Financial Aid for Graphic Design School

by Julie Bourque
Financial Aid for Graphic Design School

Tuition, room and board, books, lab fees and supplies are all expenses to consider when applying for college, particularly private art schools for graphic design. Tuition alone can be $6,000 to $10,000 per semester: tack on room and board and an extra $2,000 or so for art supplies for the year, and interior design students have one hefty bill.

"Don't look at schools based on the sticker price," says Bill White, chair of the art department at Hollins University in Roanoke, Va. "Look at what the possible final costs might be to you after you have considered need-based and merit-based scholarships."

Need-based scholarships are offered by both the state and federal government and are based on a family's income, White says. Merit scholarships go to, "superior students in their field of study," he added.

Private art schools and state universities both offer a number of these types of scholarships.

Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Cal., for example, offers the state and federal Pell grants and student loans, as well as scholarships funded by their own school.

"Students can submit their portfolio, and, based on review, may receive a scholarship for 50, 75 or 100 percent of their tuition," explains Joe Vollaro, executive vice president of financial aid and compliance at the Academy.

The above-mentioned scholarship is only offered for students in the summer program, but there are also several scholarships available for students attending the academy in the fall and spring semesters, Vollaro says.

Both White and Vollaro stress the need to send portfolios in early -- as early as February of the year you plan to start school.

"If you send your portfolio in earlier, the information will be evaluated sooner and more money may be available for an award," White says.

With the fine art field in general, there is always competition for scholarships wherever one applies. But, because these scholarships are based on both the application content and the students' portfolios, students are competing with other works of art.

"The competition varies from year to year," White says. "All you can do is send in your best 20 slides of work that have been done under instruction of someone else or on your own, and hope for the best."

Because the expenses and the competition are high, students may have to rely on loans to get them through college.

"There is a type of loan that students are really relying on," Vollaro says. "There are a lot of education lenders that cover all student expenses, if they have good credit."

Vollaro warns, however, that loans may be easy to get, but they do have to be paid back when college is over. He says searching (and searching and searching) for scholarships outside of your goal school is important.

"Though the process is exasperating, I think, even if you are stuck with paying a ton of loans after college, it's worth it," Vollaro says. "Art students have an advantage. When they go to work, they're going to do something they love, and when you love what you do, it's not work."

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