Funding Your Art Degree Find Money for Undergrad and Graduate Art Studies

With studio and supply fees on top of tuition, pursuing a creative degree requires a significant investment. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost of an undergraduate degree was $26,382 from a public university and $44,662 from a private university during the 2018-19 school year.

Prospective students can explore financial aid for art school to help cover educational costs. In 2016, 72.2% of students received some form of financial aid, according to the NCES.

Keep reading to learn more about financial aid for art school, including scholarships for art majors and art school grants.

Expert Contributor
Mary A. Booker Director of Financial Aid, Pomona College

Financial Aid

Prospective art students should research scholarships for art majors, and they should also apply for standard aid packages. By submitting the FAFSA, learners can apply for multiple scholarships in one place.

The application requires tax information and takes about 45 minutes to complete. Students who file their taxes under a dependent status must submit their guardian's tax information. Using this data, the government identifies applicants' eligibility for loans, grants, and federally supported work-study positions.

Students who qualify for a Federal Pell Grant do not need to repay it. However, loans require repayment. Individuals who qualify for loans through the FAFSA can receive subsidized or unsubsidized loans. Subsidized loans do not begin accruing interest until after the recipient graduates.

Scholarships & Grants for Art Students

While loans can certainly supplement tuition and make earning an art degree attainable, they can lead to high student loan payments after graduation. However, art student scholarships do not require repayment, and they can help degree-seekers avoid high interest rates and out-of-pocket expenses.

Most scholarships require an application essay, official transcripts, and recommendation letters. While applicants can often submit one general recommendation letter to multiple scholarship committees, most scholarships feature varying essay prompts. Students should allow ample time before a scholarship deadline to request recommendation letters and transcripts. They should also allow enough time to write a compelling essay.

Scholarships are often competitive. Keep in mind that the more requirements, the more limited the applicant pool. Students can focus their scholarship search on awards reserved specifically for art students. See below for scholarships for creative students that feature specific requirements, including funds reserved for undergraduate, graduate, or female students.

Who Can Apply: The Northwest Watercolor Foundation reserves funds for students attending a school in Washington, Oregon, or Idaho. To qualify, applicants must submit five examples of their best artwork, official transcripts, and a sealed letter of recommendation from a school faculty member.
Amount: $3,500
Who Can Apply: Individuals in their final year of high school studies who plan on earning a degree in the arts qualify. Applicants must attend a Colorado-based college.
Amount: $1,000-$2,000
Who Can Apply: Students between the ages of 18 and 35 can apply for this scholarship. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum awards this scholarship to art students regardless of sex or ethnicity.
Amount: $500-$5,000
Who Can Apply: Degree-seekers studying at any accredited college may apply. A college faculty member must submit a work of art on behalf of the applicant. A judging panel selects the winners based on the submissions.
Amount: Varies
Who Can Apply: Graduate students pursuing a master of fine arts can apply for these funds. Both full-time and part-time students qualify for this scholarship. Qualifying subjects include painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, photography, or printmaking.
Amount: $15,000
Who Can Apply: Individuals admitted to an Edinburgh College of Art Ph.D. program can apply. This scholarship awards funds to learners studying architecture, art, design, history of art, or music. This scholarship provides a way to study art in Europe for an affordable price.
Amount: Varies
Who Can Apply: Art students who have resided in northeast Pennsylvania at some point in their lives qualify. Applicants must prove that their chosen art major matches their life goals. This scholarship is open to any art major, including photography, painting, or sculpture majors.
Amount: Varies
Who Can Apply: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Awards a scholarship each year to graduate students. To qualify, applicants must live in Virginia and submit a sample of their artwork along with a resume and online application.
Amount: $6,000
Who Can Apply: Open to graduate and undergraduate students, this scholarship assists students in pursuing a design-related degree. Vectorworks Software sponsors this scholarship.
Amount: Varies
Who Can Apply: Female artists over age 40 at a junction in their careers may apply. This award acknowledges the recipient's artistic accomplishments.
Amount: $25,000
Who Can Apply: Open to feminists pursuing a degree in writing or visual arts, this scholarship honors the memory of Barbara Deming, a women's rights activist who was also a poet and writer.
Amount: $500-$1,500
Who Can Apply: Women's Studio Workshop offers multiple grants and residency opportunities for females working or studying in the arts. Some of these opportunities also include a stipend and a studio.
Amount: Varies
Who Can Apply: Minority students who are members of the American Art Therapy Association can apply. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and receive acceptance into an art therapy program. Both graduate and undergraduate students can apply.
Amount: Varies
Who Can Apply: Underrepresented students with financial need can apply. Applicants can major in any art-related field. The Foundation of the Professional Association for Design oversees this scholarship.
Amount: $2,000-$3,000
Who Can Apply: This annual scholarship awards funds to students who identify as African American, Native American, Hispanic, Latino, or Asian and Pacific Islander.
Amount: $2,000
Who Can Apply: The Art Career Project awards $2,000 annually to a degree-seeker studying film or visual communication. This includes subjects like print or film photography, videography, and photojournalism. Only undergraduates can apply.
Amount: $2,000
Who Can Apply: Students majoring in graphic design, multimedia design, animation, or gaming can apply. Applicants must submit a cover letter and resume along with two current recommendation letters.
Amount: $1,500
Who Can Apply: New science fiction and fantasy artists can submit an illustration to this annual contest. A panel of expert judges selects three winners each year.
Amount: $500
Who Can Apply: Degree-seekers studying fiber or textile research, history, and conservation can apply. The scholarship awards funds based on artistic and technical excellence.
Amount: Up to $4,000
Who Can Apply: NSS awards multiple scholarships each year to students majoring in sculpture design. For most of the awards, a panel of judges awards the scholarship based on a sculpture submission.
Amount: Varies

Other Art Grants and Fellowships

Aside from scholarships, individuals can also apply for art grants and fellowships from nonprofits, foundations, and private companies. Prospective students can often discover grants and fellowship providers by researching online. Professional networking organizations may reserve funds for art student members. Art department faculty members and academic advisors may also know about additional grants and fellowships.

The Art Institutes, a system of more than 50 art schools in America, provide grants and scholarships through the form of competitions. The Academy of Art University also offers the Teacher Grant, which provides financial assistance to high school art teachers returning to college for additional art education.

Prospective learners should note that an art grant differs from a fellowship. Typically, a fellowship requires a service commitment, similar to an internship. A grant usually assists students in meeting financial needs for tuition or a research project. The Beckmann Emerging Artist Fellowship and the Kresge Artist Fellowship are two examples of fellowships for artists.

Grants and fellowships often feature specific requirements, so applying for multiple opportunities can increase your chances of earning this form of aid. Keep in mind that most students can only accept one fellowship per academic year because fellowships require a time commitment.

Other Resources

Through scholarships, loans, grants, and free resources, students can earn a degree on a budget. For more guidance on financial aid, browse these resources.

  1. Financial Aid for Online Schools: A Guide to Paying for Distance Education
  2. Art School Search Tool
  3. How to Manage Student Loans: Expert Advice & Resources

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