'We're depressed:' No good options for Art Institute students caught in limbo of Durham school's closure

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ByJoel Brown via WTVD logo
Saturday, July 14, 2018

DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- Brandon Auman spent more than a decade as a Fuquay-Varina firefighter. But at 32, he was forced into retirement with a surprise heart condition and had to start over.

"I didn't really want to sit on my butt," Auman said. "So I came back to school."

Three years later, Auman is seven months away from graduation at The Art Institute Raleigh-Durham.

He's been crafting his path to becoming a 3-D animation artist.

"Games, movies, commercials, I mean that was across the board - I could get a job pretty much anywhere in the industry," Auman said."

Now Auman's new dream is in limbo.

The Art Institute at the American Tobacco Campus dropped a bombshell last week - it is shutting down at year's end.

"Depression is pretty much the word," Auman said. "I mean we're depressed because what are we going to do?"

A company called Dream Center Holdings owns The Art Institute in Durham, one of 30 campuses the company is closing. It blames the closures on low demand for its programs and shrinking enrollment.

Dream Center is giving students, such as Auman, who won't graduate in 2018, three options.

Option 1: Finish at another Art Institute campus with a 50 percent tuition reduction, but hundreds of miles away.

"The credits only go for credit for credit in Tampa, Florida, and Dallas, Texas," Auman responded.

Option 2: Students can complete their studies online at a reduced rate. Auman pointed out that the equipment students have access to at the school costs thousands of dollars and most students can't afford that at home.

Option 3: Transfer to a "partner university" with a $5,000 grant to help.

"That just sounds like to me they're just saying, 'here's your money, I don't wanna deal with you anymore,'" Auman said.

Three years after an unexpected life reset - Brandon Aumon is worried he may have start over yet again.