College costs can be intimidating. In 2010, the top 10 undergraduate art colleges in the United States averaged annual tuition of $32,000. When looking at art schools, however, remember that the cost of tuition on paper is thousands of dollars higher than the net tuition after your financial aid package and other costs have been deducted. Almost every art school in the country offers financial aid to cover a percentage of its tuition, and nearly every art school applicant is eligible for some form of financial aid.
Today, all postsecondary institutions that offer federal financial aid are required to have net price calculators on their websites so that students can see a more realistic tuition price after financial aid and other deductions are made.
How to Decrease College Costs Before Financial Aid
- Go to an in-state school.
- Go to a city or state college for two years, and then transfer to an accredited four-year program.
- Go for your associate’s degree, and then transfer to an accredited four-year program.
- Live at home while going to school.
- Share an off-campus apartment and cook for yourself.
Types of Financial Aid
There are two categories of financial aid: need-based and merit-based.
- Need-based aid is offered in the form of federal student loans, grants, work-study programs, and scholarships. Loans are sums of money that you borrow and must pay back after graduation. Government grants and scholarships can also be need-based, but these are financial gifts and do not have to be paid back.
- Merit-based aid is offered as scholarships and private grants.
- Government Loans: Based on your and/or your family’s income and various other factors, such as grades and the art schools you are applying to, the government can grant you two types of loans: subsidized (which accrue no interest while in school) or unsubsidized (which charge interest throughout school that you must pay on top of your monthly payments after graduation). Typically, the school you are applying to will decide on the maximum amount of money the loan will offer.
- Private Loans: These are usually given by banks and require that the student has credit or has a cosigner with credit. Private loans can have interest rates that are higher than government loans and are usually taken out by noncitizens and students who are enrolling in art schools that haven’t been approved for government financial aid.
- Government Grants: Students who maintain a certain minimum grade point average and fall into a lower income bracket may be awarded grants from the government. These do not have to be paid back.
- Work-Study: This is a federal program that offers students part-time jobs that earn money toward college.
- Scholarships: These are monetary gifts earned by an excellent GPA, high performance in sports and other areas, and proven talents. They can be awarded either by the art schools you’re applying to or by one of thousands of private organizations for meeting various criteria.
- Private Grants: These are given by small businesses, foundations, or individuals for excellence in a certain area or if you fit into the criteria of the grant.
How to Apply for Financial Aid
Start by filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form (www.fafsa.ed.gov). This form determines your eligibility for the 9 student aid programs, the 605 state programs, and most of the other institutional aid available in the U.S. You can apply for both loan and grants at the FAFSA website. Submit your form to the U.S. Department of Education beginning on January 1 of each year. Since most federal, state, and institutional aid is provided, for the most part, on a first-come, first-served basis, students are advised to submit the FAFSA for the upcoming year as early as possible.
Four Most Common Types of FAFSA Financial Aid
- Pell Grant – a grant of up to $5,550 for students from low-income families
- Stafford Loan – a loan with interest set at 6.8% that can be subsidized or unsubsidized
- Perkins Loan – a loan with interest set at 6.8% lent directly by schools
- Federal Work-Study Program – a program where students can get part-time work to help fund their tuition.
Remember that most financial aid packages include a grant, a subsidized student loan (no interest while enrolled in school), and a work-study job. Also remember that the amount of aid you qualify for on paper may not be the amount you actually receive.
How to Handle Money in College
- Keep a budget. Put a cap on your weekly spending amount and stick to it.
- Track your spending.
- Avoid credit card debt.
- Use student discounts.
- Attend free events.
- Buy used books, materials, and equipment online.
Grants and Scholarships
The grants and scholarships you are awarded to attend art school are monetary gifts that do not have to be paid back. Grants are awarded by the government, and private and public organizations. Scholarships are awarded by schools, and private and public agencies.
Students who maintain a certain minimum grade point average and fall into a lower income bracket may be awarded grants from the government. These are need-based funds.
How to Get Government Art School Grants
The following are a few sources for federal art school grants:
- National Endowment for the Arts (http://www.nea.gov/grants/apply/index.html) offers grants for arts education to undergraduate and graduate students. You will need an excellent portfolio.
- Pell Grants
(http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/PellGrants.jsp) are based on financial need and do not have to be repaid. You can apply for a Pell Grant by filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. Currently, the maximum amount you can receive per year is $5,500.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) (http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/FSEOG.jsp) are for undergraduates with extreme financial need. Currently, you can receive between $100 and $4,000 per year.
- Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grants (http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/SmartGrants.jsp) are available to third- and fourth-year undergraduate students and offer up to $4,000 per year.
- Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG) (http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/AcademicGrants.jsp) offer $750 for the first school year and $1,300 for the second.
- Federal Work-Study Program (http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fws/index.html) does not exactly offer grants, but rather work-study opportunities that allow students to work part time and dedicate their wages to their tuition.
Scholarships are monetary gifts earned by an excellent GPA, a noticeable talent in a particular area (not necessarily academic), or excellent performance in sports. Scholarships, whether need- or merit-based, can be awarded by a college, university, or one of thousands of private organizations for excellence or other criteria.
How to Get Art School Scholarships
The following are a few sources for art school scholarships:
- Scholarships.com (http://www.scholarships.com/scholarship-search.aspx) is one of the largest free scholarship search engines on the Internet. By typing in minimal information about yourself, the site will do a search on all the scholarship money you can possibly earn.
- The Fastweb site (http://www.fastweb.com/college-scholarships) is full of information on scholarships and other ways to help you pay for college.
- Talk to your high school guidance counselor about scholarships he or she may know about.
- Talk to a financial aid officer at your art school to find out what kinds of scholarships you might be eligible for.
- Find scholarships you would like to win and see what past winners did to earn the monetary award.
Types of Agencies that Offer Art School Scholarships
- Community and civic groups
- Professional organizations
- Local businesses and national corporations
- Charitable foundations
- Arts festivals and competitions
- Art schools
Loans are one category of financial aid that you can apply for to help with art school tuition. Loans are sums of money that you borrow and must pay back after graduation. Some loans accrue interest only after graduation, while others begin gaining interest while the student is still in school; the interest must also be paid back.
The following are different types of loans you can apply for:
Based on your and/or your family’s income, and other factors such as grades and the art schools you are applying to, the government can grant you two types of loans: subsidized (the government pays your interest while you are in art school) or unsubsidized (you are charged interest while you are in school that is added to your monthly payments after graduation). Typically, the school you are applying to decides on the maximum amount of loan money you will receive.
Private loans are usually given by banks and require that the art school student has credit or has a cosigner with credit. Private loans can have interest rates that are higher than government loans and are usually taken out by noncitizens and students who are enrolling in art schools that haven’t been approved for government financial aid.
Two Types of Loans Commonly Given Through FAFSA
Stafford Loan – a government loan with interest set at 6.8%
Perkins Loan – similar to the Stafford, but offered directly by colleges
How to Apply for Student Loans
Financial Aid Forms
The following two financial aid forms are the most common way to begin applying for financial aid:
- FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) (http://www.fafsaonline.com/)
is a form that determines your eligibility for 9 federal student aid programs, 605 state programs, and almost all other institutional aid. Fill out your FAFSA form on the U.S. Department of Education’s website as early as January 1 for the coming school year. You will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), and an electronic version will be sent to the art schools you are applying to. Read through your SAR to make sure there are no mistakes.
- College Scholarship Service (CSS)/Financial Aid Profile (https://profileonline.collegeboard.com/prf/index.jsp) is a much more detailed form than the FAFSA. It asks for more in-depth information about your finances and is used by private institutions that are members of the College Board. This form is also sent out to art schools of your choice. Because the FAFSA form is not available until after January 1, many art schools will use the CSS form for their early admissions applicants.
Other Common Loans
Federal PLUS Loans (http://www.parentplusloan.com/) are made by the U.S. Department of Education.
Federal Perkins Loans (http://www.studentloannetwork.com/federal-student-loans/perkins.php)
Some universities, such as Brown, Duke, and Middlebury, have instituted loan caps or maximum amounts on student loans to help decrease costs for low- and middle-income students.