans – all because of Art Institute’s predatory behavior.
This is Wilfredo’s student loan truth.
How did you hear about Art Institute?
I wanted to get a Bachelor’s degree, so I started looking online for different colleges around my area. I wrote my contact information into different web forms to inquire about schools and I immediately got a call from AI York. They invited my family and me to an open house to find out more about the AI schools.
What made you decide to attend?
I didn’t even have much time to make a decision. During the open house, we were brought right into the financial aid office. The recruiter persuaded my mother and I to enroll at that moment.
How did the financial aid process work?
I knew some information about FAFSA and was prepared to take on the loans. However, they told me that my mother was the one that had to worry about financial aid. I was sent upstairs to fill out additional paperwork.
They didn’t tell us much about how it worked. My mother had to sign most of the loan paperwork and she said that the school didn’t mention any loan exceeding $30,000 and I don’t remember them telling me anything higher than that as well. She signed with the idea that the loan wouldn’t be as high as it is right now. (Wilfredo’s mother’s loan is currently $128,000.)
What did the school tell you about getting a job after the program?
During the open house, the recruiters mentioned that the career and job placement was high and they seemed convinced that I was going to get a good job.
What was your experience like once you started attending Art Institute?
Some teachers tried to give a good lesson, but most did not put in the effort to teach. One teacher would pull up a tutorial website and leave the class for hours. I felt that I could find the same website at home for free. Teachers would then get angry if you questioned any confusing language or material. It was clear they didn’t know the subject.
Did your experience at this school help you obtain a job in the field you studied?
I withdrew because of the terrible experience and the loans and never had the opportunity to find a position in graphic design. For jobs, Career Services would tell students to just go on a job placement website like Monster or Indeed and apply to any jobs they recommended. This was something that I could do myself.
Did going to Art Institute make your life better or worse?
It made my life worse because of my mother’s Parent PLUS loans. It saddens me that she cannot buy a house because of these loans. It has been difficult for me because although I can manage my own personal loans, I cannot assist my mother. It has been a significant burden for my mother and me.
I have $33,000 in debt personally and my mother is $128,000 debt.
How would you complete this sentence: “If I did not have student loan debt, I would….”
I would go back to school and get my degree in Biology.
Now I am scared of going back to school because of the overwhelming debt. I do not want to tack more debt onto my name.
Some policy-makers doubt that for-profit colleges are a problem – what would you say to them?
They’re wrong. For-profit colleges are not concerned about the education or post-graduation—they only want your money. Many students, including myself, have been affected by this rip-off of a system.
The Department of Education has refused to fully cancel the loans of thousands of former students of for-profit colleges. What would you say to them about the need to cancel these loans?
I understand why they are opposed, but they are not seeing the effect that it has on people. It is financially and emotionally crippling for both my mother and me. I wish the Department of Education would stop just seeing the money and the debt and focus on the human aspect of this.
Click here for more information about Art Institutes closures and bankruptcies.