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Victoria's Western Academy of Photography shuts down for 'financial reasons'

Professional photography school's registration cancelled by B.C. governing body; Victoria-based students could receive partial refund
Western Academy of Photography shut its doors permanently today after nearly 30 years of private course offerings in professional photography.

Western Academy of Photography shut its doors permanently on Monday after the private post-secondary institution ran into financial problems.

A representative from the Private Career Training Institutions Agency was at Western's offices (755 Queens Ave.) on Monday to address student concerns, said PCTIA spokesperson Nadia Stefyn. The Crown corporation oversees and approves private education standards for 320 institutions in B.C.

"(Western) notified PCTIA of its inability to continue operating due to financial reasons," Stefyn said. "We are in the process of cancelling the institution's registration."

Arnold Lim, a contract photography instructor at Western, said it's a sad day for faculty and students.

"It's sad for me because I'm tasting this not only as an instructor today and losing one of my jobs, but as a former student who grew up and learned my craft in those halls," said Lim, also a contract employee with Black Press. "When I was attending in 2008, the school was quite full and there was a wait list. It's obviously a tough day for me and my friends there."

Lim said instructors were only informed of the school's imminent closure last week. Students were told on Thursday.

In an email signed by managing director and owner Garry Dodds, the school's 16 students were asked to accept either a partial tuition refund or possibly continue "teach-out" courses through another institution, in accordance with PCTIA bylaws.

Andrea Kucherawy, program manager at Western, confirmed the school was working with PCTIA and students to determine "what will happen." Kucherawy refused further comment.

Dodds did not return calls. It was unclear when Dodds first became aware of the school's financial difficulties.

Tuition at Western Academy of Photography costs $14,900 for 43-week programs in professional photography and journalism/photojournalism. The school has been in operation since 1984, while Dodds assumed ownership in 2000.