Until the 1980s, the only institution that provided art education or instruction was the Academy of Art. Art instruction was widely considered unsuitable for the industrial revolution, making it lag for several decades. In fact, the first introduction of art into the mainstream education system happened in the East. However, over the last two centuries, art has become an integral part of the mainstream education system, producing thousands of graduates annually. Art graduates have become essential to society, impacting lives and making significant differences where it matters. Successful and prominent musicians, actors, fashion icons, photographers, and architects who learned their trade in art schools have elevated the importance of the institutions in our society, influencing many young people to compete for top art schools in the US. Today, such schools span coast to coast, admitting students from all over the world. They offer education at elementary, secondary, post-secondary, and undergraduate levels.
Top Art Schools in the US: What It Takes
Art is about creativity. Therefore, the top art schools provide students with suitable environments to stretch their imaginations, giving them a competitive advantage over others. Furthermore, they encourage experimentation and idea-sharing, both critical to success in various fields. Over the last decades, some art schools offering prestigious services to students have emerged, setting them apart from the rest. The services come at a premium price, locking out gifted learners without sponsorships. Services at such institutions are undeniably better. However, I firmly believe that good colleges should be affordable to all. Consequently, my ranking weighs affordability higher than career success, academic experience, and faculty resources.
What Are the Best Art Schools in the US Based on Student Ranking?
The US is privileged with several world-class art schools, making it hard to develop any ranking. However, this ranking is based on two factors, other students’ ratings of the institutions and my assessment. My assessment, on the other hand, is based on five weighted variables: tuition cost, career success, internship opportunities, faculty resources, academic experience, student body diversity, post-graduate success, graduation rate, student selectivity, and availability of financial aid. Below is the list of the best art schools in the US-based on the stated criteria.
1. Harvard University
It was almost inevitable that Harvard would top this list. The university clicked so many of the boxes in my criteria. The university came best in academics, value, student leadership diversity, athletics, career success, and graduation rate. Despite being a private Ivy League university, Harvard charges an “acceptable” tuition fee of $37,000 per year. The rate is lower than four other Ivy League universities, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, and Dartmouth. I can also say that Harvard gives its students adequate space and time to interact with the teaching faculty. Its low student-to-tutor ratio of 1:7 makes it even easier. The university’s admission process is transparent and competitive, adding to its credibility. Additionally, its graduation rate of 98% is among the highest globally. On average, its alumni earn $70,500 as a starting salary. Prominent people like Conan O’Brien, Rashida Jones, Tommy Lee Jones, and Matt Damon are Harvard University’s school of art alumni.
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2. Rhode Island School of Design
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is as good as they come. It is hard to think of a single institution of higher learning that has influenced and shaped the culture around its location as RISD has done in Providence, RI. RISD is a cultural force that rubs off its students, impacting their lives and work wherever they go. The institution’s primary objective is to create a community of learners and the public who appreciate art and design and implement it in their everyday lives. It promotes using art and design to make the world a better place. Its studio-based learning approach, supplemented with a focus on liberal arts, prepares its students adequately for various global challenges. However, its specialized facilities are its most outstanding feature. RISD has a fantastic theater that buzzes with visual art activities from Monday to Sunday. Its museum is a major tourist attraction and an invaluable resource for its learners. With tuition fees starting at $55,000, RISD comes close to Harvard.
3. Rice University
Rice University is located in the heart of Houston. It’s one of the most culturally diverse universities in the country. The university enjoys a tight-knight student community that engages in several community outreach programs. On paper, Rice may appear like just another university. However, you will undoubtedly be blown away if you visit and interact with its community. I had a fantastic experience at the university, and my attempts to remain unbiased seem inadequate in preventing me from adding it to this list. The 300-acre institution has unrivaled facilities for fine and performing art students. An amphitheater with a sitting capacity of 8,000 is always available for the students to use. The art exhibition center is modern, spacious, and well-organized. On one side is a raised photography section that displays some of the best photos taken by students. On the other, a painting section where all water and oil paints are hung. Students in the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts have an entire room for practicing and performing their plays. The university invites top performers to engage the students frequently. I can’t fail to mention organized educational tours that were exceedingly helpful to me.
4. University of Southern California
Since its founding in 1880, the university has become a force to reckon with. Its admission is highly competitive, with only 16% of its applicants accepted. On the positive side, more than 92% of its students graduate successfully. The university has a robust art program, with a BA in Animation and Digital Arts as its dominant product. The program offers unrivaled services in animation. Its students enjoy training in 3D animation, storyboarding and scriptwriting, training in motion capture, and updated video editing and animation software.
5. Savannah College of Art and Design
Although ranked last on this list, Savannah College of Art and Design, located in Atlanta, GA, is one of the best art schools in the country. SCAD has had the most prolonged online presence of all art colleges, promoting its students’ works across various platforms. Its digital presence is robust and encompasses mobile and web platforms and applications.