How Much Does Theatre School Cost?

How Much Does Theatre School Cost?

Breaking down the bill for your performing arts education.

By Heather Fishel

There’s no shortage of information on how expensive a college education is. The price of tuition impacts what schools students apply to and attend. Although theatre schools might seem to fall into a category all their own, they too can be difficult to afford. Here’s what to expect when you’re faced with financing a theatre degree.

Different Costs for Different Schools

Tuition can be as cheap as $5,000 a year or as expensive as $40,000. A lesser-known art school will be more affordable than those with renowned reputations. A state university theatre program such as SUNY Purchase costs approximately $8,000 per year for out of state residents. Schools with reputations similar to the Boston Conservatory are approximately $37,000 per year.

However, tuition isn’t the only expense you’ll incur. You’ll also need to pay for room and board, supply fees, and expensive textbooks. Expect to pay an additional $12,000 if you plan to live on campus. Some schools also charge a student activities fee of $25 to $50 per semester to cover the cost of campus organizations and events. After additional fees and living expenses, theatre school can add up to $45,000 per year.

What Your “Tuition and Fees” Cover

As expensive as tuition is, it’s important to know where your money goes. It might seem like theatre schools could run on students’ tuition and fees alone. Here’s a breakdown of what tuition is typically used for:

  • Hiring professors or paying current professors’ salaries
  • Campus performance spaces, instruments, and technology
  • Grants and other financial aid for students
  • Renovations and new buildings
  • Administration expenses
  • Student services such as health centers, sports, and student-run organizations
  • Library materials

Surprisingly, tuition and fees cover only a tiny percentage of a school’s annual operating costs. Most schools must rely on alumni donations or other sources of funding to make any revenue.

Finding Financial Aid

Financial aid is a hot topic for many students. With annual tuition costs above $20,000, finding ways to fund your education can feel like an Easter egg hunt. Finding aid for theatre school is very similar to the financial aid process non-performing arts students go through.

Scholarships are a great way to cover the cost of school. They’re “free” money, and they’re awarded based on your skills and accomplishments. You’ll also need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to be eligible for government grants and loans. Individual states also offer financial aid for residents; for example, if you live in California and attend a California school, you are eligible for California grants.

Theatre School Cost: Quick Tips

  • Fill out the FAFSA every spring to calculate your expected contribution.
  • Ask if your school offers tuition freeze, a program that locks in your tuition rate at a set price until you graduate.
  • Check with your school’s financial aid office for information about school-specific scholarships and grants.

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