Best Value Colleges For Art Majors

In terms of return on investment, arts majors get a bad rap.  Read More

Find Out Exactly What You
Should Be Paid
Find Out Exactly What You
Should Be Paid


1Brigham Young University (BYU)(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$445,700
Total 4 Year Cost$67,300
Grad Rate78%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$22,200
2Academy of Art University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$406,000
Total 4 Year Cost$147,000
Grad Rate32%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$28,240
3California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly) - San Luis Obispo(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$399,800
Total 4 Year Cost$93,200
Grad Rate70%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$23,360
4Fashion Institute of Technology - New York, NY(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$389,700
Total 4 Year Cost$83,300
Grad Rate70%
Time to GraduateN/A
Loan Amt$30,280
5Fashion Institute of Technology - New York, NY(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$357,000
Total 4 Year Cost$116,000
Grad Rate70%
Time to GraduateN/A
Loan Amt$30,280
6California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly) - San Luis Obispo(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$354,600
Total 4 Year Cost$138,400
Grad Rate70%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$23,360
7San Diego State University (SDSU) - Main Campus(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$287,900
Total 4 Year Cost$95,100
Grad Rate66%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$23,200
8Syracuse University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$274,200
Total 4 Year Cost$218,800
Grad Rate81%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$34,720
9San Diego State University (SDSU) - Main Campus(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$242,700
Total 4 Year Cost$140,300
Grad Rate66%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$23,200
10Texas Tech University(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$229,700
Total 4 Year Cost$83,300
Grad Rate59%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$30,800
11California State University - Chico(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$222,400
Total 4 Year Cost$90,600
Grad Rate56%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$20,440
12 (tie)James Madison University (JMU)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$216,600
Total 4 Year Cost$86,400
Grad Rate81%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$27,640
12 (tie)San Francisco State University (SFSU)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$216,600
Total 4 Year Cost$96,400
Grad Rate45%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$22,200
14Massachusetts College of Art and Design(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$205,800
Total 4 Year Cost$102,000
Grad Rate74%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$29,600
15San Jose State University (SJSU)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$200,000
Total 4 Year Cost$93,000
Grad Rate48%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$20,960

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

However, PayScale's College ROI Report found one thing to be true: Art majors can have a promising return on investment. But, not all educational institutes are created equal, and PayScale's College ROI Report allows you to compare apples to apples and see which colleges produce the best return on investment for art majors across the country. 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.

Topping the list on PayScale's College ROI Report for art majors is Utah's Brigham Young University (BYU), pulling in a 20-year net return on investment of $445,700 and an annualized net ROI of 10.9 percent -- this is for students not collecting financial aid. When financial assistance is factored in, the net return for BYU art majors over 20 years jumps to $463,100 with an annualized net ROI of 12.5 percent. To add to these impressive stats, BYU art majors see the highest 20-year net ROI and annualized net ROI out of all the schools on PayScale's College ROI Report, and these figures remain unchanged when considering on- or off-campus living.

BYU doesn't just top the charts for being the best value college for art majors, this private school 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.

Second on the list for best value colleges for art majors is another private school, Academy of Art University located in San Francisco, California. Art majors from this accredited fine arts institute can expect a 20-year net return between $406,000 and $441,200, 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. Yes, you read that correctly -- thirty-two 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.

Last, but definitely not least, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo comes in third for highest return on investment for art majors. Students can expect a 10.7 percent annualized return on investment for majors in the arts, assuming they're receiving financial aid, which results in an estimated $426,100 return based on 20 year expected earnings post graduation. The mighty Mustangs are proving that they're one of the front-runners for best-value colleges for art majors across the board.

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.