I’ve not been a fan of the companies that have owned Brooks Institute in recent years, but still it’s sad to see the news that the much-historied college is closing at the end of October. Career Education, the owner from 1999 to 2015, was notorious for its for-profit schemes at a wide number of various schools that primarily targeted student loans funded by the US government, particularly centered on veterans.
Career sold all of its physical campuses in 2015, and GPhomestay bought the Brooks Institute. This was not a natural fit. GPhomestay is centered around international student exchange programs, not running independent colleges, let alone one with sound stages and a very professional faculty in both photography and filmmaking.
About 250 students are affected by the closing, and the current summer semester will be the last one; no fall 2016 semester will be offered. Essentially, Brooks Institute as we once knew it is gone forever.
Brooks was never cheap—current tuition to get a degree there amounted to over US$80,000—but throughout much of its history one couldn’t argue with the talent of their faculty and the visual teaching that they provided. While the Brooks family operated it, it became one of the leading places to study photography and filmmaking, and produced a constant and deep set of serious and talented practitioners, including Pulitzer Prize winning photographers.
The saddest part of the loss of Brooks is that there really isn’t anything that ever popped up to truly replace it. Sure, there are plenty of public universities and colleges that offer study in photography and filmmaking, including my two alma maters. But a small college solely centered on the visual arts is fast becoming nearly as extinct as a dinosaur. About the closest thing left are a few of the “art institutes” across the country, and some of them have the same “for profit” issues that Brooks Institute ran into with its recent owners.
Images, both still and moving, bombard us every day. Where is the one place that specializes in teaching the next generation to make the very best images? Worse still, Brooks was at its height one of the few places that taught the economics of being of a photographer and how to build a business. At one time the place to go as a future image taker was Brooks. But not lately. And certainly not come October.