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Q&A - Graphic Design Schools

What are the most affordable brick-and-mortar and online graphic design schools?

Your most affordable option for basic graphic design training will be at a community or technical college. These types of schools often offer associates and bachelors degrees at a fraction of the cost of a private school. For example, tuition at Minneapolis Community and Technical College is just over $5,000 per year, compared to $13,000 a year for University of Minnesota or over $30,000 a year for Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

U.S. News & World Report publishes yearly rankings of the top online graphic design schools across the country, which is a good reference if you are interested in a graphic design program. Most of the schools on this list are private with tuition and fees currently running between $30,000 and $40,000 per year.

Community colleges could be a great option to consider if you are looking to complete a 2-year program, stay near your current home or reduce the cost of your training. It may be possible to begin your studies in graphic design at a less expensive community college and then transfer to a 4-year program down the road.

There is a wide range of online graphic design schools to choose from, but the cost of attending a graphic design school online should be on par with the top brick-and-mortar schools.

How can I connect with other on-campus or online students who are also studying at my school for graphic design?

Many traditional and online graphic design schools support active graphic design organizations that host portfolio exhibitions and networking activities for students. The School of Media, Culture & Design at Woodbury University has a thriving AIGA affiliate student group that develops their own programming for the campus graphic design community and also participates in the local Los Angeles chapter events, including studio tours, speakers, scholarship competitions, exhibitions and portfolio review events.

There are many events and exhibitions open to students through the AIGA Student Groups or other graphic design community organizations. The AIGA hosts a yearly graphic design exhibition called Emerge that involves students from various colleges and universities in the Southern California area.

Each school has an opportunity to showcase the work of AIGA student members and selected students receive scholarship awards for design excellence. Programs like this are also available to students attending online schools for graphic design.

There are also many opportunities to connect with other students online through social media and other networking platforms. LinkedIn is a great networking resource for all students studying graphic design, especially if you are pursuing an online graphic design degree.

Many student chapters of AIGA have their own groups on LinkedIn, including The Art Institute of California AIGA Sunnyvale Student Group. In addition, Meetup or local design community organizations may offer you opportunities to connect with other students while attending online graphic design school.

What resources should my brick-and-mortar or online school offer me when I am studying graphic design?

Students at brick-and-mortar schools and the best online graphic design schools should have access to a wide range of online learning tools. This could include tutorials, web casts, discussion forums and digital library resources. Students at brick-and-mortar schools may have access to computer labs, but both types of schools should offer their students discounted professional graphic design software.

Full Sail University, a graphic design online school, offers students a sophisticated package of tools to complete their online graphic design bachelors degree.

Project LaunchBox at Full Sail provides students with access to a complete mobile studio for use throughout their school career and after graduation. This mobile studio includes a computer loaded with a complete line of creative software tools and pro-level applications.

Your graphic design school should be able to provide information about available financial support. Federal financial aid is the most common financial aid option for graphic design students, but is only available to students enrolled in accredited schools. Depending on your school or region of the country, other scholarships may also be available. For example, Iowa Scholarships for the Arts offers Iowa high school students who display proven artistic ability in the areas of music, dance, visual arts, theatre or literature financial support to attend an accredited Iowa college or university.

Are there any nonprofit online graphic design schools or programs that I could look into?

There are many public universities as well as community and technical colleges that offer degrees in graphic design. Nonprofit institutions usually offer graphic design training at a much lower cost than private schools. They are able to keep tuition lower because state and federal governments subsidize the programs.

When you are exploring options for professional training, it is important to look for accredited graphic design schools online. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design provides a comprehensive list of accredited programs. This is the best way to ensure that a graphic design program meets industry standards and that you will receive the best training necessary to succeed in the profession.

As affordable as public schools are, most of the best online schools for graphic design are private schools. Some public universities and community colleges offer online training, but they have been slower to adopt the latest learning tools, though this may change in the coming years. The quality of your online graphic design training is dependent on the online tools and resources the school is able to provide students who are learning remotely.