Best Value Colleges For Art Majors

In terms of return on investment, arts majors get a bad rap, but PayScale's College ROI Report found that art majors can get a good return on investment if they're smart about where they go and what kind of art they study.

Not all educational institutes are created equally, and PayScale's College ROI Report allows you to see which colleges produce the best return on investment for art majors across the country.  Read More

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1Fashion Institute of Technology - New York, NY(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$508,000
Total 4 Year Cost$85,800
Grad Rate74%
Time to GraduateN/A
Loan Amt$32,000
2Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$503,000
Total 4 Year Cost$101,000
Grad Rate83%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$32,400
3 (tie)Fashion Institute of Technology - New York, NY(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$474,000
Total 4 Year Cost$120,000
Grad Rate74%
Time to GraduateN/A
Loan Amt$32,000
3 (tie)University of California - Davis (UC Davis)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$474,000
Total 4 Year Cost$130,000
Grad Rate83%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$22,700
5Brigham Young University (BYU)(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$455,000
Total 4 Year Cost$69,400
Grad Rate79%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$20,200
6Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$442,000
Total 4 Year Cost$162,000
Grad Rate83%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$32,400
7University of California - Davis (UC Davis)(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$382,000
Total 4 Year Cost$222,000
Grad Rate83%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$22,700
8Academy of Art University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$334,000
Total 4 Year Cost$150,000
Grad Rate31%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$28,900
9San Diego State University (SDSU) - Main Campus(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$325,000
Total 4 Year Cost$99,000
Grad Rate66%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$23,900
10San Jose State University (SJSU)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$297,000
Total 4 Year Cost$96,600
Grad Rate52%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$21,900
11Western Washington University(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$295,000
Total 4 Year Cost$88,900
Grad Rate72%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$23,000
12Syracuse University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$288,000
Total 4 Year Cost$226,000
Grad Rate80%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$35,900
13Central Connecticut State University(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$282,000
Total 4 Year Cost$91,900
Grad Rate52%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$28,300
14San Diego State University (SDSU) - Main Campus(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$280,000
Total 4 Year Cost$144,000
Grad Rate66%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$23,900
15University of Tennessee(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$279,000
Total 4 Year Cost$105,000
Grad Rate69%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$26,000

*NOTE: Unranked schools on this list don’t have on-campus living options, so on-campus costs are not available.

The report's calculations are based on the 20-year earnings of art degree alumni as compared to the initial dollar investment made to obtain said degree from each school. You might be surprised by the findings.

One of the biggest surprises is that the best value colleges for arts major are often not art schools. In fact, only two of the top ten colleges on our art school rankings for art majors are dedicated art schools (the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California.)

The Fashion Institute of Technology of New York provides the highest 20-year net ROI for art majors. Thanks to its relatively low tuition (FIT is a public school) and specialized education with lots of experiential learning opportunities (internships, etc.), alumni see an ROI over $500,000 in the 20 years after graduation.

The rest of the list of best schools for art majors by ROI features a slew of great public schools with strong art programs, including Virginia Polytechnic Institute, the University of California at Davis, San Diego State University and San Jose State University. Each of these schools boasts an ROI over $400,000 even if no financial aid is received.

Brigham Young University (BYU) is a private school with a great ROI for art majors. Alumni with an art degree from BYU report a 20-year net return on investment of $455,000 and an annualized net ROI of 10.8 percent. BYU has one of the lowest tuitions of any private school thanks to large donations from the Mormon Church, making it a good choice if you want to major in art, where there isn't necessarily a huge demand for jobs directly associated with your major.

BYU also churns out some pretty impressive and well-known talent, too. Jon Heder, star of Napoleon Dynamite and Blades of Glory, has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from BYU, along with fellow BYU alum and all-time Jeopardy! winner, Ken Jennings, who maintained a record-breaking 74-game winning streak on the popular game show back in 2004.

The Academy of Art University located in San Francisco, California has the highest return on investment for art majors attending a dedicated art school. Art majors from this accredited fine arts institute can expect a 20-year net return between $334,000 and $364,000, depending on financial assistance status and living arrangements. However, there is one thing to consider if you're thinking of pursuing an art degree at Academy of Art University: the average graduation rate for art majors is 32 percent. If you can manage to be one of the lucky ones to don an Academy of Art University diploma, then rest assured that all of your blood, sweat, and tears have a very promising net ROI over the following 20 years. Just ask special effects Academy Award winner and Academy of Art University alum, Rick Baker, whose filmography includes Maleficent, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Star Wars: Episode IV to name a few.

Hopefully these findings will help encourage more students to pursue art majors and nix the 'starving artist' stereotype once and for all. To help you make a wise investment in your future, check out PayScale's College ROI Report to see which colleges offer the best bang for their educational buck, and which ones don't. However, art majors need to be wise - we also found more than 30 schools where the ROI for art majors is negative, meaning they don't earn back the cost of tuition even after working for 20 years.