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BU affiliate declares bankruptcy, students to complete programs at COM

After the Center for Digital Imaging Arts, a for-profit school formerly affiliated with Boston University, declared bankruptcy on June 11, BU announced they would issue certificates for 40 students who are still enrolled in the program.

Since 2004, BU has issued certificates in digital arts fields including filmmaking, animation and web design to students at the Waltham-based CDIA. CDIA, an institution with a focus on career-oriented education, also has satellite campuses in Washington and Atlanta, according to the school’s website.

In what BU spokesman Colin Riley called a “business decision,” BU announced last year that its relationship with CDIA would be terminated effective May 2014. However, when CDIA declared bankruptcy last week, 25 students at the Waltham campus and 15 students at the Washington campus still needed to complete additional courses to obtain a certificate.

“The students who are remaining are part-time students and they’re nearly to the end of their programs,” Riley said. “We’re making sure that the program will continue for all those students.”

CDIA students in Waltham will relocate to BU’s Charles River campus where they will likely receive their certificates over the summer, Riley said.

Boston University and College of Communication Dean Thomas Fiedler are listed as creditors to CDIA in bankruptcy paperwork submitted Monday. However, Riley said, the school’s bankruptcy will not affect BU or its students.

“The students who are finishing up take two classes a week,” he said. “They’ll be out as soon as possible.”

CDIA’s executive director, Bob Daniels, a BU alumnus who had previously worked with BU on an executive training program, came to BU with the idea of establishing a vocational training program in digital communications, Fiedler said.

BU provided the license necessary for CDIA to operate as an educational entity, and COM agreed to provide additional educational oversight of the programs, Fiedler said. There was also a profit-sharing arrangement based on the amount of tuition that CDIA collected.

Students at CDIA, which operated under BU’s name, were treated as BU students and made payments to BU, Fiedler said, and CDIA’s financial difficulties were due in large part to the decreased availability of student loans after the economic recession in 2008.

“The money virtually dried up, and the students didn’t have access to things like federal funding, so the CDIA was not able to continue to attract the numbers of students that would enable them to continue to cover the investments they had made,” Fiedler said.

Fiedler said BU and COM became concerned with the financial difficulties CDIA faced during the economic recession in 2008, as well as the CDIA’s ability to continue to deliver an education up to BU’s expectations given their economic constraints.

“It became imperative to us, because we felt absolutely responsible for making sure the students who had come into that school were treated like Boston University students,” he said.

Fiedler said the remaining part-time students from the Waltham campus, which is now closed, will be taking classes in COM until they receive their certificates. Most of them, who are taking a 24- or 36-month program, will finish their courses over the summer, he said.

“We wanted to be sure that the students who currently were enrolled in any of those programs were fully taken care of,” Fiedler said. “…The quality of the programs was very important to us so that what they were promised when they first came would be fulfilled, and the quality of the certificate of itself would be as high as it could be.”

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