The University of Southern California's Roski School of Art and Design will be missing an entire graduate class come 2016. All seven first-year master of fine arts students have dropped out, citing unexpected changes to the program's curriculum, USA Today reports. In a statement, the students say they were promised teaching assistant positions during recruitment, but were then told they would need to compete with other masters candidates. They say they were also lately informed there would be no studio visits and reduced scholarships. "We feel betrayed, exhausted, disrespected, and cheated by USC of our time, focus, and investment," the students say, per the New York Times, noting they will "return to the workforce degree-less and debt-full."
The students say over four months of meetings, the vice provost for Graduate Programs said "the communication we received during recruitment clearly stating our funding packages was an 'unfortunate mistake,' and that if the program wasn’t right for us, we 'should leave.'" They add, "We had no idea whether we'd graduate with twice the amount of debt we thought we would graduate with." Dean Erica Muhl doesn't think the students had much to complain about as they "would have received a financial package worth at least 90% of tuition costs in scholarships and teaching assistantships." She adds that USC "honored all the terms" it offered. A former professor, one of several to leave the program recently, sides with the students. They "are correct in terms of funding, curriculum, and faculty structure," she tells the Los Angeles Times. "All changed in relation to the program they agreed to enter."