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Culinary Campus Closures on the Way for Le Cordon Bleu

While the value of culinary school versus a foundation gained toiling in a restaurant kitchen is much debated and the arguments passionate on all sides, choices for those seeking a more formal education in cooking continue to dwindle.

Le Cordon Bleu is set to close its 16 culinary campuses across the country, including its Twin Cities location in Mendota Heights, in 2017. The announcement came Wednesday as Career Education Corp., the for-profit education company that operates Le Cordon Bleu, noted it was unable to reach a deal with potential buyers after saying last year it planned to sell the campuses. 

Le Cordon Bleu and other culinary institutes have faced increased federal scrutiny for their financial aid practices, high tuition costs (LCB charges $40,000 for an associate's degree) and inflated promises of “gainful employment” after receiving a degree. Locally, Minneapolis Community and Technical College closed its culinary arts program last year in part because of high loan defaults, while Hennepin Technical College announced this summer it would close the culinary program at its Eden Prairie campus.

Career Education cited federal regulations that limit federal funding to for-profit schools in its announcement.

“New federal regulations make it difficult to project the future for career schools that have higher operating costs, such as culinary schools that require expensive commercial kitchens and ongoing food costs,” said Chief Executive Todd Nelson. “Despite our best efforts to find a new caretaker for these well-renowned culinary colleges, we could not reach an agreement that we believe was in the best interests of both our students and our stockholders.”

While current students will be allowed to complete their programs, the school won’t enroll new students after a January 4, 2016, deadline. Le Cordon Bleu has 9,200 students, with about 500 in the Twin Cities. As of Monday, December 21, the website for the Mendota Heights campus offered no information about the closing. Its Facebook page also contained no postings related to the closure.

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