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An interview with Katia Savchuk: the backstory behind Academy of Art University

Christian Peacock / Forbes

In just over two decades, Academy of Art University in San Francisco has been transformed under President Elisa Stephens. It has expanded from just over 2,000 students to 16,000. Its revenues have also grown from around eight million dollars a year to about $300 million.

But while the nation’s largest private art university is thriving financially, its students are not. The for-profit school does not require an art portfolio to get in, and less than a third graduate within six years. The result is thousands of people saddled with student debt and a very uncertain future in the art world.

That’s what Forbes staff writer Katia Savchuk found when she wrote the article “Black Arts: The $800 Million Family Selling Art Degrees and False Hopes.” She sat down to talk about it with KALW’s Ben Trefny.

"A student I talked to who was serving coffee at Starbucks and is now driving for Lyft said ... [he] is now back at a community college taking computer science classes to try to improve his career prospects." -Katia Savchuk

  To hear the full interview, click on the audio player above.

Ben was hired as Interim Executive Director of KALW in November, 2021.