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Brooks Institute Under Fire
Ventura County Star (California)

Students are also worried about the increasing costs of attending the private school, which they say is more expensive than some Ivy League universities. Some students report incurring debt of more than $100,000 to earn a three-year degree at Brooks. The 45 full-time working graduates of Brooks' 2003 class made an average of $26,000 a year, according to the 2005 report.

Strick, who has been president of Brooks since the summer of 2003, said he would deal with their concerns.

"I want you to hold me accountable," Strick told students at the meeting.

P.F. Bentley criticizes school

In addition to visual journalism, Brooks' also offers degrees in professional photography, film and video production and visual communication.

P.F. Bentley, a former White House photographer who has won numerous awards, said he left Brooks last year after three and a half years of teaching there because of increasing frustration.

It was hard "to get the administration to allow and support the (visual journalism) faculty to update the VJ program in order to fit the evolving needs of the marketplace, which is so multimedia and video-orientated," he said.

"I felt the program was training students for jobs that are no longer available and I couldn't ethically or morally be part of that," Bentley said this week from New York City, where he lives.

Many students wore T-shirts with the words "P.F. Bentley changed my life" when he left the school, said Traci Christman, 27, a visual journalism student at Brooks.

Christman said school administrators were not forthright with students over why Bentley left.

"They never told us exactly why he left, only that he'd gone on to seek other opportunities," Christman said.

Though many students were saddened and disheartened by Bentley's departure, Christman said many were reluctant to speak about it publicly.

"Some students feel that if they speak with the press about this that the bad publicity will hurt the school," said Christman, adding some students may also fear that anything that tarnishes the school's reputation would make it harder for them to get a job once they graduate.

Christman called this keep-quiet approach "a huge mistake." She said students are better served if their grievances are made public. She said this will provide a stronger incentive to solve problems at the school rather than keeping them under wraps.

Brooks was founded in 1945 by Ernest H. Brooks Sr., a commercial photographer who saw a need for greater training in the rapidly expanding field of photography. Some of the world's greatest photographers have taught there over the years, including Ernst Haas, a pioneer in the use of color in photojournalism.

Brooks' son, Ernest H. Brooks II, later ran the school on its original 25-acre campus in Santa Barbara.