Graphic Design School Financial Aid

by Cathy Sivak
Graphic Design School Financial Aid

Creative ways to fund your design education...

The field of design is wide open for new ideas, and numerous higher education opportunities exist for potential students.

At private colleges and universities, as well as career-focused schools, the cost for a design education (tuition, room, and board, plus costs for books, supplies, and computer software) can reach as high as $40,000 to $50,000 annually. And according to the College Board, average tuition at four-year public schools is also climbing, and is now at an average of $6,585 for in-state students,

A design education at career-oriented schools can be comparable in cost to private and state schools. Academy College of Digital Art and Design in Bloomington, Minn., offers associates degrees with total tuition costs ranging from $21,000 to more than $30,000, depending on the concentration. Students at accredited institutions such as the Academy undergo the same educational process as colleges and universities, but find a speedier path to the workforce, explains Paul Burkhartzmeyer III, Academy's Director of Admissions.

It is important to remember that some schools may seem cost-prohibitive, but be sure to consider the school's reputation as it may serve to significantly increase your own marketability and allow you to be more selective when considering job offers in this highly competitive field.

Funding your education can seem like a daunting task, yet there are many good sources out there to help you find the money you need. Beyond savings and families with deep pockets, federal financial aid, grants, and scholarships can be combined to absorb many of the costs, however, many students still have to work part-time to supplement expenses.

Students and their parents often expect grants and scholarships to cover most higher education costs, but most U.S. students tap into the U.S. Department of Education federal financial aid program for low-interest student loans. Total aid per full-time equivalent student averages about $9,100, including $3,600 in grants. Applications for financial aid can be made on-line at the site link above, or forms can be printed for traditional mailing. (Editor's Note: See for more information on the changes that have recently benn made to the Federal Financial Aid program.)

"Most students in most disciplines will have to use some type of federal or private student loan program," says Paula Cady, the president of the Arizona Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators, who also serves as the director of student financial services at the Art Institute of Phoenix. The Art Institute of Phoenix offers one half-tuition and one full-tuition award per discipline annually.

Individual graphic design schools offer varying levels of scholarship support. Design scholarship application guidelines typically require work samples, as well as supporting materials such as an essay and application forms. For best results, students should offer a broad sampling of work and make sure to complete (and submit) applications in a neat and timely manner. "The students with the best portfolios submitted are going to probably be the recipients of those scholarships," Cady says. Check admissions catalogs and school websites to help gauge the availability of scholarship opportunities and financial aid support on a school-by-school basis.

Other scholarship and grant opportunities can be culled from reference books found in high school guidance counselor's offices or the local library, as well as by checking out online scholarship search engines, and various educational and professional organizations associated with the field of design (see links with this article). "The individual scholarships are not as easy to apply for as general financial aid, but it's sure worthwhile when the checks start rolling in," Cady says.

More information about advertising design and advertising design scholarships:

Scholarship and financial aid sites:

  • Fastweb - a free online search service to locate scholarship money.
  • - scholarship, loan and savings guidance.

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