March 30, 2023

When it comes to honing your creative skills and expanding your knowledge in arts and design, secondary art education is not something many stray away from. We compiled a list of some of the best art and design schools in the nation based on retention and graduation rate.

Yale University

Founded in 1701 by a group of twelve academics and clergymen who wanted to foster critical thinking, religious tolerance, and equality, Yale University remains as much a center of privilege and wealth as it is a center of academic study. 

Consistently ranked first in the fine arts program, the Yale School of Art was established in 1972. It specializes in painting and photography, ranking first in both fields, and is second among the top schools for sculpture and design.

Because of this, admission to Yale is very exclusive and competitive. In 2010, only 65 of the 1,142 applicants were admitted to Yale’s School of Art. Only around 20 students are accepted for its painting art program each year.

The cost of studying at Yale University School of Arts goes as high as $65,675. This includes tuition of $42,275, books and supplies of $5,400, and estimated living expenses of $18,000.

Yale’s biggest selling point is its vast connection to the art community, allowing its students to get access and build a relationship with the industry’s most respected names.

Yale art students get the highest art criticism and feedback from notable artists. Some even get job offers from galleries and international exhibitions before graduation.



Savannah College of Art and Design

Located in Georgia, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is a private non-profit art school founded in 1978. It has highly specialized degrees in programs that are not very common in schools in the southeast of the US. It prides itself as the university for creative careers.

In 2002, the school branched out to open a study abroad location in Lacoste, France. The following year, SCAD launched an online learning program. In 2005, it opened another campus in Georgia in Atlanta, which merged with the Atlanta College of Art in 2006. SCAD opened its second international location in 2010 in Hong Kong. Further establishing itself as a reputable art school, SCAD opened its second museum, the FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, in 2015.

With a focus on arts and design, SCAD’s most popular majors include Visual and Performing Arts, Communications, and Architecture. The school also offers ceramics, graphic design, historic preservation, textile design, interior design, painting, photography, and printmaking programs.

The acceptance rate in SCAD is generally high, averaging 96%. Tuition costs are $44,460 a year. Other expenses such as housing, meals, books, and supplies cost $15,000 a year.

SCAD earned the top spot in the Forbes list for Best Colleges, shaping fashion’s future globally. The list cited SCAD’s advancement of digital-only or combined learning modalities for fashion-forward education. The school was also recently named number one in the US and number two in the Americas and Europe in Red Dot Design’s best design for the fourth consecutive year at the professional and academic level.



Portland State University

Portland State University is a public research university in Oregon founded in 1946. It started as a post-secondary school for World War II veterans before becoming a university in 1969. It is the only urban-based public university in Oregon.

While PSU offers more than 200 degree programs, the school prides itself on its College of the Arts, which houses architecture, art + design, music, and theater + film. It also offers minors in art history and graphic design.

In particular, PSU’s School of Art + Design’s Graphic Design program has consistently ranked among the best programs in the country. Most recently, it ranked 20 among public schools in the US, placing it in the top 3% nationally. It is also holding the top spot for graphic design programs in Oregon. 

With an admissions rate of 95%, PSU offers affordable tuition for art students ranging from around $18,000 for residents to $45,000 for non-residents. This already includes books and supplies, housing and meals, and other personal expenses.



Columbia University

A New York-based Ivy League school, Columbia University is one of the US’s oldest and most prestigious universities. It was established in 1754 as King’s College, making it one of the nine colonial colleges founded before the Declaration of Independence. 

The school was renamed Columbia College in 1784 after the American Revolution. In 1896, the campus was moved to its current location and Columbia University. The school is among the eight Ivy League institutions that dominate the arts, sciences, and social sciences.

Columbia University offers an array of art programs such as visual arts, dance, architecture, theater, arts initiative, art history, film, literary arts, and music for art students. It boasts of its reputable and well-respected faculty members, ensuring that its students learn only from the best.

The university also has a School of the Arts or SoA, which offers fine arts graduate school programs. It is considered one of the leading institutions for studying visual and performing arts in the US and is ranked at number 10 for Best Fine Arts Program in the US.

As an Ivy League school, Columbia University’s admission rate is steep at only 3.66%. Undergraduate art programs cost $65,860, including tuition, housing, and other expenses. The school, however, offers grants to select students up to $46,516.



University of California, Los Angeles

Another prestigious school worldwide, the University of California, Los Angeles, most commonly known as UCLA, is one of the most preferred schools for arts in the US. It is a public land-grant research university founded in 1882 as a teachers’ college. 

In its first 32 years, UCLA was only treated as an off-site department of the University of California. It was in 1927 that UCLA officially got renamed. In 1958, the school dropped the word “at” in its name and replaced it with a comma.

UCLA is considered one of the country’s public Ivy schools. It is known for its strong art and design programs aside from its business and sports programs. The school ranked number one for the Best Fine Arts Programs list, number two in photography, sculpture, and time-based media, and number eight in painting and drawing.

The UCLA Department of Art prides itself on nurturing an environment of critical inquiry and transformative creativity. Here, art students are encouraged to practice autonomy and experimentation. They also get a chance to work closely with internationally-recognized faculty and artists.

Tuition and other expenses for UCLA’s art school usually cost $29,000 to $37,000 for residents and $60,000 to $68,000 for non-residents.



Rhode Island School of Design

Located at the heart of Providence, Rhode Island School of Design is a private art school and design school founded as a co-educational institution in 1877. 

The school was a brainchild of Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf, who was motivated to address a deficiency in design education accessible to women after visiting the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. RSID’s primary purpose is to aid in cultivating the arts of design, and it continues to do so today.

RISD owns one of the largest college art museums in the US—The Rhode Island School of Design Museum. It is also one of the oldest institutions of higher learning devoted exclusively to the visual arts in the United States. 

A haven for art and design students, RISD ranked fourth in the QS World University Rankings of Art & Design programs in 2021. The school was also ranked sixth in Design Intelligence’s ranking of the Top Architecture Schools in the US for 2019.Making it one of the most recognized art schools in the nation.

The school’s specialization and good reputation make it one of the most expensive arts and design schools in the US. The total estimated tuition cost for undergraduate programs at RISD is valued at $77,280. Graduate programs cost a little higher at $82,490. These already include tuition, activity, academic and technology fees, books and supplies, housing and meals, and other personal expenses.



School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Founded in 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is a private art school in Illinois that traces its roots from an art students’ cooperative which grew in a museum and school. It is regarded as the oldest art school in the US and is considered as one of the highly reputable art schools.

With a moderately selective acceptance rate of 48.6%, SAIC offers a comprehensive range of arts, design, film, architecture, journalism, and new media classes. It is a perfect choice for art students who have specific interests and focus as they may find the exact art degree program they want to pursue in school.

It provides an interdisciplinary curriculum, cutting-edge facilities, renowned faculty, exceptional resources including the Art Institute of Chicago, and the necessary freedom to develop as artists, designers, and scholars. It is also ranked number seven in the world’s best art and design college.

If you are interested in studying at SAIC, tuition usually costs $50,000 to $65,000. Housing costs $15,190, and the charges for books and supplies and other expenses stand at $1,770 and $2,000, respectively.



Hunter College, City University of New York

One of the constituent colleges of the City University of New York, Hunter College, is a public university founded in 1870 originally as a women’s college before it became a co-ed school in 1946. Now regarded as one of the top art schools in the city as well.

Hunter University offers art, dance, film, music, and theater classes, a renowned school for its art degree programs. These programs boast of faculty and graduates that are critically acclaimed in the art community.

Regarded as one of the Top 15 Art Schools in the US by Artsy in 2017, Hunter University ranks number nine in sculpture, painting, and drawing. The US News and World Report also ranked the university’s fine arts programs at number 23 in the US.

This makes admission to Hunter’s art degree programs highly competitive at an 8% average rate. The good news is tuition at Hunter University is relatively low at $7,000 to $19,000 a year.



Cranbrook Academy of Art

A part of the five schools of the Crankbook Educational Community, the Crankbook Academy of Art is one of the leading graduate schools for architecture, art, and design in the US. The school was founded by George Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth in 1932.

Known for its apprenticeship teaching method, Crankbook is an excellent choice for art students who prefer unconventional and personalized learning. The school allows self-directed learning with guidance and supervision of artist-in-residence. 

Although only offering two degrees—fine arts and architecture—the school has produced noteworthy graduates and has consistently produced some of the world’s leading artists, architects, and designers.

Due to its radical approach to teaching, Crankbook admission is steep since it only accepts 100 students per year. Total tuition cost stands at $40,000 annually.



Virginia Commonwealth University

Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1838, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is not only known for its medical degree programs. Still, it is also topping the list of the best art schools in the US. 

One of the most selective private universities and one of the most urban in its location, VCU opened its School of Arts, most commonly referred to as VCUarts, in 1928, starting as a single painting class by artist Theresa Pollack. Since then, VCUarts has become a top public, non-profit art and design school in Virginia. In 1998, it opened a branch in Doha, Qatar, offering five bachelor’s and one master’s degree.

VCUarts ranks fourth among all US art schools, a top-ranked school for arts and design. It is number one in sculpture, top two in printmaking, top four in graphic design, top five in kinetic imaging, and number 12 in painting. 

Art students and graduates of VCUarts are viewed as credible and professional artists, respected in the art community. Hence, admission to VCUarts is very competitive. But once admitted, tuition cost is relatively lower than those who also ranked high in the Best Arts Schools in the US list with a tuition range of $12,000 to $33,000 a year.



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