Art Institute Senior Fashion Design Show (copy)

Fashion design students at the Art Institute of Charleston showed off their creations at a 2016 show. File/Staff

The Art Institute of Charleston, a for-profit training ground for the creative industries, is shutting its doors to new students as it grapples with declining enrollments and online competition.

Dream Center Education Holdings LLC said in a statement Monday that it has been "undergoing an ongoing process of evaluating the viability of certain campus-based programs relative to student needs and preferences in order to best support our students, both present and future."

That review led to the decision "to cease new enrollments" at 30 schools, including the Charleston location at East Bay and Market streets and three others in North Carolina. 

"This decision is for new students only and we will redirect prospective students to our online offerings or one of our other campuses," the Pittsburgh-based education company said. "Current, active students should continue to attend class as scheduled."

Dream Center Education also said it plans to "actively work with our accreditors and regulators to assess the viability of our current offerings" at the schools where enrollments are being halted.

The company added that it "remains steadfast in our mission to provide students with accessible, affordable, relevant, and purposeful education aligned with market demands."

Other details weren't immediately available. A company spokeswoman did not respond when asked by email whether the Charleston school, which is a branch of the Atlanta campus, will be shut down eventually.

Dream Center acquired the Art Institute, South University and Argosy University chains last year. The previous owner was Education Management Corp. 

In an internal memo obtained by The News & Observer of Raleigh this week, the new owner discussed its strategic review of the acquired school systems. 

"What has become clear is that we have a critical need and responsibility to become a much more agile organization, responsive to the needs of our students and the changing demands of higher education," Dream Center wrote. 

The decision to halt enrollments at the 30 affected campuses "was made for a number of reasons, including significantly declining enrollment and an increase in the demand for online programs in higher education," according to the document.  

The Art Institute opened its downtown outpost in the Carroll Building in 2007, offering two- and four-year degrees in the creative arts, including culinary, fashion design and film production. 

Tuition and fees for a four-year bachelor's degree total about $90,000, according to the school's website

The city recruited the privately owned Art Institute chain to help fill a void left after Johnson & Wales University moved its local hospitality-focused program to Charlotte about 12 years ago.

Mayor John Tecklenburg's office was not aware of the decision to stop taking new students, spokesman Jack O'Toole said Monday. 

"We'll be reaching to school officials over the coming days to learn more about their plans," he said.

Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott