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Art Institute of Las Vegas sale could avert big ‘mess’ for students

Updated February 1, 2019 - 6:02 pm

A court-appointed receiver for the Art Institute of Las Vegas in Henderson is rescinding a plan to close the school amid a local effort to keep it open — part of a messy process borne out of the bankruptcy of the parent company of the nationwide chain of schools.

The threat of closure arose from the bankruptcy of the Education Management Corp., which owned the nationwide chain of Art Institutes and other higher-education institutions. After completing a sale of its three university systems in 2018, the company filed for bankruptcy last year.

The schools were put in the hands of a court-appointed receiver after creditors sued to recover millions in unpaid bills and obligations.

Dream Center Education Holdings, which purchased the school chains, said in a filing in an Ohio federal court that it discovered revenues from the schools were far less than the numbers Education Management Corp. officials provided.

“DCEH’s efforts to instill best practices organizationwide and reduce enormous corporate inefficiencies clearly would not be enough to balance what was now projected to be a substantial operating deficit,” the company said in the filing.

Word that the Art Institute of Las Vegas would close was filed with the Nevada Commission on Postsecondary Education, which listed an intended termination date of March 31 on its website.

But Mark Dottore, the receiver, said Friday he plans to reverse that decision.

Dottore said there are several qualified potential purchasers of the school, but cautioned that any sale would have to bee approved by creditors, the Department of Education and the federal court.

“I’m pretty confident I’m going to be able to transition this to a qualified, better operator,” Dottore said.

Instructor William Turbay, who has taught at the institute for over a decade, is leading one local initiative to buy the school.

“Our effort is to take the school away from this mess and save these students,” Turbay said.

Turbay has formed a limited liability company, Save the Art Institute of Las Vegas, to negotiate the purchase. Money raised through GoFundMe has helped pay the legal bills, he said.

“Tons of these kids get loans,” Turbay said. “It’s going to be a mess if it closes.”

Keeping the school open would not only allow students to continue their education — it could save the federal government money from the loan forgiveness it would have to provide students.

That would mean good news for student Billy Tompkins, who otherwise would have wasted five years of his life. He’s only eight classes away from earning his interior design degree.

His credits, he said, wouldn’t transfer anywhere else and he would have to start all over again.

“It’s my time that I can’t get back,” he said. “I can’t make more time. I can make more money.”

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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