Education Management Corp., the Downtown company that owns Art Institutes nationwide, announced Thursday that tuition at the institutes will not rise through 2015, a move that's part of a plan to try to boost enrollment and retain current students.
The freeze would be a continuation of level tuition rates that have been in place at the 49 Art Institutes for the past three years, so a student who started in 2010 or 2011 should able to get a bachelor's degree without experiencing a tuition increase.
Ed West, CEO of EDMC, which is one of several for-profit colleges at the heart of a congressional investigation into the industry's recruiting practices, said the company is trying to make higher education more affordable. In addition to freezing tuition, the plan calls for using more online educational materials instead of expensive textbooks in classes.
The company's stock, like other for-profit colleges, has taken a huge hit in recent years after the high of $20.05 in February 2011. On Thursday, it closed at $3.56 a share.
Mr. West has been touring the company's campuses recently, meeting with 50 to 75 students at a time and talking to them about the company's goals and the students' needs.
One of the goals for EDMC, he said, is to engage the schools with the communities at large, so the professionals who are teaching the students also will reach out to their communities.
While Education Management owns four different college systems, more than half of the company's entire enrollment is at the 49 Art Institutes, which started in Pittsburgh.
Overall, the company has more than 110 locations.
Mr. West said increasing student retention is a top issue, but there is no single fix for keeping students in a program. One new initiative calls for having faculty members work with students at Brown Mackie College to develop a graduation focus plan. That plan will go over all of the distractions that the student can face, on and off campus, to help the student stay focused on completion.
Mr. West said focusing on the students and the education they receive should eventually help improve the company's stock price as well.
Ann Belser: email@example.com or 412-263-1699.