Academy of Art University


Academy of Art University is a for-profit university owned by the Stephens Institute. With more than 18,000 students at present, it is the largest art and design school in the US, providing an art-based education, including multimedia communications, industrial design, and so on. It has been offering online education in addition to the traditional courses since 2002.

The university was founded by Richard S. Stephens in 1929 as the Academy of Art Advertising, an institution focusing on advertising art education. As located in San Francisco, the university offers classes in more than 40 buildings I the eastern and southern sections of San Francisco surroundings. It has purchased art studios from the San Francisco Art Institute as the facilities for art education. The academic buildings and residential facilities are linked by a school shuttle bus system.

The college offers degrees in certificate, associate, terminal-associate, bachelor’s, and master’s programs. Students are required to take some core courses before graduation, including arts/fine arts, English and history.

The mission of the Academy of Art University is:

The Academy of Art University prepares aspiring professionals in the fields of design, communication and the arts by delivering excellent undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificate and portfolio development programs. To achieve its mission the Academy of Art University maintains a no-barrier admissions policy for all persons who meet basic requirements for admission and instruction and who want to obtain a higher education or in-depth learning in a wide spectrum of disciplines in art and design; teaches a disciplined approach to the study of art and design that encourages students to develop their own styles that blend their talents, technical skills and creative aspirations with professional knowledge; enlists a dedicated and capable full-time and part-time faculty of career artists, designers and scholars who are professionals and whose success as educators comes from their ability to teach students through the wisdom and skill they have amassed through years of experience and study; operates in an urban context so that academic programs can draw upon and contribute to the cultural wealth of those communities served; provides a creative environment that is at once supportive and challenging and underpinned by excellent personalized teaching and support services that address the needs of students of diverse ages and backgrounds; provides an undergraduate general education program designed to stimulate development of critical thinking, articulation and communication skills, and appreciation of contemporary cultural issues; manages in an ethical and efficient manner, administers the finances in a prudent fashion, and returns value to the shareholders; fosters optimum quality in all aspects of programs and services.


The Academy of Art University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and some of its programs have been accredited by other accreditation associations.


The Academy of Art University comprises 19 majors, from Acting, Advertising to Photography, Web Design & New Media.

The most popular majors and course of study for students are as follows:

  1. Animation, Interactive Technology, Video Graphics and Special Effects
  2. Fashion/Apparel Design
  3. Cinematography and Film/Video Production
  4. Illustration
  5. Interior Design

The university is not listed in U.S. News & World Report Rankings.

The online courses and degree programs make the Academy of Art University outstanding as an art education institution, which allows students across the United States, or even from other countries, to get access to art education, which prepares them in a comprehensive way for careers in art or design industries.


Applications are accepted during the first week of every fall, spring and summer semester. Official high school transcripts, high school diploma or GED/CHSPE certificate are required for undergraduate applicants. While for graduate admissions, a bachelor’s degree, a resume, a letter of intent, letters of recommendation, and a portfolio demonstrating work in a relevant area are required.


The tuitions and fees for the 2011-2012 academic year is USD 22,490. The room and board fee is about USD 13,400 on average.

Need-based financial aid packages consisting of loans, grants and work study are offered by the Academy of Art University. Meanwhile, need-regardless Federal student loans are also available to full-time students.

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