Purchase Acting BFA vs Pace Acting BFA

Looking for input comparing these two programs. Of course, cost and location differences are clear and both are major factors in the decision-making. Even with a merit scholarship which knocks off about a third of the COA, Pace is about 50k a year with boarding and Purchase at 30k. And the lower Manhattan location vs suburban campus which happens to be probably too close to home in our case are clearly very different.

But isolating the acting BFA program comparisons, how do they compare in terms of training style, experience, prestige, outcomes? Is this even an answerable question?

I don’t have a child at either school, but from what I’ve read about both schools, Purchase is a very intense conservatory program where you’re focused on your craft many hours a day. It’s a top-notch, very rigorous program that is very much focused on training.

Pace is more about the industry and making connections and booking work, bringing in casting directors to work with the kids early on. I think they allow you to audition professionally while you’re still in school, but I’m not 100% sure on that, so check.

Again, I don’t have a child at either school, but this is what I’ve gotten from reading both schools theater department websites and reading CC for many years. So take it with a grain of salt!

I have a student in the BFA conservatory at Purchase who absolutely loves it. Top notch rigorous training as actorparent1 mentions. But your student must want a serious training in which young actors are working very hard to learn their craft. Purchase has been considered a top program for at least 35-40 years. Don’t know much about Pace but I believe it’s a much newer program. Good luck!

Forgot to say, Purchase has by far a more prestigious acting program. I believe Pace also has a MT program which is well regarded. But on the straight acting front, Purchase ranks higher.

Can anyone speak to the culture / philosophy of building actors at Purchase? It’s my understanding they were in transition last year.

They have new faculty at both schools, which does have a significant effect on the culture/philosophy.

My name is Anthony and I run How To Get Into Drama School, and we are in touch with top BFA programs around the country and how they’re changing year by year.
Right now is an interesting time.
Pace is emerging as a top-tier program and Purchase’s longstanding top-tier reputation has been on the downward trend for years.

Purchase is known for training “gritty” actors in a conservatory/rigorous setting. Think of famous alumni like Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco. Highly respected “truth-tellers” on stage and screen. “Actors with edge” for sure. That’s the philosophy Purchase sends their graduates out into the industry with. Works for some. Doesn’t work for others. Either way, “craft is king.”
Pace’s philosophy is more “industry is king”. They preach “You start your career when you arrive, not when you leave.” This, of course, leaves them without some of the finer crafted tools Purchase grads walk away with but then again, those finer tools are not needed as much to make a living in the industry (and a huge trap of young conservatory grads is placing way too much emphasis on useless craft tools right out of school rather than focusing on getting industry-level wins).
Graduates of Pace are savvy and comfortable with how the industry works, whereas many Purchase grads are in “discovery/vulnerability” mode right out of school because their curriculum/culture placed max importance on craft when the industry just doesn’t value it as much.
If you’re looking to find out which program is best, that’s a question of your values. Do you consider the best craftsman to be more successful or the one who can navigate the industry better?
For my money today, Pace is worth the extra cost. You’re getting above-average training which is only getting better, NYC location is advantageous in a myriad of ways, the leadership is ushering the school into it’s most exciting time (which is going to reflect on the students), and the likelihood of booking jobs right out of school is higher at Pace right now.

Hi arkham! I see that this thread is from earlier in the year but if you’re still in need of information I can provide some from the Purchase side! I am a junior in the program now and although I agree on some of his points, I have to disagree with JuilliardGrad on others.

The new faculty we have received actually are better than who we had before. One of our two undergrad voice and speech teachers actually teaches both at Pace and Purchase! All of our faculty have insane connections in the city because, for the most part, they all live and actively work there. Some of our faculty have critical accolades, the freshman year acting teacher used to teach at Juilliard and has a Tony. The third year acting teacher has an Obie.

Many of our recent alumni have had great success after graduation, one landed a series regular role in fear the walking dead, and the other booked a critically acclaimed off-broadway production, both right out of showcase. Those graduates were from 2018. Some alumni go and do their own work, start their own production companies. A lot of our alumni work, but you won’t necessarily hear about them. Like I said you have those that just will book big things straight out, but you have a lot that start smaller. Fact of the matter is that Purchase actors work, and that many casting directors hold Purchase actors in high regard. One alumni came back to talk to us and said he’s auditioning in the same rooms as actors from MFA programs and Julliard.

I think it is true that more emphasis is put on craft than industry, but that being said, it’s not like industry is glossed over. We spend a great deal of time honing the craft and figuring it, and ourselves, out. The big emphasis with us is resilience and ownership of our work. The program doesn’t churn out entertainers, it churns out artists. All of our productions are done as if they were true professional productions. Our D/T program is one of the best in the country so we are working with people in the tech world who we are going to see again professionally in the future. We hire professional directors, people who are working and doing things in the city. Our script analysis class also basically doubles as an auditioning class. We’re taught how to break down a script quickly and dig into it in the time constraints of an actual audition.

I personally think that Purchase has one of the best acting programs in the country, but it is true that it is intense and difficult. You really have to want to be an actor if you come here, otherwise you won’t make it through, which is common. It asks for an insane level of commitment and there is a lot of tasks being thrown at you that you have to juggle. But that’s part of the game, if you can’t do that in school, it’s gonna be that much harder when you’re not going to class everyday and you have to figure out how you’re going to pay rent.

As for the price, considering it is drama school, it’s really not that bad looking at other schools. I’m personally and out-of-stater and I’m paying the big 30k. I’m not in the camp where I think you should have to pay big money to learn how to act, so with that I think that Purchase is a steal for how good it is.

I do think we’ve dropped from legendary status, sure, but I think that’s just because a lot of people don’t know about us. And also poor advertisement, but that’s just the administration being the administration. There’s just not a lot of us who flaunt Purchase after we leave, I think that’s all that is, so there’s definitely less that people that aren’t in the school know about than those of us that are. I think we’re still a top tier program and I don’t see that going down the pipe any time soon. Now we’re more of a “if you know you KNOW” kind of program. But I can really only speak from my experience.

I will also say personally for me, I didn’t want to go to school in the city because a) it’s expensive, b) it’s expensive, and c) it’s loud. It’s very quiet (in noise and in other things) around Purchase and it makes it easier to actually hone in on things when you’re not in class. And you can go to the city when you want, it’s just a 40 minute train ride away, I used to go a bunch.

I will also say, having Purchase on resumes alone has gotten people big auditions.

Lastly, and I think it warrants saying again because you should know what you’re getting into. This school is not for the feint of heart. It is hard. Really. Really. Hard. It will kick your heiny. Even if you’re the best one in the class, which honestly changes from day to day. People quit. People used to get kicked out too, but they got rid of that. But that rigorous culture is definitely still there. They say that it’s a tear you down to build you back up kind of thing and it is, but that part of it isn’t necessarily how it sounds. It’s more that they ask a lot of you and it takes a lot of you to deliver, so naturally you adapt to it and then that becomes normal. It’s more like, okay, you have bad habits, time for you to relearn what you have learned.

Anyways, this was long so sorry about that, but I do have a lot more information that I would be happy to share if it’s wanted, and if you have any questions feel free to P.M. me.

@anactor thank you so much for the detailed response which I know will be of good use to people who like me search back posts here as they weigh their options. I happen to have met my wife when we were both purchase students in the '90s and loved my acting for non-majors class with prof irby. i’ve always been impressed with the kind of education purchase offers in various conservatory style programs at a state school price. unfortunately, that familiarity and geographic proximity had already counted against it in our son’s view. and with recent increased buzz about Pace’s program (esp at his high school where a very talented grad had gone off there a few years back,) I posted this thread hoping to get some anecdotal data, as i felt he was mistaken to discount purchase’s program and rep as he weighed the two. This is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for - thanks again and i’m very glad to hear Purchase Acting is going as strong as I suspected it would be. Wish you luck in your remaining studies and career.

in our case, we had a surplus of good options and ultimately son decided to narrow his choices down to two jazz voice programs at music conservatories before deciding on the one halfway across the country (which also gave us the best financial deal) over the one in his prior dream location of nyc. he’s started zoom classes from home this week. so much for getting away :slight_smile: