Detroit Institute of Music Education to Close Its Doors After Six Years

Detroit Institute of Music Education DIME
Courtesy of DIME Group

Exterior of the Detroit Institute of Music Education

Founders Sarah Clayman and Kevin Nixon say DIME was forced to shutter operations after MSU Denver unexpectedly terminated its partnership agreement with the university.

The Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME) is permanently closing its doors after six years in operation, the school has announced.

In a statement released Wednesday, DIME founders Sarah Clayman and Kevin Nixon attributed the closure of both its Detroit and Denver campuses to the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s decision to end its partnership agreement with the music school. Clayman and Nixon claim MSU Denver “voluntarily breached” the agreement by refusing to adhere to the 360-day notice period of termination that would have allowed DIME to seek out other partners and enable it to recruit and educate students for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.

“On March 16th 2020, as the COVID 19 lockdown began, and without prior notice to DIME Directors or senior management, Metropolitan State University of Denver unilaterally announced by email to all DIME students and faculty that they were ending the MSU Denver at DIME partnership agreement,” the statement reads. “Consequently, DIME has been forced to close its physical music education colleges DIME Detroit and DIME Denver.

“On that same day, all DIME students also received a second notice from MSU Denver claiming that their music department could teach-out the current students at both campus’s without DIME and DIME’s Music and Music Business curriculum, despite their own curriculum being that of a standard classical music department.”

In a statement provided to Billboard, MSU Denver COO Larry Sampler refuted Clayman and Nixon's characterization of the partnership's dissolution. In it, he claims MSU Denver provided DIME with 365 days notice of its determination to terminate the agreement and that it was the decision of DIME leadership to immediately end the partnership after MSU Denver requested an audit of the school's financials:

"The MSU Denver-DIME partnership, signed in 2015, was to be an innovative program to educate musicians and those who sought to work in the music industry, but for whom the traditional university education didn’t fit. Initial expectations were high: However, after 5 years, and per an independent marketing study done in 2019, the financial prospects for the partnership going forward were impossibly dire.

"As of 2019, enrollment at both DIME locations (Denver and Detroit) produced only 168 students; less than half the 349 students required for the partnership to break even. Consolidated financial data for both DIME locations showed that in June of 2019 total tuition received was under $2M, while expenses were almost $4M. And, per projections agreed by both MSU Denver and DIME, these numbers were not expected to improve significantly in the coming years.

"Based on the insurmountable financial hurdles facing the partnership, MSU Denver regretfully informed DIME leadership by email on the morning of March 16, 2020 of our decision to terminate the agreement in 365 days (per the agreement): This was not a decision taken lightly or celebrated. In subsequent discussions, the DIME leadership team made the decision to terminate immediately after MSU Denver’s request for an audit of DIME’s financials, effective June 1, 2020.

"MSU Denver recognizes our obligation to our students at both the Denver and Detroit locations, and is reaching out to students now to discuss their academic future – whether with MSU Denver or other options."

Clayman and Nixon launched DIME Detroit in 2014 as part of an effort to help “revitalize and reinvigorate” the city’s music landscape, offering advanced music students degrees in commercial music performance, commercial songwriting and music industry studies. The school opened a second campus, DIME Denver, in 2017. Both were named to Billboard's list of Top Music Business Schools in 2019 and 2020.

DIME additionally operates an online school, which Clayman and Nixon note will not be affected by the end of the partnership agreement. The school's affiliated record label Original 1265 Recordings will also remain in operation.

The original partnership agreement with MSU Denver was signed in 2015 by the school’s former president Steve Jordan and former vp Steve Kreidler. Clayman and Nixon note that leadership at MSU Denver changed in 2017 and that current president Janine Davidson never visited the DIME Detroit campus, having canceled two planned visits in 2019.

Clayman and Nixon claim that DIME directors, along with a team of attorneys and investors, have spent the past nine weeks attempting to negotiate with MSU Denver, which on Monday confirmed its decision to end the partnership agreement and “reject DIME's proposal to teach-out the remaining students together." As a result, they write, “DIME’s students have been left with uncertainty in both cities on how they will continue with their modern music degrees."

In a “personal note” included at the end of the statement, Clayman and Nixon state they “have not given up hope” that they can “reinvent” DIME Detroit in partnership with other local organizations, adding, “We believe that everyone should have the opportunity and access to an education in music that will allow them successful long-term careers in a profession they love.”

The closure of private colleges and universities across the U.S. has become a growing concern during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly those without major endowments to tide them over during the shutdown. According to recent statistics cited by the New York Times, 419 colleges were still accepting applications for the freshman class after the traditional May 1 deadline last year. This year, that number jumped to over 750, indicating a sharp drop in demand.

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