O Canada!

canadian flag

This is the second in in a series focusing on financial options and opportunities for art students. 

With the cost of college seemingly forever on the rise, it was no surprise to hear NBC News report recently that the high cost of tuition has many Americans running for the border – the Canadian border.  According to the report a Canadian college education is somewhere between one third and one quarter the cost of a US college education.  Let me repeat that – a Canadian college education runs between one third and one quarter the cost of a US college education.  Those are game changing numbers! 

Canada is home to some outstanding institutions.  According to a 2013 U.S. News & World Report ranking, McGill University and University of Toronto rank in the top 20 higher education institutions in the world.  Other top universities include University of British Columbia (UBC) (45) and McMaster University (152).  Each has a fine arts program.  Degree opportunities include Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Design, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Media Arts, Master of Arts, Master of Applied Arts, Master of Design, and Master of Media Arts. 

Canada has its share of excellent art schools as well.  Alberta College of Art & Design, Emily Carr University of Art & Design, Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, and Ontario College of Art & Design are the four I researched.  Given their costs, I’d suggest checking them out.  Here’s a small sampling of comparative costs that I found.

Fee Comparison Canada & U.S.

Please note that the costs I’ve identified for Canadian schools are their International rates, listed in Canadian dollars.  The exchange rate right now is pretty even, eliminating calculation juggling.  Also, these comparisons are for tuition only – the single largest portion of a college education.  Other expenses will include room, board, health insurance and additional fees. 

Other financial aid benefits exist for American students in Canada.  They include applying your 529 college savings account, continued eligibility for U.S. Federal Student Aid programs through many Canadian colleges, and potential international scholarships.  I found the Net Price Calculators – or their equivalent – to be quite handy on a number of sites.  UBC, MassArt, and SAIC have them.

After reading this post your search for finding the right art program may have gotten a bit longer.  However if cost is a key decision factor in where you’ll go to school, and you’re up for an adventure I’d suggest giving Canadian colleges some thorough exploration.  Eh?

Paying For It All

pastels - financial aid 101.indd

With decision day behind us, seniors are breathing a sigh of relief. College plans are made. Woo hoo!! Let the partying begin.

Now it’s time for juniors to begin feeling those uneasy twinges; where will I go? How will I make my decision?  What factors should I include in my decision process?

Clearly, the increasing cost of a higher education needs to play a considerable role in your thought process. The cost of attending college is still on the rise, and the impact is significant for everyone involved. In fact, even the famed Cooper Union has been affected by the rising tide, stating in a press release last week that after more than 100 years the school will begin charging tuition to undergraduates. Add in the fact that accumulated student debt has outpaced credit card debt, and it’s enough to make every college-bound student and family nervous.

Ever an optimist, I do see a glimpse of good news on the horizon. Yesterday’s Huffington Post claimed “Class of 2013’s Starting Salary Tracking Higher On Average Than Last Year’s Grads.” Keep in mind it reads “on average,” but still, the news isn’t all doom and gloom.

So what does this roller coaster of news mean for high school students looking at art schools? Financially speaking here are three things to focus on:

1 – Be smart about your college choices.  There’s where you want to go, and where you can afford to go. They may not be the same place. This may also mean foregoing an arts college and instead choosing to attend a comprehensive liberal arts university. (Read: if you’re not sure you want to make a career out of your artistic passion you’ll find more potential career opportunities at a comprehensive institution.)

2 – Compare the detailed costs.  Make sure you research and understand all the costs associated with each institution. That means tuition, room & board, health insurance, transportation fees, books, art supplies, etc. It’s a long list. And some schools will have a breakdown of different costs associated with different art majors. If that information isn’t readily available, ask for it.

3 – Make time to thoroughly understand financial aid and scholarship opportunities for each school on your list.  This process can be thoroughly confusing, frustrating, time consuming, and daunting. But from personal experience I can tell you it is worth the effort. The Net Price Calculator, made available through College Board, is an excellent tool to help you estimate your eligibility for financial aid options, and it’ll help you compare schools in the process. Current participating art schools include Ringling, CCAD, FIDM, Pacific Northwest College of Art, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, SVA, and Pennsylvania College of Art & Design.

As for scholarships, remember you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck from the college you attend. That doesn’t mean searching for privately funded scholarships isn’t worth the effort; it just means that the latter typically give out smaller allowances, so be realistic about what you can get.

Knowledge is the key. So whether you’re a rising junior or senior – starting your research now is a smart idea.

Next week we’ll continue this discussion.

This is the first of two posts focusing on financial options and opportunities for art students. 

Tools You Can Use

English: The main building of the School of Vi...

School of Visual Arts, New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a new website exclusively devoted to college graduation rates.  College Completion, funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is designed to provide comparative graduation results for institutions across the country.  Since I seldom find national rankings and listings that let me easily compare art schools, I was delighted to stumble across this site.

Organizationally, the site sorts schools as public, private, community colleges or for-profit institutions.  Data for individual institutions breaks out graduation rates by ethnicity and gender, identifies estimated spending per pupil, and also compares graduation rates, median SAT scores and student aid with a list of peer institutions.

The hiccups for those seeking information about art programs are two-fold.  First, if your intent is to include public schools in your comparison, you won’t be able to do it accurately here.  This site compares campuses as a whole.  The University of Michigan School of Art & Design is not broken out from general U of M statistics.  You’ll have to do that comparison manually, on your own.

The second hiccup is the site’s natural list of peer institutions.  It lists Monroe College and DeVry as top peers for The School of Visual Arts (SVA).  All three are private and for-profit institutions, but only SVA is known for its art program.  Also, the site doesn’t recognize all art schools; I couldn’t find Parsons.

Now comes the good news: the site does provide a custom field for comparing schools of your choice.  It took a little work to get my comparisons, but the process was pretty straight-forward.  I created a graph of six art schools in California.   Tools you can use - comparative chart - 6 california schools -lgThe result illustrates graduation rates for a 6-year and a 4-year period, the overall percentage of students who graduate, school spending per student, financial aid per student, and the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants.  A very useful tool if you’re intention is an art school in California.

Why

So why should you care about graduation rates?  The bottom line answer is finances – the college’s and yours.  High graduation rates speak to the support you’ll feel as a student – academically, financially and in your private life.  Plus, they have a direct relation to your economic success.  College graduates are more likely to obtain a higher paying job and have financial security.  That bodes well for the community as a whole and for the future of the institution, since alumni usually support their alma mater in one way or another.   Knowing that art students frequently take longer than the traditional four years to graduate, the four and six year rates provide added information for budgetary planning.