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Memphis College of Art to close, its students 'shocked'

The Memphis College of Art (MCA) will shut its doors after their current students graduate, which is expected to be by 2020.

The college released a statement on Oct. 24 regarding a vote to close its doors and not admit new students due to declining enrollment, real-estate debt and “no viable long-term plan for financial sustainability.â€

MCA is an independent and private fine arts and design college located in Overton Park. The college has about 300 to 350 students and 47 full- or part-time faculty members, their website states.

“We are not closing immediately,†MCA Interim President Laura Hine said. “We anticipate the last graduating class of MCA students to occur in May 2020. We are committed, first and foremost, to the students who will remain at MCA, and will focus our resources on providing the quality education and close mentorship for which MCA is known.â€

MCA students walking

Students walk toward the entrance of Memphis College of Art in Overton Park. The school, which has about 300 to 350 students, has announced it will shut its doors in 2020.

The Board of Directors of the college voted to close partly due to the college’s low enrollment. The college had 378 students in fall 2016 compared to the 21,301 students at University of Memphis that same semester, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The U of M Department of Art has 332 students enrolled this semester, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

Perhaps the biggest reason for the closing is financial instability. MCA cost $45,100 for students in the 2016-17 academic year and $36,350 for off-campus students living with family, according to NCES. The U of M cost about $24,205 for the 2016-17 academic year, and off-campus students living with family paid $15,052, according to NCES.

Meredith Potter is a third-year painting and drawing major at MCA and said she is nervous because she still must see if she can finish her senior year, or if she has to transfer. Potter will stay next spring but doesn’t know about senior year. She said the college is helping them through the process, and “they care very much about their students.â€

“Oh, I absolutely hate it,†Potter said. “I knew the school was struggling financially, but I wasn’t expecting this. They just sent an email late last night saying there’s a emergency meeting at 9 a.m., and then they just dropped it on us. It completely sucks­­—there are some people that can’t finish going to school here.â€

Laura Lester is also a third-year student at MCA and is studying illustration. She will be able to graduate. She said throughout the day, all the students have been supporting each other through the process, and the faculty has been supportive as well. She said there would be a college fair in early November for the students.

“It’s honestly a bit of a shock,†Lester said. “It’s upsetting, and it’s a bit of a tragedy. It’s become my home. This school is a hub for artists from all across the Midwest, and all of our students came from schools that they were probably the only artists there, or they were considered the different person or the weird person. MCA is definitely doing what they can for their students.â€

U of M photography professor Coriana Lynne Close said MCA is experiencing the “stress†all art organizations are experiencing in the current political and economic climate.

“MCA has been a vital force in this region for decades,†Close said. “The professors at MCA work tirelessly to support a vibrant community of artists, and this is truly a sad day for the visual arts community. MCA plans to remain open long enough to graduate their current students. So, I don’t know how many of their students will transfer, but our doors are open.â€Â Â   

MCA will sell all their real estate and assets to fund college debt so existing students will be taken care of, according to the school’s press release. The college is planning “teach-outs†to properly close the school. Exhibitions and traditional events such as their annual “Holiday Bazaar†will continue and the funds will go to existing student scholarships.

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