At Large  July 20, 2020  Anna Claire Mauney

The 10 Best Art Schools in the Northeast

Created: Mon, 07/20/2020 - 09:14
Author: chandra

In today's world, professionals versed in art and design are in high demand, particularly those who can use their skills in both the fine arts and commercial worlds. Those looking to embark on a career in the arts have a huge range of options for their training and education. In a new series, Art & Object delves into the top art schools and programs in the U.S. From public universities with state-of-the-art studios to solely arts-focused colleges with flourishing overseas programs, this list runs the gamut.

The top art programs of the Northeast, especially private and specialized schools, are some of the most expensive in the nation. On average, these schools cost almost $45,000 in-state and just above $48,000 out-of-state. At the same time, the average art graduate’s salary for all schools listed is at least $9,000 more than the national average. Nearly all of these schools are on the small side, especially when compared to the national average. The median student body of this top ten list is 4,495 and the average is 7,005. 

Many of these institutions offer relatively traditional artistic training, teaching skills most suitable to an artist who will end up in galleries or auction houses. While these venues may not currently be open, many of these schools have the resources to set up online exhibitions and to continue to offer career services without much, if any, delay. 

Often located in or near centers of vibrant cultural and artistic life, these art schools offer invaluable exposure and enrichment opportunities to their students. Faculty members are often still actively working in the art scene and showing in prestigious gallery spaces. And yet, despite this wealth of cultural exposure, the degree of diversity at these schools often pales compared to regions like the Southeast. On average, white students make up about 62% of the student bodies at these Northeast schools and art programs.

To determine its final rankings, Art & Object's editorial staff weighed the following factors: school reputation, tuition, cost of living, scholarship opportunities, fields of study, degrees offered, course diversity, faculty expertise, alumni reputation, student body diversity, student life in general, surrounding art scene, cultural opportunities, and post-graduation career help. While Art & Object has strived to craft a list in the most objective manner possible, we recognize that measures of "best" could include many other factors. With that said, here are the Art & Object selections of the best art schools in the Northeast. You can find our rankings for the Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, West, and our overall Top Ten here.

*Note: LGBTQ+ individuals may not always be accurately represented in gender data reported by institutions and organizations.

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public bus with School of Visual Arts logo and graphic design
10. School of Visual Arts New York City (SVA)

With a tuition of $39,900, New York City’s School of Visual Arts is one of the most affordable schools listed. The net price for students from the lowest-income families however is the highest at $37,764. This school also has the highest acceptance rate, at 72 percent.

At SVA, students may earn a BFA in one of eleven different arts programs. From computer art to fine arts, the school integrates the modern and traditional. Within the Fine Arts program, students have access to over ninety faculty members who are well-known artists with work on display throughout New York City. 

SVA’s career services office is continuing to operate during the pandemic, even as career landscapes change, with priority given to seniors. 

The School of Visual Arts yields the most art graduates per year, with 632 in 2018. 

SVA is just shy of the three least racially diverse schools listed with a student body that is 71.2 percent white. It also ranks quite low in terms of gender diversity—24 percent of students are male.

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wikimedia commons, Jellymuffin40
Tufts University campus quad, a green lawn and brick building
9. Tufts University

Tuition at Tufts University, $56,382, places it in the top two most expensive schools listed. After financial aid, however, it is the third most affordable school. Students from the lowest-income families pay approximately $6,629 for tuition, room, and board. 

The Interdisciplinary Art major offered at Tufts combines a rigorous liberal arts education with studio training in up to twelve different mediums. This is considered a double major and usually completed in four and half or five years. A standard Fine Arts BFA is also available, as well as courses at the affiliated School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Tufts online presence and resources are incredibly up-to-date. The website features a resource guide to exhibition opportunities available to students on and off campus and now, online. 

Tufts Visual and Performing Arts Department is one of the most racially diverse schools listed and ranks moderately in terms of gender. In 2018, its student body was 51 percent white and 33 percent male.

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A large historic brick building, Old Queens Building, on Rutgers New Brunswick, NJ's campus
8. Rutgers University

Rutgers has the lowest out-of-state tuition, $28,800, and its in-state tuition is second-lowest at $18,216. The net price for students from the lowest-income families, $11,640, falls in the middle.  

Rutgers is by far the largest school on this list, with a student body of 33,677. The school has three different locations throughout New Jersey—Camden, New Brunswick, and Newark. An Art: Graphic Design program is only available in Newark.  

Approximately 800 students are enrolled in the Mason Gross School of the Arts, which hosts artists, dancers, filmmakers, musicians and thespians. Located in New Brunswick, this school is the public arts conservatory of Rutgers. Interdisciplinary focus is encouraged, be that within the art school or within the larger context of the top-ranked public research university. 

Students may pursue an Art BA or a BFA in either Visual Arts or Design. Minors are also available. And the programs offer training across seven different mediums. 

Rutgers’ Visual and Performing Arts Department is just shy of the three most racially diverse schools listed and has just below average gender diversity. In 2018, their undergraduates were 59.4 percent white and 38.2 percent male. 

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facade of a steel and glass building with "MassArt" sign
7. Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt)

At face value, the school is moderately expensive compared to others listed, with a tuition of $48,210. Students coming from the lowest-income families can only expect financial aid to reduce this fee to approximately $37,147. Though still well above the national average for fine arts majors, graduates from MassArt report making the lowest salary of all schools listed, $36,000. 

Students here participate in a foundations program during their first year, and after that, choose from eighteen distinct majors. Each Bachelors program requires students to take at least nine liberal arts classes to ensure a well-rounded education. 

Massachusetts College of Art and Design is one of the least diverse schools in both categories. In 2018, its student body was only 23 percent male and 27 percent minority.

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wikimedia commons, Kenneth C. Zirkel
the list art center at brown university, a modern, white building
6. Brown University

Brown University is the third most expensive school listed with an average tuition of $55,466. But for students who qualify for financial aid, Brown is the second most affordable. Those from the lowest-income families pay $5,335 for tuition, room and board. 

Brown offers concentrations rather than majors as part of their aim to provide student-built paths of education. The Visual Arts Concentration allows students to train in six different types of media and take courses at nearby RISD. Once a concentration is declared, a student is paired with a regular Visual Arts faculty member who will act as their advisor. 

Department Undergraduate Group (DUG) Leaders are chosen every year within the art department. These students help organise events and jury shows. 

Art graduates from Brown have the second highest average salary, $42,000. It is one of the larger schools, with about 6,600 students, and has a low acceptance rate of 8 percent. Brown University’s diversity percentages within the Visual and Performing Arts program are just above average compared to other schools listed. In 2018, its student body was 53.3 percent white and 40 percent male.

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flickr/Elvert Barnes
photograph of MICA's Cohen Center, a modern, angular glass building with three tree-like steel sculptures in front of it
5. Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

Tuition at the Maryland Institute College of Art, $48,630, falls right in the middle of listed in-state and out-of-state fees. However, it is the third most expensive for students from the lowest-income families, who will still end up paying $28,457 on average.

It is the second smallest school listed, with approximately 1,673 students, but has one of the highest acceptance rates, at 62 percent.

Students are required to take core First Year Experience and then choose one of nineteen majors. They may also add a liberal arts minor (art history or humanistic studies), or a studio concentration to the mix.

Students and Alumni have access to the MICAnetwork, an online tool that connects them to work and art opportunities via third parties. 

MICA has one of the lowest percentages of gender diversity but is average in terms of racial diversity. In 2018, the student body was 66.8 percent white and 23 percent male.

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flickr/SCL Boston
Frank Gehry building a swooping sheets of metal
4. Bard College

Tuition for Bard College is above average for this list, at $54,680, but still shy of the top three. The net price for students from low-income households ranks similarly, at $14,687. Though still above the national average for fine arts majors, Bard graduates make approximately $39,000 which places them in the bottom three of all schools listed.  

At Bard, the Division of the Arts program is home to more than studio art. Art students will be surrounded by peers focused on dance, architecture, music, and more. Within the Fine Arts program, an emphasis is placed on both traditional mediums and new technology. Seniors are assigned their own studio spaces at the beginning of each semester. 

The school’s large campus is situated in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, about 90 miles north of New York City. The Visual and Performing Arts Department at Bard College is the second least racially diverse school listed and has the second-highest gender diversity. In 2018, the student body was 71 percent white and 42 percent male.

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wikimedia commons, Namkota
Yale University old campus as sunset
3. Yale University

Tuition at Yale, $59,430, is the most expensive of this list. Interestingly, once financial aid is applied, Yale University is the most affordable school for students from the lowest-income families. Tuition, room, and board cost $4,978 for this segment of the population. The average art graduate ends up with a salary of $41,000, the third-highest amount on this list. 

Yale offers a single BA in art with the requirement that majors choose one of five possible concentrations. The campus features several prestigious galleries, libraries, and a natural history museum. The Yale School of Art boasts successful and even famous alumni including Chuck Close and Kehinde Wiley.

Yale has one of the lowest acceptance rates at 7 percent. The student body in the Visual and Performing Arts Department ranks relatively well for both gender and racial diversity. In 2018, the student body was 43.9 percent male and 57.9 percent white.

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wikimedia commons, Andrew Chen
Columbia University's Butler Library illuminated at night
2. Columbia University

Columbia University is the most expensive school listed with a tuition of about $59,430. It also yields the highest-earning art majors, with an average salary of  $43,000. Financial aid is relatively abundant here, particularly considering how high the standard tuition is. Students from the lowest-income families will pay an average of $10,917 for tuition, room, and board. 

Located in the heart of New York City, cultural opportunities are abundant and the school’s Arts Initiative makes them accessible with a passport program that offers free admission to more than thirty museums. 

Alumni and faculty regularly the make the news. Professor Sarah Sze has just been commissioned by the Public Art Fund to create permanent installations at LaGuardia Airport and Alumna Vesna Pavlovic has been featured in an online exhibition, Viral Self-Portraits.

Columbia University’s Visual and Performing Arts Department is the most racially diverse and ranks moderately in terms of gender diversity. In 2018, this section of the student body was 40.2 percent white and 39 percent male.

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flickr/Jef Nickerson
view of RISD from above- brick buildings along a river with a bridge
1. Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) 

Tuition for the Rhode Island School of Design, $48,210, is only moderately expensive for this list. Financial aid is not as available as it could be. Students from the lowest-income families will pay an average of $37,147 for tuition, room, and board. It is the second most expensive school for this segment of the population. 

RISD graduates make approximately $39,000. While above the national average, this salary is one of the lowest on the list. 

All first-years are required to take the same curriculum called Experimental and Foundation Studies. After that, they can choose from seventeen different BFA programs. 

Notable RISD Alumni include Kara Walker and Shepard Fairey. 

This is one of the smallest schools, with a student body of 1,976. The acceptance rate is slightly below average, at 32 percent. RISD’s diversity percentages are average compared to other schools listed.