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The pros and cons of Universities vs. Stand Alone Art Schools

taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,625 Senior Member
Here is a post that I did on another forum. I thought it might be useful to folks here:

I will be making some generalities, which are always dangerous. However, I think that you will find my analysis fairly accurate for many of the stand alone art schools vs. universities with strong art programs. There are, however, notable exceptions in all areas. This means that you really need to check out each school of interest.

With stand alone art schools, you will generally ( and the operative word is "generally") be able to get into your major more intensively since they don't normally require as many gen eds. Usually universities require between 25% to 45% gen eds, although I have seen some universities with lower requirements. Stand alone art schools usually have no more than 25% gen eds. In addition, usually the overall art training is more intensive than that found at university art programs, although this does vary from school to school. Thus, you would think that stand alone art schools should be chosen all the time....HOWEVER..... there are some drawbacks to stand alone art schools and some exceptions to this general statement.

1. There is usually less financial aid at stand alone art schools due to having lower endowments.Most art schools have fairly low endowments with a few notable exceptions. Even the ones with higher endowments, such as RISD and CalArts don't even come close to the top 100 most well endowed universities.
2. Liberal arts are usually not presented as well or are not as "strong" as that found in most universities. Sadly, many stand alone art schools look at liberal arts as something they have to provide in order to keep NASAD accreditation or something that they just give "lip service" to. They don't take them as seriously as that of a university. There are exceptions here though such as as MICA and RISD and a few others.
3. Most universities have MUCH better miscellaneous facilities for things like gyms, student unions, pools etc.
4. Most universities usually have a LOT more going on and a lot more weekly events. They usually have many more clubs too.
5. At many universities with strong art/design programs , such as Carnegie Mellon and University of Cincinnati, there is a lot of interdisciplinary projects with other majors. For example, at Carnegie Mellon, they have a Human-Computer Interaction Institute that involves design and computer science students. Cincinnati has some programs with design and even anthropology. This is something that is sorely missed at stand alone art schools.
6. At stand alone art schools, you will be solely interacting with other art and design students. At universities, you will meet students from many different disciplines.
7. At universities, you can usually double major with art and something else. Wash U St Louis is a good example of this. This is NOT usually true with stand alone art schools, although there are art schools that have some flexibility built into their programs. MICA and Pratt are examples of this.
8. Notwithstanding what I noted above, there are a number of universities with very intense and very strong art/design programs that certainly rival both the quality and quantity of offerings at stand alone art schools. Examples of these types of schools are UCLA, Carnegie Mellon and University of Cincinnati, Temple University, Syracuse University and Yale and some others. In fact, Temple just absorbed the stand alone art school: Tyler School of Art. Thus, you are in effect getting the benefits of a stand alone art school there plus the benefits of a university.
9. Just like not all universities are created equally, not all art schools are equal. I have found that many art programs/schools have specific strengths and weaknesses. For example, Ringling and Cal Arts are particularly known for Animation. Pratt is known for its design curriculum. MICA is well known for its fine arts, BFA/ MFA programs, and flexibility. Cincinnati is known for design and especially industrial and interior design and architecture etc. Wash U is known for encouraging double majors. Thus, you really need to critically review each school's offerings.
10. Last but not least, if you find that art/design isn't for you in a stand-alone art school, you will have to transfer. With universities, there are usually a plethora of majors to choose from. Thus, you might not have to transfer from the university. This becomes a very important point if you are not sure about entering an artistic discipline.

Hope this helps you in your decision making process.
Post edited by taxguy on

Replies to: The pros and cons of Universities vs. Stand Alone Art Schools

  • believersmombelieversmom Registered User Posts: 1,109 Senior Member
    Add to #8: UMinn.-TC, they have an art campus within the university the "West Bank Arts Quarter" which allows the stand alone feel with the additional advantages of a LAC/U. In essence, the best of both worlds. One of the many reasons D picked it :)
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