Earning a bachelor’s degree is one of the best ways to pursue careers in film and cinema. However, student debt and increasing college costs are huge concerns for most students. For such reasons, we’ve put together a list of the cheapest film schools that will give you a quality education without breaking your bank.
The best film schools offer bachelor’s degrees in film and media studies, giving you the skills to pursue a career in the film industry. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that by 2030 the film industry will generate over 18,300 additional jobs. This article covers the most affordable film schools you should consider if you want to pursue a career in film.
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How Much Do the Cheapest Film Schools Cost?
The cheapest film schools impose tuition fees ranging from $4,000 to $10,000 per year. The cost depends on the school, program, and whether you’re in-state, out-of-state, or an international student. Out-of-state and international film students typically have to pay more than in-state students.
Cheapest Film Schools Costs Breakdown
- Cost per unit. This number is also the tuition cost. Film universities and colleges impose different costs per unit or credit hour for different film studies. This makes up the bulk of the cost for film school students.
- Technology fee. Attending a film school means that you’ll interact with a wide range of technologies, platforms, services, and equipment. You’ll work with different cameras when learning digital filmmaking, and a fee is required for use of these technologies.
- Textbooks. Textbooks and course materials are essential education requirements. This includes exam prep materials. Some universities charge this as a one-time fee, while others charge it as a recurring fee.
- Health services fee. Universities usually include this charge to allow students to receive healthcare services on-campus. Some schools also include medical insurance in the overall cost.
- Student Tuition Recovery Fund (STRF). This fund exists to relieve economic losses a student suffers while attending an educational program if the student was a California resident. If you receive this fund, this deducts from the overall cost.
Why You Should Attend a Film School
To become eligible for most entry-level positions in the film industry, having film studies and a degree from a film school is necessary. BLS suggests that a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for professionals in this industry. Attending a film school is an ideal way to start your career in film and become eligible for entry-level jobs. You will need extensive knowledge of the filmmaking process to work in the entertainment business.
Film schools offer cinema studies courses that allow students to learn the art of storytelling by gaining hands-on experience. Attending quality film schools also means that you’ll benefit from numerous networking opportunities, among other career benefits. However, there are certain requirements you need to meet before being accepted into a film school.
Best Film School Career Options
Some of the best careers in film include acting, directing, producing, screenwriting, and cinematography. With a degree in filmmaking, people can also become set designers, directors of photography, and movie editors. BLS estimates that the film profession has some of the fast-growing occupations, with a projected job outlook of 29 percent from 2020 to 2030.
Also according to BLS, professionals in the film industry can earn an average annual salary of $61,900, making it a well-paying career path over time. Not all professionals will make as much as famous directors like Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, or Francis Ford Coppola, but many people can earn a good wage. Job experience and on-the-job training are not essential, as a bachelor’s degree is the core requirement for entry-level positions.
Film Schools Salary
According to PayScale reports, the average salary for film studies degree holders is $35,714 per year. This figure varies based on the city of employment and company you work for. However, Salary.com estimates that professionals with a degree in film production earn annual salaries ranging from $75,360 to $81,402.
Can You Attend Film Schools for Free?
No, it is almost impossible to find film schools offering free programs or courses. If you are short on funds but want to learn film, consider getting a camera, computer, and industry-standard software. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube and free ebooks that could help you master a discipline in film studies. Online programs can help you learn about creative expression, film theory, and interactive media.
If this doesn’t sound like a viable option, consider enrolling in a community college associate of arts program. There are hundreds of community colleges that offer affordable certificate courses. Not only do they take a short period to complete, but credits earned here can be transferred to a four-year program.
Cheapest Film Schools That Won’t Break the Bank
|School||In-State Tuition||Out-of-State Tuition||Graduation Rate|
|CUNY Brooklyn College||$288.75 per credit||$288.75 per credit||58%|
|DePaul University||$688 per credit hour||Not specified||86% (first year retention), 72% (six-year graduation)|
|Eastern New Mexico University||$2,037 per semester||$3,057 per semester||39.9%|
|Florida State University||$5,616||$18,746||74%|
|Rhode Island College||$4,638.50 (per semester, 12 to 18 credits)||$12,237.50||45.9%|
|San Francisco State University||$1,665.00 (six units or less) $2,871.00 (6.1 units or more)||Additional $396 per credit for non resident students||52.9%|
|Stony Brook University||$471 per credit||$963 per credit||77.7%|
|University of California (UCLA)||$11,220||$11,220||90%|
|University of North Carolina School of the Arts||$6,497||$23,731||90.6%|
|Western Michigan University||$609.50 per credit hour||$761.88 per credit hour||62.1%|
What are the Cheapest Film Schools?
CUNY Brooklyn College
CUNY City College is a large public institution with a student body of approximately 17,735, according to NCES. This school is known for offering affordable education to students from different backgrounds, and CUNY City College offers one of the most affordable Bachelor of Arts in Film programs.
This is a private research university located in Chicago with a large student body. There are over 23,000 students enrolled in DePaul’s undergraduate or graduate programs. DePaul’s School of Cinematic Arts is considered by many as the best place to learn and start your filmmaking career.
Film majors or concentrations include cinema, game art, motion graphics, storyboarding, and character design. You can also learn 3D animation, cinematography, documentary filmmaking, documentary production, visual effects, screenwriting, directing, production design, editing, and sound design.
Eastern New Mexico University
This public university offers more than 60 associate’s, bachelor’s, and graduate programs. Students can graduate with a wide variety of skills and broad knowledge of the storytelling process. Students can pursue careers in the entertainment industry with one of the two film degrees offered here: a Bachelor of Science in Digital Filmmaking and a bachelor’s degree in theater.
These programs cover several aspects of filmmaking, including technical production, digital production, dramatic analysis, and theatrical design. Students learn strong critical thinking skills and attend courses in film theory and digital film production.
Florida State University
Florida State University is a public research university located in Florida. It’s considered by many as one of the top colleges in Florida that provides affordable and high quality education, earning its spot on our list of film schools. This university claims that 92 percent of its film graduates work in the industry within one year of graduation.
Florida State University offers undergraduate degrees in cinema studies in production, animation, and digital arts. Students gain practical experience in video game animation, video effects, 3D animation, pre-production, and post-production.
Rhode Island College
Rhode Island offers one of the best Bachelor of Arts programs in the country. This school’s film studies program exposes learners to the principles of film production, theory of film, sound design, film history, screenwriting, fiction filmmaking, and photography. The film studies program also features extracurricular activities such as student film competition and talent awards.
San Francisco State University
San Francisco State University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema which takes four years to complete. During your critical studies, you’ll learn the history of film and work on film projects. After earning your degree, you’ll be able to identify artistic and technological trends in cinematic arts. This degree prepares students for a wide range of careers in the entertainment business.
Stony Brook University
Consider this university, one of the cheapest colleges in New York, if you are looking for the best in-state tuition for a cheap film school. Although Stony Brook University does not offer undergraduate programs in film, this school offers one of the most comprehensive graduate degrees in filmmaking.
The Master of Fine Arts in Filmmaking is a 45 to 48 credit course that helps students learn how to craft a script, operate state-of-the-art camera equipment, and develop a realistic budget and production plans.
University of California
UCLA offers a graduate program in film and television that takes graduate students an average of three years to complete. UCLA’s graduate program covers television production, production design, theory of film, and industry studies. Degrees are issued upon the successful completion of a capstone project.
University of North Carolina School of the Arts
The University of North Carolina offers a Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies. Although this institution offers a comprehensive 124-credit affordable BA, it is best known for its scholarship programs. If you are on a tight budget and are looking for funding options, consider the University of North Carolina, as it offers some of the best scholarship programs in the country.
Western Michigan University
This university offers a Bachelor of Arts in Film, Video, and Media Studies. The course is delivered on-campus and requires 36 credits to graduate with a degree in film. This school is best known for offering excellent internship opportunities to its undergrads. Internships are known to prepare students for careers in entertainment.
Options to Help Pay for the Best Film Schools
Enrolling in a film degree program can be expensive as tuition, fees, and the overall cost of attendance can be too much to handle. Fortunately, there are several options that can help you cover the costs of attending a film school to receive a comprehensive education in this creative field of cinema production. Below are three of the best financial aid options to consider.
Federal Student Loans
Some students may be eligible to participate in the Direct Loan Program. You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and meet all eligibility requirements to increase your chances of receiving these loans. Examples of federal student loans include federal direct subsidized loans, federal direct unsubsidized loans, and direct parent plus loan.
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Private Student Loans
Private loans may be available to help students cover their tuition or living expenses. However, you must consult with your university of interest before proceeding to take out such loans. Some of the best private student loans include SoFi, Ascent, Earnest, and Discover undergraduate student loans.
Film School Grants and Scholarships
There are several federal grants issued by the government that can significantly help you cover your tuition. They include Pell grants and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). However, you must start by filling out a FAFSA form. A grant is a great way to lower your yearly cost of tuition.
Tips for Saving Money While Attending Film Schools
- Leverage financial tools. There are financial tools that can help you save better. For instance, high-interest savings accounts or fixed savings accounts are great ways to save your money.
- Stick to a budget. Sticking to a budget is one of the key principles in saving. It ensures that you don’t go overboard with your spending while creating room for savings.
- Consider a part-time job. Although this is not a savings hack, getting a part-time job could significantly help you out with your living expenses. It will increase your monthly income and give you extra spending money.
- Choose your housing options wisely. You can save more money if you live at home with your parents. Although this is not an ideal option for most, it will save you a fortune in living expenses and housing costs.
- Cook at home and limit going out. Going out is relatively expensive, especially if you are on a tight budget. Although you might be tempted to go out and eat with your friends, consider cooking meals at home.
Find the Film Schools That’s Right for You
There are many affordable film schools that offer high-quality programs to help you start your career in film. If you are on a tight budget, consider online film degree programs, as they tend to be cheaper than on-campus programs. You can also attend online film school from anywhere in the world, opening up international film schools.
However, be sure to look at the university offerings to identify which institution is best for you. For instance, consider Western Michigan University if you are looking for the best internship opportunities. In contrast, consider CUNY Brooklyn College if you are looking for the most affordable film school.
Cheapest Film Schools FAQ
Yes, film schools can be expensive, especially when considering some of the prestigious schools in the United States. However, many institutions including CUNY Brooklyn College, San Francisco State University, and University of North Carolina School of the Arts offer affordable film degrees.
It can cost anywhere between $10,000, and $81,659 per year for a regular film program. The cost of studying film in the US varies with the institution. For instance, CUNY Brooklyn College has one of the most affordable film degree programs. The University of Southern California has one of the most highly-rated film degree programs that is much more expensive.
A college or university offering a Bachelor of Arts in Film, Television, Film Studies, Communications or a related field is where you should attend to become a film editor. Film editors typically have degrees in film studies, and you can attend a university offering core courses in cinematography to learn how to work cameras and related equipment.
Good film schools include the National Film and Television School, London Film School / London Film Academy, Boston University, and L.A. Film School.
Yes, it is worth going to college for film. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that most entry-level jobs in this industry require skills earned in a bachelor’s degree. However, many professionals in the industry claim that you are better off learning film and completing projects by yourself instead of going to film school.
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