For over fifty years, the name Brooks Institute of Photography has been synonym for excellence and prestige in photography education. In recent years however, the college’s reputation began to suffer, resulting in a sharp decline in enrollment – from 2,563 new students in 2005 to 773 in 2010 – and an increase in faculty lay-offs – from 82 members in 2005 to 47 in 2010.
This dramatic cutback has been blamed on two factors: an economic situation that discourage riskier career choices, and the sales of Brooks Institute to Career Education Corporation (CEC) in 1999. Some professionals accuse CEC of putting the priority on marketing operations instead of maintaining a high educational standard. Brooks Institute of Photography was prosecuted not once, but twice, for inflating job placement rates in order to obtain national accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. The State of California estimates the 2009 job placement rate to stand at 68%.
The newly appointed President of the school, Susan Kirkman, intends to rebuild the school’s capacity and reputation. In the 1980s, Brooks was famously authorized to photograph the Shroud of Turin. Today, it continues to pursue exciting projects that reach beyond the photo school : the 2010 student documentary program in Vietnam was directed by no other than Nick Ut.
Hands-on, experiential learning has always been the school’s foremost pedagogical principle. Today, Brooks offers four Bachelor programs in Professional Photography, Film, Graphic Design and Visual Journalism, as well as two Certificate and two Graduate programs, distributed between its two California campuses in Santa Barbara and Ventura, where students have access to state-of-the-art equipment. As part of Brooks’s strategic plan, the courses are becoming more interdisciplinary, supporting its students in becoming the versatile visual professionals that are expected on the market today.