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Financial Aid Puts Art School Within Reach

Design a financial aid plan for your art school education.
Two women discuss financial aid for school

Financing Your Art School Education

Art school is much more than paintbrushes just like financial aid is a lot more than college loans.

Financing your art education can be easier than you might think. You just have to get creative.

First things first: Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)—which is a prerequisite for federal financial aid eligibility.

Art School Supply Costs

Art school students have a unique issue to consider when applying for financial aid. Does your school include the cost of supplies in the tuition? If not, you'll need to factor this additional expense into your budget.

If the price of supplies will be a significant hit to your wallet when school starts, it's a good idea to plan for enough financial assistance to cover those costs.

Now, take a look at the many options at your fingertips.

Art School Loans

The federal government, which regulates the amount of interest lenders can charge on federally backed student loans, has two programs: The William D. Ford Federal Direct (Direct Loan) Program and the Federal Perkins Loan Program. Here's what you can expect:

  • Lower interest rates than other kinds of loans
  • Students don't have to start repaying loans until six months after graduation (or when enrollment in art school is less than half time)
  • Assistance for borrowers struggling to repay their loans, including deferment and forbearance

The federal government is the lender in the Direct Loan Program and funds are distributed directly to the student. Funds for the Perkins Loans are dispersed by the college or university, so ensure your art school participates in the program.

Stafford Loan

The Stafford Loan falls under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program umbrella. Your financial need will determine whether you receive a subsidized or unsubsidized loan.

Subsidized: The government pays the interest on the loan while the student is in school.

Unsubsidized: After graduating, the student is responsible for paying the interest, which begins accruing as soon as the funds are dispersed. Direct unsubsidized loans are awarded to undergraduate students as well as graduate and professional students.


If you'll be enrolling in a bachelor's degree program and your parents are helping you pay for school, you may be eligible for PLUS Loans, which are distributed through the Direct Loan programs. These loans are geared toward parents with a dependent student enrolled at least half time in an undergraduate education.

PLUS Loans have a yearly limit which is equal to your art school costs minus other financial assistance you receive. The first payment is due 60 days after the loan is distributed and parents are required to pay a small fee—usually less than four percent of the loan).

Graduate and professional degree students can also get in on PLUS Loans. This program is referred to as the Grad PLUS Loan program and has the same terms and conditions as PLUS Loans.

Private Loan

Since federal loans have lower interest rates, students typically tap into those first. However, if you need more money to pay for art school, private loans are an option.

Things to know:

  • Higher limits
  • No payments until after graduation
  • Interest begins accruing immediately

A completed FAFSA is required to obtain private loans and eligibility is often dependent on credit scores. Having a credit score above 650 will improve your chances of loan approval.

Art School Grants

Now it's time to talk about the money you don't have to pay back. Grants and scholarships fall under this category. There are more than a thousand federal grant programs in the U.S.—worth billions of dollars. For instance, the Federal Pell Grant will award up to $5,920 (per eligible student) in the 2017-18 school year.

The amount you can receive is dependent on your financial need, school costs and other factors. Your art school may apply the funds directly to your bill, pay you directly or combine the methods.

There are two ways to apply for grants. By filling out the FAFSA, some schools will automatically consider you for grants. Or, you can search out and apply for grants offered by other donors, like professional organizations. This method can take time, but considering you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars, it's worth the effort.

Art School Scholarships

Scholarships are another great way to finance your art education since they don't have to be repaid. However, when applying for art school scholarships, expect to face tough competition. Some scholarships may come with requirements, such as applying to a specific course of study or being involved with a particular organization or group.

For art school students, professional associations for your specialty may give scholarships to qualified individuals, so this is a great place to start your search. Foundations are another source for scholarship money in the arts. Depending on your focus, whether it's photography or web design, check with large corporations in the field. Often, they'll provide scholarships to a select few each year.

Art School Work-Study Programs

Federal work-study programs offer students an opportunity to finance their education by working a part-time job. Typically, work-study awards depend on factors such as level of financial need and school funding availability. The Department of Education recommends applying for work-study programs early since funds are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Jobs include working with professors on campus or with a non-profit or public bureau off campus. If possible, find a work-study job that relates to your field so you can beef up your resume while earning money for school. Here are a few characteristics of work-study programs:

  • Pays at least federal minimum wage, but often more, depending on skills and experience
  • Undergraduate students are paid hourly
  • Graduate and professional students are either paid hourly or by salary, depending on the job
  • Students must be paid at least once per month
  • Student can't exceed the amount of hours allotted in their work-study award

You can indicate whether you want to be considered for work-study when completing your FAFSA form.

For more information, visit these work-study resources: