The media are full of stories about colleges costing over $50,000 annually, including room and board. While a few rather high-priced colleges make for good headlines, the reality is that the vast majority of colleges are not nearly that expensive. The average independent art college tuition in the United States in 2011-12 is about $30,300, with a range of about $18,000 to $40,000 being common, and this applies to most private colleges and universities in the United States. The typical public college or university will have a tuition of anywhere from $2,000 to as much as $40,000, depending if you are attending as an in-state or out-of-state student. In Canada, the average international tuition at independent art colleges for the same year is $13,600 CAD, with a range from 12,000 to $16,000 CAD. Of course, in-province tuition averages at these Canadian institutions would fall below these ranges.
The costs of room and board, travel, art supplies, and books at all these colleges are not terribly different from each other – it is mainly tuition that distinguishes the “cost of attendance” at public and private colleges.
One of the earliest mistakes students and parents can make in the admissions process is to assume that a certain college, or a certain kind of college, is out of reach financially, by focusing on the “nominal price” (the stated full tuition) rather than the “net price” (after financial aid has been applied). Virtually every college in the United States offers financial aid, and some offer a considerable amount. The average discount in 2010-11 at AICAD member schools was roughly 26% of the published tuition. Students owe it to themselves not to narrow their choices too early in the process; not to eliminate colleges before they have found out how much financial aid is available. Often, the most expensive colleges offer the most financial aid, meaning that the highest “sticker price” can turn out to be the most affordable option. Attending almost any college will take some sacrifice (cutting expenses, taking out loans, etc.), but only after you have received your full financial aid packages from each college that you are interested in can you make an accurate and informed decision about cost.
Most colleges will offer numerous kinds of aid, based either on merit or need, or both. In addition, there are local, state, federal, and other private sources an eligible student can apply to for financial assistance. College catalogues list all the various types of aid available, and you will also find similar information in the many financial aid guidebooks available in bookstores everywhere. Ultimately, almost all college financial aid will come either from or through the colleges themselves, so we strongly advise that you work closely with the financial aid offices throughout your application process.
Sources of Information
Web sites offering advice on financial aid have sprouted up all over the Internet, although many are often trying to sell you a book or search service at the same time. Two of the better sites for solid and unbiased information are www.finaid.org and www.fastweb.com. For specific information on governmental aid, visit studentaid.ed.gov. For more detailed financial aid application information visit, fafsa.ed.gov.