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June 01, 2024

University of the Arts abruptly announces closure, loses accreditation

The institution has been in a 'fragile financial state' and will be working to transfer students to neighboring schools in Philadelphia.

Education University of the Arts
University of the Arts University of the Arts/Facebook

The sudden closure of the University of the Arts comes several months after the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts announced its own plans to shutter. The University of the Arts will host a town hall on Monday, June 3.

The University of the Arts confirmed to its students and staff that the school was closing and has lost accreditation, becoming the second Philadelphia art school to close this year.

Operations will end on June 7, with all summer courses and enrollment for the fall canceled. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) announced on Friday that it withdrew the school's accreditation and claimed that the school "failed to inform the Commission of closure in a timely manner."

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A statement from the institution signed by board of trustees chair Judson Aaron and university president Kerry Walk addressed the closure to the UArts community.

"Like you, we are struggling to make sense of the present moment," read the statement. "But like many institutions of higher learning, UArts has been in a fragile financial state, with many years of declining enrollments, declining revenues, and increasing expenses."

According to the statement, there will be separate town hall meetings for students, faculty and staff to address questions and concerns. The message also states that the school will develop "seamless transfer pathways" for students to continue their progress at other schools including Temple University, Drexel University and Moore College of Art and Design.

MSCHE also released its own FAQ for students with questions about the upcoming closure.

"Unfortunately, however, we could not overcome the ultimate challenge we faced: with a cash position that has steadily weakened, we could not cover significant, unanticipated expenses," the statement read. "The situation came to light very suddenly. Despite swift action, we were unable to bridge the necessary gaps."

State Rep. Ben Waxman, whose district includes the University of the Arts, released his own statement, which said he was "profoundly disappointed and frustrated" by the situation. "This esteemed arts school has been a cornerstone of creativity and culture in Center City Philadelphia for generations," the statement read. "Its loss is a significant setback and not only a devastating blow to our local community, but also a significant setback for the arts and education in our city at large."

Waxman committed to "find(ing) answers" relating to the decisions leading to the closure and supporting the displaced students.

The announcement of UArts closing comes less than half a year after another fine arts school in the area, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), announced that it would end its college at the end of the 2024-25 academic year. Its museum and certificate programs will continue.