In developing this ranking of 20 best deals on small colleges for aspiring artists, we sought opportunity-rich, small fine arts colleges with a net price comparatively lower than similar institutions of this size and specialty. We awarded points based on scholarship availability, diversity in faculty and student body, advanced fine arts learning facilities, progressive curriculum, international exchange opportunities, experiential learning, frequent exhibition opportunities, flexible degree track options, and any additional distinctions that enhance the small arts college experience. The 20 top art colleges profiled here scored the highest among schools with maximum enrollment of 6,000 students and a net price (per College Navigator) of $31,000 USD or less. Schools appear here in order of points earned in our ranking; in the event of a points tie, schools with lower net price are ranked higher. The following serves as a guide for aspiring artists seeking the best deal for their fine arts degree.
#20 – Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design
Net Price: $23,707
Found in the city’s artistic third ward, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in Wisconsin has a structured, focused approach to fine arts higher learning. All students are required to complete two stages of foundational and cross-disciplinary courses before narrowing down to their specialty major. Fine arts majors at MIAD include communication design, illustration, interior architecture, and studio art mediums. This college has community partnerships with renowned cultural institutions such as Discovery World Museum, where students are offered exhibit exposure and other opportunities. For those looking for a small-school experience, the Institute rates very favorably among top art colleges in the Midwest.
#19 – Art Academy of Cincinnati
Net Price: $17,683
Located in the heart of the city, the Art Academy of Cincinnati is an affordable fine arts college with a small and vibrant creative community. BFA students may choose from concentrations including design, drawing, illustration, painting, print media, photography and sculpture. BFA graduates seeking an MFA can can earn their master’s in arts education at this institution. The Art Academy of Cincinnati prides itself on turning its fine arts students into contemporary, forward-thinking career artists.
#18 – Talladega College
Net Price: $9,332
Located on a quaint, rural campus in the foothills of Alabama’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Talladega College has the proud distinction of being the oldest private historically black college. This institution’s fine arts program offers BA degree options in painting, ceramics, and graphic arts. The students of Talladega College enjoy the benefits of mentor-based and cross-cultural learning due to its small student body and diverse faculty. Talladega offers one of the most affordable liberal arts degrees available, and 98% of full-time students receive either financial aid, need-based scholarships, grants, loans, or engage in work-study programs.
#17 – Oregon College of Art and Craft
Net Price: $23,829
Oregon College of Art and Craft is a highly selective institution among top arts colleges and boasts a location in one of the most progressive cities in the U.S. With a total enrollment of under 200 students, one’s artistic capabilities flourish in a unique mentor-based fine arts learning experience. This college offers a wide spectrum of BFA opportunities, including book arts, ceramics, drawing, painting, fiber art, metalworking, photography, woodworking and more. The breadth of expertise across its faculty allows for an optimum cross-disciplinary arts education. Additionally, OCAC boasts an impressive 82% rate of employment in the arts among its recent alumni.
#16 – Endicott College
Net Price: $28,926
Located on 235 acres just north of Boston, Massachusetts, Endicott College is a liberal arts college that offers a wide range of study for aspiring artists. The School of Visual and Performing Arts provides a well-rounded fine arts curriculum that combines theory, practice, history, and technology. Endicott’s available degree programs include, among others: art therapy, graphic design, interior design, photography, art education, and digital media. For those seeking to advance their BFA in interior design, this college offers a fifth-year MFA program for this study. Endicott has formed partnerships for exciting internship opportunities, and all students are required to complete three courses of experiential learning over four years.
#15 – Columbus College of Art and Design
Net Price: $25,945
Founded in 1879, Ohio’s Columbus College of Art and Design is a prestigious fine arts college perfect for aspiring BFA students seeking a more urban educational setting. From animation to photography to interior design, CCAD is certain to have a home for artists of almost any discipline. This institution is in close proximity to the famed Columbus Museum of Art for added exposure and inspiration. One of the most well-regarded offerings of this college is its highly selective, project-based MFA degree, which is a uniquely individualized opportunity for advancing fine artists.
#14 – Knox College
Net Price: $23,642
Knox College in rural Illinois is a strong choice for students seeking a semester structure that allows for more focused study. This college employs a 3 semester a year calendar, each with only 3 courses. For the fine arts student, Knox offers a wide range of available majors, including ceramics, printmaking, sculpture, painting, and photography. Student artists may also take additional courses in drawing, design, and alternative media. Knox College raises over $350K annually, in part to sponsor independent fine arts projects.
#13 – Memphis College of Art
Net Price: $19,123
Memphis College of Art in Tennessee is a fine arts school that prides itself on intimate, individualized learning. MCA is able to achieve this approach through its student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1, and average class size of 17. This college has modern fine arts facilities and a diverse faculty of internationally recognized artists, 92% of whom have terminal degrees in their field. In order to assist aspiring artists in their careers, MCA provides added training in entrepreneurship, communication, networking, and self-promotion.
#12 – Reinhardt University
St. Waleska, Georgia
Net Price: $17,934
The BFA degree at Reinhardt University is designed to implement a strong, disciplined foundation to the artist’s creativity. Just outside Atlanta, Georgia, the small student body at Reinhardt benefits from both the peaceful country and buzz of the nearby city arts scene. RU offers BFA degrees in both fine art and digital art. Both of these options include specialties such as drawing and painting, sculpture and ceramics, digital art, photography, print media, and web design. The University’s current $41.5 endowment affords extensive financial assistance for incoming students of all backgrounds.
#11 – Maine College of Art
Net Price: $28,997
Established in 1882 in the central arts scene in Portland, Maine College of Art is an affordable and well-respected BFA / MFA option. Incoming students first develop their foundational skills as artists, and then are free to focus on their choice of a wide range of art majors. Some of these marketable majors include digital media, graphic design, illustration, jewelry, painting, photography, and fashion. In addition to its own campus facilities, MECA has joined an alliance that allows open access to resources in four other nearby colleges.
#10 – Kansas City Art Institute
Kansas City, Missouri
Net Price: $28,098
Centrally located in the cultural hub of the city, Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri is a celebrated and highly selective fine arts college. BFA students engage in a rigorous curriculum in a wide range of majors, including animation, interactive arts, ceramics, film-making, art history, graphic design, and more. KCAI offers various internship and extra credit opportunities for artists seeking to enhance their craft. This college also provides extensive career planning assistance to prepare fine art majors for their postgraduate future.
#9 – Flagler College
St. Augustine, Florida
Net Price: $21,914
With state-of-the-art facilities and a uniquely challenging curriculum, Flagler College prides itself on molding its fine arts students into well-rounded career artists. Current BA disciplines include art history, fine art, and graphic design. For a more competitive and intense degree track, BA students are invited to apply for the highly selective BFA program. Flagler’s campus is home to a stunning gallery space, where both student art and the work of visiting recognized artists is exhibited regularly. This college is highly committed to its nearby community, hosting hundreds of richly cultural public events.
#8 – Alfred University
Alfred, New York
Net Price: $20,306
Located in the scenic foothills of western New York’s Finger Lakes region, Alfred University’s School of Arts and Sciences has consistently ranked among the best BFA options for arts students. The University’s qa encompasses fine art mediums including ceramic art, drawing, painting, photography, expanded media, sculpture, and art history. Alfred’s campus is home to state-of-the-art galleries and facilities, a 15:1 student-teacher ratio, and a wide range of fine arts student organizations to promote extracurricular creativity. Over 98% of incoming students receive financial aid assistance, further making this arts college an affordable BFA opportunity.
#7 – Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts
Old Lyme, Connecticut
Net Price: $26,998
The prestigious Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, founded in 1976, is an elite fine arts institution with an average total enrollment of 80 or less students. In 2014, the Academy’s arts resources were expanded due to a merge with the University of New Haven, becoming its sixth affiliated college. Lyme Academy offers a BFA degrees in disciplines that include painting, sculpture, illustration and drawing, and has a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. This tight-knit artist community is a uniquely personalized learning environment in which to develop one’s artistic talents. 96% of BFA students receive either federal, scholarship, grant, or merit-based financial aid.
#6 – Otterbein University
Net Price: $26,200
Otterbein University, located on a rural campus in Ohio, is a great option for budding artists seeking a well-rounded degree in both fine arts and arts administration. Given its proximity to the city of Columbus, this college has been able to provide internship and community outreach opportunities that serve to enrich the BFA degree experience. The recently renovated Art and Communication Building is home to three art galleries, large studio spaces, plenty of materials for multimedia design, and many more resources helpful to the growing art student.
#5 – Emory and Henry College
Net Price: $18,661
Located on 335 acres in the Appalachian Highlands of Southwest Virginia, Emory and Henry College has a multitude of high-quality fine arts BA majors at an affordable tuition. This college’s learning facilities are only growing more advanced due to the major expansion of the Woodrow W. McGlothlin Center for the Arts. In this state-of-the-art complex, fine arts students will have new gallery exhibition opportunities, cross-disciplinary arts education, and upgraded learning facilities for optimum growth. Emory and Henry College further makes earning a BA accessible through several merit-based scholarships and need-based financial assistance. Alumni of this institution most often find fulfilling careers in graphic design, art education, photography, and other mediums.
#4 – Laguna College of Art and Design
Laguna Beach, California
Net Price: $26,980
Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) is a private fine arts college located on a beautiful beachside campus in California. With a total enrollment under 600 students, this is a college committed to high admission standards for individualized learning. A BFA degree from LCAD has proven especially marketable for graphic and game arts, as graduates have regularly been recruited from top gaming companies including Walt Disney Animation and Microsoft. Additionally, executives from Nike have publicly recognized LCAD as being “one of four best design schools in the world.”
#3 – Montserrat College of Art
Net Price: $25,141
Montserrat College of Art, located just north of Boston, Massachusetts, is a fine arts institution that molds its BFA students into disciplined career artists. This college’s curriculum combines technical skill development, intellectual awareness, and a critical understanding of art theory. Available BFA majors at this school include animation, book art, graphic design, interactive media, printmaking, and more. Montserrat also offers international study programs in exciting locations including Japan, Spain, and Italy.
#2 – Bard College
Annandale-On-Hudson, New York
Net Price: $25,275
Bard College is consistently ranked among the best liberal arts colleges by publications like Newsweek and Princeton Review. Though its main campus is located in a rural town 90 miles north of New York City, Bard has an expansive learning network that continues to grow throughout the U.S. and abroad. All first-year students are required to engage in the Language and Thinking Program, First-Year Seminar, and Citizen Science before moving forward to specialized study. This college’s art department BA degrees include art history, film and electronic arts, various studio art disciplines, and photography.
#1 – Colby College
Net Price: $18,447
Colby College, located in scenic central Maine, is a small, diverse liberal arts college with an exciting BFA degree option. The curriculum offered by the fine arts department combines studio and art history courses, all designed to mold artists into critical thinkers. One of the campus highlights is the Colby College Museum of Art, a cultural institution that serves both student artists and the surrounding public community. From the first day of class, students are invited to engage in independent research projects that are later presented in a college-wide symposium.
The preceding is a ranked list of 20 best deals on small colleges for aspiring artists who are looking for an outstanding value in a fine arts college to launch their career.
By Tracy Eisenberg
Posted January 2016