If you want to pursue a graphic design career, you should read this comprehensive guide on the cheapest graphic design schools. We discuss highly reputable schools and their cheapest graphic design degrees.
Pursuing a degree at one of the most affordable graphic design schools will teach you everything you need to know to get a high-paying graphic design job such as graphic designers. Find out essential details about these high-paying jobs in this article.
What Are the Most Affordable Graphic Design Schools in the US?
The cheapest graphic design schools in the US are Iowa State University, North Carolina State University, University of Illinois Chicago, and Liberty University. These universities and colleges have the cheapest graphic design degrees that teach essential graphic design skills and get you job-ready.
How Much Do the Cheapest Graphic Design Schools Cost?
The cheapest graphic design schools cost between $22,000 and $31,000 per year. Most graphic design schools’ costs include tuition, health insurance, housing, and more.
Cheapest Graphic Design Schools Costs Breakdown
- Tuition and fees. Tuition and fees include basic services you receive at university like lectures and student services.
- Health insurance. Health insurance fees included in the cost of a university go toward a health insurance plan which ensures you are covered medically during college.
- Housing. If you decide to live in a dorm during your college education, you will have to pay for it. Your college costs decrease if you choose not to live on campus.
- Activities/student fees. These fees cover other student services such as career coaching, tutoring, and counseling.
- Books and supplies. While studying at a university, you need textbooks, materials, and supplies to complete projects. Colleges usually have a books or supplies fee, which covers the cost of these materials and textbooks.
Why You Should Attend a Graphic Design School
You should attend a graphic design school because these excellent programs teach you basic and advanced graphic design, communication, drawing, and technical skills. These skills help you become a successful graphic designer.
Many degree programs, whether bachelor’s or master’s degrees, include internships during which you gain real-world experience before entering the job market. Attending a graphic design school also helps you build an impressive portfolio.
Best Graphic Design School Career Options
The best career options are graphic designer, art director, web designer, and animator. These graphic design jobs involve working with people and managing them. These jobs can get you a high-paying salary.
The projected job outlook for graphic designers is three percent from 2020 to 2030. Although this is a fairly low job outlook, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer and information technology employment will grow by 13 percent from 2020 to 2030. Graphic design students can pursue jobs in that field should they want to.
Graphic Design Salary
The average salary for a graphic design graduate is $50,710 per year, according to BLS. This highly-favorable salary may increase depending on your location, work experience, skills, and degree level. According to a Statista report on the mean earnings in the US, your salary will be higher if you have a more advanced degree.
Can You Attend Graphic Design School for Free?
No, you cannot attend a graphic design school for free, but you can apply for financial aid, which can cover a large portion of your entire cost of attendance. You can also learn valuable graphic design skills with free courses. MIT OpenCourseWare has free graphic design courses, such as Digital Typography and Fundamentals of Computational Media Design.
Cheapest Graphic Design Schools That Won’t Break the Bank
|North Carolina State University
|Iowa State University
|University of Illinois at Chicago
|Academy of Art University
|Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)
|Otis College of Art and Design
|Maryland Institute College of Art
|California Institute of the Arts
|Rhode Island School of Design
What Are the Cheapest Graphic Design Schools? A Deep Dive
Paying for Graphic Design School With Financial Aid
There are many financial aid options for graduate and undergraduate students to help them pay for their graphic design education. Typical financial aid options include grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study programs. Read the breakdown of different financial assistance options below.
The federal government awards federal grants to undergraduate and graduate students. A grant is financial aid money that students don’t need to pay back. There are many federal grants, such as Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
Federal Pell Grants are a prevalent form of financial assistance, and it is usually awarded to undergraduate students who display a financial need. According to a report on Statista on the amount of undergraduate student aid provided, approximately $45 billion worth of grants were awarded to undergraduate students during the 2020 to 2021 academic year.
A federal loan is money that you borrow from the federal government. The federal government funds federal loans and offers these loans to graduate and undergraduate students. Students need to pay back federal loans, but payments only start after graduation and have a fixed interest rate.
The four kinds of federal loans include Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans. Each has different features that distinguish it from other federal loans.
A private loan is an amount of money borrowed from a bank, state-based organization or credit union that helps you pay for college. Prospective students need to pay back a private loan and pay interest on the loan. A private loan payment usually starts during your college education, and they have many different interest rates.
Work-study programs give jobs to undergraduate and graduate students who show financial need. They allow students to make money while pursuing their degrees. Students can use the money they receive from their work to pay for their college education. These jobs may be on campus or off campus, depending on the kind of job.
Scholarships are need-based or merit-based awards given to students to help fund their education. They are awarded to students by schools, organizations, and employers. Scholarships usually cover some if not all tuition costs and they do not have to be paid back.
Best Schools For Your Area of Study
How to Apply for Federal Aid to Finance Your Graphic Design School Program
There are a few essential steps you need to follow when applying for federal aid to pay for your graphic design education. Below, we’ve broken down five crucial steps to help make your federal aid application process easier.
- Collect required documents. Before you can apply for federal financial aid, you must gather specific documents needed to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You need your social security number, driver’s license, tax information, and information on your bank accounts.
- Fill out the FAFSA. First, you need to create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID to fill out the application online. Then you will proceed to the FAFSA and fill in all the required information.
- Review the Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is a document you can find online or receive on paper that summarizes all the information you included in your FAFSA. You should check that all the information in the SAR is correct. You can also access the SAR with your FSA ID.
- Respond to your offer. When your FAFSA is complete and processed, you will get a financial aid offer that you need to review. You must choose which financial aid offers you will accept during this stage. Read the terms and conditions of each offer carefully before you accept.
- Receive federal student aid. Once you have accepted your federal student aid offer, you will receive financial aid. When you receive the financial assistance will depend on what kind of aid you receive. Federal student aid may go directly into your bank account or directly to the school.
Best Graphic Design Scholarships
- Against The Grain Artistic Scholarship | Amount: $1,000. This scholarship is for students pursuing a full-time degree in visual or performing arts. Students must be at least 25 percent Asian or Pacific Islander and US citizens or residents. The application deadline is 31st May each year.
- American Advertising Federation-New Mexico Scholarship | Amount: Up to $1,400. This scholarship is for New Mexico residents enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree in marketing or graphic design. Students need a grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 to be eligible. Two people receive this scholarship each year.
- Creative Arts/Design Scholarship | Amount: Up to $5,000. Students pursuing or accepted into a design school program can receive this scholarship. It is a merit-based scholarship, and the application deadline is 17th June each year.
- CBC Spouses Visual Arts Scholarship | Amount: Varies. Students qualify for this scholarship if they are African American, show leadership, are active in the community, and are enrolled in a visual arts degree program. The deadline for this scholarship is 30th April each year.
- Graphic Design Scholarship | Amount: $1,000. This scholarship is for undergraduate students pursuing a degree at a two- or four-year institution. Students must have a GPA of 2.75. The application deadline is 31st December 2022.
Cheapest Undergraduate Graphic Design Schools
The cheapest undergraduate graphic design schools have excellent graphic design bachelor’s degrees and associate degrees. These degrees in graphic design help you gain fundamental skills to start a successful graphic design career. Read the detailed list below to help find the best and most affordable undergraduate school for you.
Most Affordable Graphic Design Associate Degree Programs
- Brookdale Community College | Associate of Applied Science in Graphic Design | $148/credit (in-county); $253.50/credit (out-of-county); $278.50/credit (out-of-state). This associate degree from Brookdale Community College teaches students graphic design techniques and production. It also helps students build a strong graphic design portfolio and has 60 credits.
- Central Pennsylvania’s Community College | Associate of Applied Science in Graphic and Interactive Design | $235.50/credit (in-state); $283.25/credit (out-of-state). This associate degree program at Central Pennsylvania’s Community College has 62 credit hours students must complete in two years.
- Rasmussen University | Associate Degree in Graphic Design | $260/credit. This 18-month graphic design degree from Rasmussen University teaches students about digital photography, image editing, and web design. Students must earn 91 credit hours to qualify for graduation.
- Lynn University | Associate of Science in Graphic Design | $39,800/year. Lynn University offers this degree that teaches students fundamental graphic design skills in two years. Students earn 65 credit hours learning about digital photography, drawing, and interactive design.
- Academy of Art University | Associate of Arts in Graphic Design | $1,041/credit. This degree teaches students the integrating principles of graphic design, graphic design history, and visual communication. Students complete coursework and earn 66 units over two years.
Most Affordable Graphic Design Bachelor’s Degree Programs
- North Carolina State University | Bachelor of Graphic Design | $272.29/credit (residents); $1,178.17 per credit (non-residents). Students pursuing this bachelor’s degree get a lot of experience working with photographic, computer, and videographic media. Students take four years to complete 120 credits.
- Iowa State University | Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design | $4,576/semester (in-state); 12,175/semester (out-of-state). During this 124-credit program, students complete coursework over four years. This degree includes an internship or study abroad option and allows students to complete projects for real-world clients.
- University of Illinois at Chicago | Bachelor of Design in Graphic Design | $6,805/semester (in-state); $14,109/semester (out-of-state). This bachelor’s degree consists of 132 credit hours of coursework. Students learn about graphic design fundamentals over four years. Students gain experience in graphic design through professional projects.
- Liberty University | Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design | $23,800/year. During this bachelor’s degree, students gain essential skills in graphic design to create integrated campaigns and work with industry software. Students complete this degree in four years and earn 120 credits.
- Savannah College of Art and Design | Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design | $869/credit. Students complete 120 credits during this degree while learning about digital communication and Interface design. Students can also do an undergraduate graphic design internship to gain experience in the graphic design field.
Best Online Associate Degrees
Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees
Cheapest Graduate Schools for Graphic Design
Some of the cheapest graduate graphic design schools have high-quality graphic design master’s degrees and PhDs. These excellent graduate programs will help you fine-tune your graphic design skills and land a higher-paying job. We discuss the cheapest graduate schools for graphic design in the section below.
Most Affordable Schools for Master’s Degrees in Graphic Design
- University of Illinois Chicago | Master of Design in Graphic Design | $8,602/semester. During this 64-credit master’s degree, students learn about design history, design research, and other essential skills to conduct independent research in graphic design.
- Otis College of Art and Design | Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design | $24,550/semester. This two-year master’s degree allows students to learn through hands-on experience. Students earn 60 credits and engage in discussions, studio projects, and workshops.
- Maryland Institute College of Art | Master of Arts in Graphic Design | $2,160/credit. This two-year master’s degree has 30 credit hours. Students get an intensive immersion into graphic design practices to prepare for a successful graphic design career.
- California Institute of the Arts | Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design | $27,220/semester. During this degree program, students will learn about different design principles such as ideation, composition, and typography through projects. This is a two-year degree.
- Rhode Island School of Design | Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design | $28,218/semester. This degree can take two or three years to complete because there are two different learning tracks. Students learn about graphic design tools, techniques, and history while earning 66 credit hours.
Most Affordable PhDs in Graphic Design Universities
- Virginia Commonwealth University | PhD in Media, Art, & Text | $5,364/semester (in-state); $11,446/semester (out-of-state). The PhD in Media, Art, & Text at Virginia Commonwealth University is a 42-credit program with 36 hours worth of coursework and six hours of dissertation research. Students take courses in text and complete workshops.
- University of California Irvine | PhD in Visual Studies | $11,442/year (in-state); $26,544/year (out-of-state). This degree program at the University of California Irvine requires students to take 14 courses, write a preliminary exam and submit a dissertation. Once the dissertation is submitted, students must pass an oral defense of their dissertation.
- Arizona State University | PhD in Design, Environment and the Arts | $12,014/year (in-state); $24,498/year (out-of-state). Students earn 54 credit hours during this PhD while learning about visual communication methods. Students attend conferences and workshops, and they submit a dissertation.
- Rochester Institute of Technology | PhD in Color Science | $2,257/credit. This degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology includes coursework in principles of color science, modeling visual perception, and research and publication methods. It is a 60-credit program that takes four years to complete.
Best Online Master’s Degrees
Best Online PhD Programs
How to Choose a Good and Affordable Graphic Design School
When choosing a good and affordable graphic design school, you should consider a few factors, such as accreditation, format, and tuition. Read the five essential criteria below to help you choose a good graphic design school and an affordable degree.
The tuition cost is an essential factor when looking for an affordable graphic design school. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that the average tuition cost for attending a public four-year institution is $9,400. You need to look for graphic design programs that fit your tuition budget but have a high-quality program.
Flexibility and Format
The format of a program is critical. There are many on-campus, online, and hybrid graphic design degrees. You need to find an affordable program that fits your needs. A Statista report on the most important factors when choosing an online program found that 55 percent of college students pursue online degrees because of affordability.
Accreditation means that a university meets all higher education standards and delivers high-quality educational programs. Before applying for admission to a school, you should research its accreditation to ensure it is a good quality school.
When searching for an affordable graphic design school, it is essential to find a school that has a good reputation. You can check a school’s reputation by looking at its rankings on Times Higher Education and US News & World Report.
The curriculum of a program is a vital deciding factor. When looking at the cheapest graphic design degrees, you should look at the curriculum and decide whether the degree covers all the areas of graphic design you would like to learn about, such as color theory or digital illustration.
Tips for Saving Money While Attending Graphic Design School
- Apply for financial aid. You can apply for financial assistance such as scholarships and grants to help you pay for your college education and save money.
- Get a part-time job. Getting a job is an excellent idea because it will help you earn extra money to help pay for your degree and cover personal expenses.
- Stick to a budget. Making a strict budget of how much you can spend on certain things each month will help you save some money, but make sure you stick to the budget.
- Live off-campus. Living on campus in a dorm room will cost you a pretty penny. If you want to save money, you can live with friends or family or rent an apartment in a cheaper area or town.
- Find out about student discounts. In some college towns, local businesses, such as coffee shops, offer discounts to students. These discounts can help you save a lot of money.
Cheapest Online Schools for Graphic Design
Many of the cheapest online schools for graphic design have online classes and programs for people interested in gaining valuable technical graphic design skills. Read the detailed breakdown below of the most affordable online graphic design schools and their online bachelor’s and master’s degrees in graphic design.
|Southern New Hampshire University
|$390/credit (undergraduate); $565/credit (graduate)
|$395/credit (full time); $450/credit (part time)
|Savannah College of Art and Design
|$869/credit (undergraduate); $890/credit (graduate)
Most Affordable Online Graphic Design Bachelor’s Programs
- Rasmussen University | Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design | $229/credit. Students can complete this 90-credit degree in 18 months. Students learn about interactive publishing and collateral design during this degree at Rasmussen University.
- Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) | Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and Media Arts | $320/credit. This degree at SNHU has two concentration options, web design and 3D modeling and animation. Students earn 120 credits over four years.
- Regent University | Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Arts | $395/credit (full time); $450/credit (part time). This degree program at Regent University teaches students about graphic design history and technologies. Students earn 120 credits and build a portfolio throughout this program.
- Upper Iowa University | Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design | $498/credit. This degree at Upper Iowa University teaches students about digital technologies and problem-solving skills. Students also learn other essential technical and artistic skills for a successful graphic design career.
Most Affordable Online Graphic Design Master’s Programs
- Liberty University | Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design | $565/credit. During this online degree, students earn 60 credits over four years. It helps students gain interactive design, publication, and visualization illustration skills.
- Arizona State University | Master of Science in Graphic Information Technology | $740/credit. This degree program at Arizona State University includes online courses in color metrology, research methods, and new media internet technologies. It is a two-year degree with 30 credit hours.
- Savannah College of Art and Design | Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and Visual Experience | $890/credit. This program includes hands-on learning and covers topics such as visual design for interactive contexts and ideation methods. During this degree, students earn 90 credits and must complete a graduate internship.
- Minneapolis College of Art and Design | Master of Arts in Graphic and Web Design | $900/credit. This 30-credit degree teaches students how to work in teams effectively. Students take graphic design classes about motion design, typography, and user experience design.
- Academy of Art University | Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design | $1,171/credit. Students earn 63 credits while learning about graphic design fundamentals. Students complete a thesis and an internship. Students also build a portfolio.
Will Attending an Online Graphic Design School Save Me Money?
Yes, attending an online graphic design degree program allows you to learn from home and reduces the cost of accommodation, tuition, and travel. You should pursue an online graphic design degree at one of the most affordable graphic design schools if you want to save on personal costs, lower your tuition, and keep your full-time job while you work.
Benefits of Online Graphic Design Programs
- Self-paced program. Online graphic design programs are self-paced, so students can complete their degrees at their own pace. You may finish your degree faster or slower than the average time for completion.
- Lower tuition costs. Your costs for tuition will be much lower because you do not need to pay for accommodation and other expenses that come with on-campus learning.
- Learn from anywhere. While completing an online graphic design degree, you can study anywhere because you do not need to attend in-person graphic design classes. You can learn as long as you have a computer with you.
- Work while you study. A flexible online curriculum allows students to study at any time. This enables students to work and earn money while completing their degrees.
- Recorded lectures. The benefit of an online degree is being able to access video lectures whenever you want and as often as you like.
Highest-Paying Graphic Design Careers
|Graphic Design Job
|Graphic Design Degree
|High school diploma/bachelor’s degree
Best Graphic Design Jobs Explained
The best graphic design jobs are art director, animator, and web designer. The programs listed in this article will help you learn essential communication and design skills needed for success. Read more details about the five best graphic design jobs below.
Graphic Design Schools Ranking Methodology: How We Ranked the Most Affordable Graphic Design Schools
We chose the most affordable graphic design colleges based on tuition and general costs information from the schools’ official websites, the US Department of Education’s database of accredited schools, and the US Department of Education’s College Scorecard tool.
Additional Reading About Graphic Design
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Cheapest Graphic Design Schools FAQ
Yes, you can get a job as a graphic designer without a degree if you show adequate skills and an impressive portfolio. You can take online courses in graphic design to sharpen your software and design skills and increase your chances of employment if you don’t have a degree. There is also the possibility of accessing high-paying careers without a degree and advanced studies if you enhance your skills through professional development.
Yes, a graphic design online degree is respected as long as it is accredited. You can find an online program’s accreditation information on the online university’s website. Programs offered by accredited online universities are of the same quality as in-person courses, offer an excellent online learning platform, and some of them can also be more affordable colleges too.
Yes, there are PhDs in Graphic Design, but graphic design options regarding these programs are rare and hard to find. If you want to take your graphic design career to the next level and are willing to put in several hours of study, you can pursue a PhD program in a related subject such as color science or computer graphics.
Yes, many universities offer undergraduate and graduate graphic design certificates where you can enhance your creative skills. For example, the Academy of Art University offers a four-year graphic design certificate. However, make sure you know the difference between a certificate and a certification before you pursue the program you want.
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