11 Affordable Art Schools in Art World Centers (and Some Alternatives)

Living in New York may no longer be necessary.

Public Art Challenge winner Current: LA River, in Los Angeles (rendering). Photo: courtesy Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Ralph Fasanella, New York City (1957). Courtesy of the Estate of Ralph Fasanella.

Ralph Fasanella, New York City (1957).
Courtesy of the Estate of Ralph Fasanella.

Some may call New York the center of the art world, yet rising rents make living in the city difficult for many artists. Hoping to stay where they make and show their work, some move to the fringes of the city, but others have decided to make up-and-coming locales their home.

Living in a city known for its connection to the art world is great for exposure to galleries, networking opportunities, and cultural events, but the downside is considerable.

But what if you have your heart set on an art school in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago? While the opportunities to connect with professional artists and show your work can be plentiful, the cost of living can be prohibitive. Prospective students should keep in mind that rent and miscellaneous expenses must be added to the already formidable cost of tuition and supplies.

There are affordable ways to study in the city of your choice, and artnet News has found them below.

John Baldessari, Hands Framing New York Harbor from Pier 18 (1971). Courtesy of MoMA.

John Baldessari, Hands Framing New York Harbor from Pier 18 (1971).
Courtesy of MoMA.

So you want to study in…NEW YORK

While it is no secret that Manhattan is an extremely expensive place to live (Forbes reports that Manhattan came in just after San Francisco as one of the worst cities for renters in 2014), Hunter College is one of the borough’s least-costly institutions. New York State residents pay $10,436 for the 2015-2016 school year, assuming that they are enrolled full-time.

That amount is a little over half of what non-residents pay ($19,026), and pales in comparison to Columbia University’s $55,356 tuition for the year. The program tied for the 13th spot in the US News and World Report‘s education ranking for Fine Arts programs in 2012 and its location on the Upper East Side situates it nearby world-class museums and galleries, such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Another option is to study outside of the city, yet stay in close proximity. The Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University is in New Brunswick, NJ—located around 40 miles outside of Manhattan. The school has an impressive list of visiting faculty (past artists have included Nicole Eisenman, Carroll Dunham, and Anicka Yi. For the Fall 2015 semester, Moyra Davey is on the list, and Kara Walker serves as the school’s Tepper Chair. NJ residents pay state tuition which is $17,184 for the current school year, while those attending from out-of-state pay $26,880.

Also, New Jersey Transit offers a student discount to scholarly commuters.

Public Art Challenge winner Current: LA River, in Los Angeles (rendering). Photo: courtesy Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Public Art Challenge winner Current: LA River, in Los Angeles (rendering).
Photo: courtesy Bloomberg Philanthropies.

So you want to study in…LOS ANGELES

If you want to be immersed in LA’s art scene while you study, look no further than University of California, Los Angeles. UCLA‘s art program ranked fourth overall in the latest US News and World Report for Fine Arts programs, a title it shares with Virginia Commonwealth University. California residents pay $15, 909 for tuition, with non-residents charged about double at $31,011.

The price tag still seems like a bargain when you factor in the esteemed faculty of which Andrea Fraser, Barbara Kruger, and Catherine Opie are part, the Hammer Museum is on site, and alumni such as Wu Tsang (MFA 2010) and Devin Kenny (MFA 2013) have garnered recent acclaim.

Iwaan Baan, Chicago skyline, photographed as part of an artistic commission by the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Iwaan Baan, Chicago skyline.
Image: Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial.

So you want to study in…CHICAGO

You could choose to study at the School of Art Institute of Chicago, second to Yale School of Art and tied with Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in the US News and World Report‘s art school rankings, for an opportunity to learn from artist and curator Michelle Grabner. But with tuition priced at $1,527 per credit hour, SAIC will cost you. Nearby, the University of Illinois at Chicago‘s Art department offers an MFA degree and the opportunity to study with scholar Hannah Higgins at a smaller cost: Illinois residents pay $5,470 per semester, while non-residents are charged $11,860 for enrolling in 12 or more credit hours.

However, if you are considering moving to the Midwest for school, you may want to consider Detroit, since the city is in the midst of a cultural renaissance. With an influx of artists moving in, more opportunities for making and showing work are being realized. And while the Cranbrook Academy of Art in nearby Bloomfield Hills is costly at $33,406 for the 2015-2016 school year, opportunities to save on rent abound.

Arts writers can apply for the Write-A-House residency and be given a whole house.


The FLESH suit, by Victor Ivanov and Lewis G. Burton, on the streets of London.
Photo: Courtesy the artists.

So you want to study in…LONDON

Goldsmiths College, part of the University of London, is known for its strong MFA program and for cultivating the practices of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, and other YBAs. With famous alumni and lecturers, the reputation alone might be worth its £9,000 tuition for UK and EU residents, and even its hefty £20,000 tuition for international students. Goldsmiths benefits from being located in vibrant New Cross, close to nearby Deptford—named as an affordable neighborhood for students last year.

For international students looking to study abroad, you may also want to look north to Scotland for the Glasgow School of Art or Edinburgh College of Art. MFA degrees for those coming from outside of the UK and EU cost £13,534 and £12,300 respectively. Depending on the exchange rate, these prices may be cheaper than private schools stateside.

Ai has a three-year residency as a guest professor at Berlin's UDK art school. Photo: berlin.de

Ai Weiwei has a three-year residency as a guest professor at Berlin’s UDK art school.
Photo: berlin.de.

So you want to study in…BERLIN

Now that activist artist Ai Weiwei has a residency at Universität der Künste Berlin, perhaps this is the time to apply to study in Germany’s capital city and cultural center. A huge plus is that students do not pay tuition, and are charged roughly €300 in fees per semester. This savings could be worth the cost of the flight and language classes, so you may want to get your passport ready.

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