Workforce development
Arts / Education

Students ‘in shock’ over DCAD’s abrupt closure turn to community for support

Despite a $3 million technology investment earlier this year, the Delaware College of Art and Design shut down last week citing financial concerns.

Shocking Self Portrait! Conte Crayons on Toned Gray Sketch Paper 18”x24” by julibirb (Courtesy)

Around 100 current and upcoming students at the Delaware College of Art and Design were left without a college to return to next fall, after last Thursday’s email announcing the closure of the Delaware College of Art and Design.

Just this past February, the two-year school unveiled a brand new $3 million technology center.  It was a big deal, drawing public officials, local entrepreneurs and press. We didn’t know just how close to the brink it was. For students, the closure came without warning, leaving them scrambling to continue their education.

One of those students is a Delaware-born Boricua artist who goes by JuliBirb online. An animation major who commuted to DCAD, she took to Reddit, Instagram and Discord to advocate for herself and her friends.

“I genuinely woke up, saw that in my inbox and thought I was dreaming,” she posted on r/Delaware on Reddit. “I looked in the group chat I had with some of my friends from the college and they were all in shock too.”

Why this matters for Delaware techThe abrupt shutdown of an educational institution impacts Delaware’s future workforce. As companies put a greater emphasis on the importance of art in STEAM education, support for institutions like DCAD is vital. Art is an important part of any innovation ecosystem, making it attractive both in retaining Delaware residents in the workforce and drawing in new talent.

DCAD did not respond to a request for comment. It noted in a press release that it has partnered with Pennsylvania College of Art and Design and Moore College of Art & Design to offer streamlined direct admission for current DCAD students and students DCAD accepted for the 2024-25 school year.

But for JuliBirb and some of her classmates, that’s not an easy solution. DCAD was an accessible way to get an associate degree in her chosen field, she said, since she was able to commute from home.

“Finances are a big challenge now that I’m no longer able to commute, I need to worry about tuition plus the price of residency which is a lot of money that I did not plan for,” JuliBirb told in a direct message conversation on Instagram. “Not only that, but trying to find accurate information is so difficult.” .

Students reported lack of support, financial hardship

While JuliBirb initially felt completely blindsided by the email announcing the school’s closure, other students, who asked to remain anonymous, saw the signs.

A black-and-white drawing features eight different hand gestures arranged in a circular pattern on a white background.

18×24 drawing pad graphite pencils, study from life

“I was an RA and there were an insane amount of hints and clues,” messaged one. “Anyone even remotely close to student life suspected the end was really close.”

Rumors about leadership challenges, lack of support and being ignored by higher-ups all circulated among current students. Students said they were becoming disappointed in the curriculum and facilities, according to the RA. Some even said that the funds that went toward the celebrated technology center may have been better spent on updating other areas.

Former DCAD staff, alumni come together for support

A grayscale still life painting depicting an assortment of fruits, including grapes, pomegranates, and peaches, arranged on a surface.

Master study of abraham brueghel’s pomegranates and other fruits media: soft vine charcoal on watercolor paper 22.25”x27” by M. Bailey @mx.v1s1onary

On the upside, JuliBirb’s online pleas for advice and help went answered by the community.

“It’s been incredibly beneficial to the students of DCAD,” JuliBirb said. “It was genuinely amazing to see what reaching out to the community could do. I was shocked to find out how many responses the Reddit [post] got just overnight.”

Once word got out, JuliBirb says they’ve received messages from former students, professors, and alumni willing to answer any questions they had. That’s “been a serious breath of fresh air for a lot of the DCAD students,” JuliBirb said.

Community members who want to help DCAD students can commission artwork from them or send money to go toward unexpected costs. JuliBirb, for example, posted an Instagram highlights reel connecting the community with impacted students.

“So many DCAD students could use donations and commissions and anything would be a huge help,” she said. “A follow, liking their posts –- anything to boost their medias and reputations, really.”

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