Best Value Colleges for Art

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.

Find out exactly what you should be paid
RankSchool Name20 Year Net ROI
Total 4 Year Cost
Graduation Rate
Typical Years to Graduate
Average Loan Amount
Rank:1School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$869,000Total 4 Year Cost:$303,000Graduation Rate:96%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$35,500
Rank:2School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$614,000Total 4 Year Cost:$118,000Graduation Rate:92%Typical Years to Graduate:5Average Loan Amount:$31,200
Rank:3School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$566,000Total 4 Year Cost:$112,000Graduation Rate:82%Typical Years to Graduate:-Average Loan Amount:$28,300
Rank:4School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$548,000Total 4 Year Cost:$118,000Graduation Rate:69%Typical Years to Graduate:5Average Loan Amount:$21,400
Rank:5School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$522,000Total 4 Year Cost:$299,000Graduation Rate:84%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$38,800
Rank:6School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$492,000Total 4 Year Cost:$309,000Graduation Rate:94%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$34,300
Rank:7School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$479,000Total 4 Year Cost:$288,000Graduation Rate:65%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$30,100
Rank:8School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$475,000Total 4 Year Cost:$187,000Graduation Rate:38%Typical Years to Graduate:5Average Loan Amount:$28,100
Rank:9School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$471,000Total 4 Year Cost:$317,000Graduation Rate:97%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$53,400
Rank:10School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$458,000Total 4 Year Cost:$237,000Graduation Rate:79%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$30,200

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. 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 a few of the colleges on our art school rankings for art majors are dedicated art schools.

The Fashion Institute of Technology of New York typically provides a high ROI for art majors, largely thanks to its relatively low tuition (FIT is a public school) and specialized education with lots of experiential learning opportunities (internships, etc.).

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.

Brigham Young University (BYU) is a private school with a great ROI for art majors. 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 a high return on investment for art majors attending a dedicated art school. 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 a number of 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.