Should I Borrow Money for Art School?

a building with walls around it and a flag flying on top

How Much Money Do You Need?

If you’re $5,000 short of tuition, and you’ll graduate this semester, go for it! If you’re $50,000 short on tuition and you won’t graduate for another five semesters, think twice about the debt you’ll owe when you’re done.

Will You Be Able to Pay It Back?

It’s a matter of if, not when. Artists who graduate from art school are often not prepared to make a living in the real world. As a result, they end up working jobs unrelated to their studies at college. It’s hard to follow your muse when there’s a huge debt heavily weighing you down.

Can You Do What You Do Without a Degree?

If you’re taking out money to go to learn how to become an artist, consider just becoming an artist without going to college. Having a degree is always helpful but it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get ahead. Making good work will always beat having three letters on your resume, unless you want to teach as a professor at an art college for a living.

Are You Sure About Your Debt?

When you sign up for student loans, you sign a contract so you don’t have to go through a rigorous process for each financial disbursement. That means the school and the loan company will give you money each semester and you don’t have to review the contract each time. This makes it easier for you to receive the money, and easier for you to get deeper into debt. Take time to read and understand everything you sign.

It Doesn’t Go Away

You can’t go bankrupt and make your student loans disappear. You can’t leave the country and make them stop following you. The interest piles on top of interest. You could end up paying monthly student loan payments for the rest of your adult life. If that feels stressful just thinking about it, imagine how it will really feel once you’re buried under it.

Understand Daily Compound Interest

Daily Compound Interest means your loan will get bigger on a daily basis. The longer you take to pay it off, the larger the sum you’ll pay. This is something to consider if you’re not going to pay off your loan for the next two or three decades. Do you really want to be paying $1,000 per month to a lender when you’re old? Make sure you run the numbers!

Be Realistic

If your education doesn’t qualify you for a high paying—or even steady paycheck—career, think twice about borrowing money for art school.

College is a Dream

College is never what you expect it to be. In many cases, even at the name brand schools, you’ll find that your professors are average, regular people and the program lacks things you wish it had.

I used to want to go to NYU, because I thought it would be great. I met an artist who went there, and she complained that her art program was limited, and not as dynamic as she expected. You will learn things in any college, but you can learn things about art outside of a college as well.

Take Your Time and Consider Alternatives

Shop around. There are many scholarships, grants, and alternative forms of education out there. Consider taking private lessons, enrolling in an affordable certificate program, or joining a community art center. It’s possible that you can find a great opportunity if you search for it.