In the following article, we examine the 10 best affordable colleges for a graphic design degree. A Bachelor’s in Graphic Design is a solid option for students looking to turn their artistic passion and talents into a long-term career. Organizations and businesses of all sizes rely on visual media to convey key instructions to employees, public service announcements to citizens, and information to consumers. To accomplish these, these companies typically turn to the expertise of a graphic designer.
Graphic designers are responsible for using computer software or developing visual concepts by hand to communicate ideas that captivate, inform, or inspire consumers. They may also be tasked with creating the production design and overall layout for corporate reports, magazines, brochures, and magazines, integrating a variety of media such as photography, digital illustration, typography, and traditional illustration. Whether a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Fine Arts, a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design degree program is the first step to this lucrative and rewarding career.
In the following methodology, we strived to capture the balance between affordability and quality. To do this, we ranked each school based on two key metrics: tuition and student-to-faculty ratios. Before we could begin awarding points, however, we first needed to gather our initial list of schools by searching for graphic design bachelor’s degrees using the College Navigator tool at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). We then narrowed down the initial pool of 20 colleges into the top 15 based on the methodology outlined below.
Average Cost of Attendance
Although it can be tempting to choose the cheapest graphic design degree just to save money, it is also important to look at the big picture and consider the school as a whole. We ranked tuition based on how much it would cost an in-state student to attend for one full year and used the average cost of attendance provided by the NCES. We also provided out-of-state tuition rates for your reference.
Under $7,500: 3 points
$7,500 to $15,000: 2 points
$15,001 and above: 1 point
In this ranking, we awarded points based on each school’s student-to-faculty ratio, as reported by NCES. While institutions with high ratios may be more likely to offer majors and concentrations not available at smaller schools, colleges and universities with low ratios may be more likely to offer individualized mentoring, personalized studies, and opportunities for students to develop relationships with their professors and peers. Therefore, we awarded the most points the latter based on the following ranges.
10:1 or less: 3 points
11:1 to 15:1: 2 points
Greater than 15:1: 1 point
Ranking Top 15 Best Affordable Colleges for a Graphic Design Degree
15. West Texas A&M University
Located in Canyon, Texas, West Texas A&M University is a public institution of higher education and a member of the Texas A&M University System. The school’s Department of Art, Theatre and Dance offers a cheap Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design that prepares students to enter this dynamic, in-demand field. Students pursuing this high-value graphic design degree are required to complete 21 hours in the graphic design major in areas such as illustration, art history, and graphic design as well as six hours in a senior project. Foundation coursework covers drawing, two- and three-dimensional design, and beginner-level art history. Nine hours of computer art, nine hours of art history, and nine hours of art electives are also required for graduation. Areas of study include ceramics, sculpture, water media, painting, printmaking, and drawing. BFA students must also participate in an art internship in which they gain practical experiences in the field of graphic design.
Graphic Design B.F. A.
In-State Tuition: $7,935
Out-of-State Tuition: $9,304
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 20:1
14. Northwest Missouri State University
Founded in 1905 as a teacher’s college, Northwest Missouri State University is a public university located in Maryville, Missouri. Students looking for an affordable graphic design degree can pursue a top-value Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design that teaches them to create compelling, powerful design work suited to meet the needs of their clients. Experienced faculty members teach the fundamentals of art, allowing students to graduate with a diverse portfolio of tools and skills. Core requirements include printmaking, typography, computer graphics, sculpture, painting, photography, drawing, and three-dimensional design, while graphic design requirements consist of coursework in digital illustration, three-dimensional animation, package design, print and digital design, and advanced graphic design. In addition to completing the required curriculum, graphic design majors work closely with industry professionals, and student engagement offers significant opportunities for experiential learning. Northwest ensures that graphic design students are career-ready on the first day through networking opportunities, field experiences, and internships. Approximately 93 percent of art majors continue their education or find employment within six months of earning their degree. Graduates are prepared for careers as Web designers, print designers, creative designers, and graphic designers.
B.F.A. Graphic Design
In-State Tuition: $7,844
Out-of-State Tuition: $13,166
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 21:1
13. Bellevue University
Established in 1966, Bellevue University is a nonprofit, private university in Bellevue, Nebraska and one of the most affordable colleges for a graphic design degree. Students pursuing the cheap Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design at Bellevue University will learn how to use various technologies and media for Web and print design as well as understand how typography, layout, images, color, and other principles influence messaging, branding, and design. The 127-hour top-value graphic design degree is comprised of 36 credits in general education, 42 credits in electives, and 49 credits in major requirements that focus on topics in Web and print design, the history of graphic design, problem-solving and idea generation, branding, website development, Web page design, and identity design. Bellevue also requires all undergraduates to complete nine credits in its Kirkpatrick Signature Series, which involves the study of freedom and responsibility, tradition and change, and the American vision and values. Throughout the course of this low-cost degree program, students develop a professional portfolio that represents a wide range of digital and print projects that they may then use as preparation for future graduate study or to showcase their skills to prospective clients or employers. Graduates are prepared to work in a variety of industries in product packaging design, advertising, communications, or marketing.
Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design
In-State Tuition: $7,827
Out-of-State Tuition: $7,827
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 40:1
12. Peru State College
Peru State College, located in Peru, Nebraska, was founded in 1865 by members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. PSC provides an affordable art program designed to prepare graduates who are successful and capable teachers, designers, and artists. Students can choose from options in fine arts, teaching, and graphic design. Within the graphic design concentration, students may pursue either a cheap Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree, both of which allow students to develop a broad range of digital and traditional skills in the visual arts, including 33 credits in core classes such as illustration, animation, print and Web design, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, and painting. Specifically, the graphic design option includes 24 credits in design studio, motion graphics, Web design visual identity, illustration, and typography. Small class sizes allow for one-on-one mentorship by art faculty, and spacious studios and design laboratories provide ample room in which students to explore their creative interests. Peru State is recognized among the top affordable colleges for a graphic design degree, and it is only an hour’s drive from galleries, museums, and cultural events hosted throughout Lincoln and Omaha.
Bachelor of Science (BS) in Art, Graphic Design Option
Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Art, Graphic Design Option
In-State Tuition: $7,512
Out-of-State Tuition: $7,512
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 21:1
11. Park University
Located in Parkville, Missouri, Park University was founded in 1875 and has grown into one of the most affordable universities for a graphic design degree. Students pursuing the inexpensive Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design are exposed to photography, three-dimensional animation, illustration, layout, typography, identity and branding, and visual communication. This top-value degree in graphic design is delivered in a face-to-face format and requires a minimum of 122 credit hours of study, including approved electives in a concentration and 66 hours of degree-specific core requirements. The portfolio component demonstrates inventiveness and risk-taking in concept and form, and students must select examples of their best work to submit to their major advisers as part of the Senior Seminar requirement. The zip disks, CDs, and slides remain the property of Park University’s Department of Art, Design and Interdisciplinary Studies. Aside from the portfolio, students may wish to gain additional experience through internships between their junior and senior years, specialized topics, and independent studies. Graduates are prepared for careers in environmental graphic design, motion design, editorial design, commercial design, and corporate identity and branding. Park University also offers related degrees in multimedia journalism and public relations, computer information systems, interior design, and visual communication.
Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design
In-State Tuition: $11,572
Out-of-State Tuition: $11,572
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
10. Doane University
Doane University is a private liberal arts college in Crete, Nebraska that operates additional campuses in Omaha, Grand Island, and Lincoln. Students seeking a cost-effective graphic design degree can pursue a new major in which they are immersed in an interdisciplinary, unique approach to the field. Areas of study include advanced ceramics, painting, and drawing as well as two- and three-dimensional design, basic video production, graphic design, digital media, Western art history, visual arts, and intercultural communication. Students will spend most of their time in computer laboratories and art studios housed in the Chab Weyers Education and Hixson Lied Art Building, using pace-setting and industry-standard technologies such as Adobe Creative Cloud. Students may access the graphic design lab 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whenever their creative juices are flowing. From typography and photography to Web design and motion graphics, students develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the professional world. A low-cost graphic design degree from Doane also prepares students to continue their studies in a graduate school setting.
In-State Tuition: $11,370
Out-of-State Tuition: $11,370
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
9. Missouri Western State University
Saint Joseph, Missouri
Missouri Western State University is a public university located in Saint Joseph, Missouri. An accredited university for a graphic design degree, the school’s Department of Art offers a cheap four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design. Students are required to complete 120 credit hours of study, and topics include two- and three-dimensional design, art history, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, motion graphics, printmaking, design software applications, and graphic design. Students are also exposed to typography, illustration, painting, and photography. As part of the graduation requirements, students are required to participate in a senior seminar and exhibit in which they prepare and present their personal work for critique and review. All students pursuing a low-cost graphic design degree at MWSU are required to complete internships at organizations, advertising agencies, design firms, and businesses to gain practical experience in the field before graduation. Students may choose to intern nationally, regionally, locally, and on-campus. Graduates are prepared to work with small or large advertising agencies, in-house creative departments, publishers, design firms, and on a freelance basis.
B.F.A. Graphic Design
In-State Tuition: $7,960
Out-of-State Tuition: $13,835
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
8. Southwestern Oklahoma State University
Located in Weatherford, Oklahoma, Southwestern Oklahoma State University is a public institution of higher education and an affordable university for a graphic design degree. The school’s low-cost Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design prepares students to enter the dynamic, in-demand field of digital communication design. Through the curriculum, students learn to effectively communicate through visuals while developing personal design and aesthetic values. Coursework teaches the development of a visual language utilizing digital and traditional imagery as well as typography, and students learn effective methods for creating communications across different media formats such as interactive media, exhibitions, packages, posters, books, Web-delivered content, and motion and sequential film. Graduates who complete this economical graphic design degree program are prepared to work with the creative staffs of corporate communications departments, publishing houses, design studies, or advertising agencies in entry-level positions such as production artist for a design staff, graphic designer, or as a junior art director.
B.F.A. in Graphic Design
In-State Tuition: $7,335
Out-of-State Tuition: $14,235
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 21:1
7. Arkansas Tech University
Recognized as an affordable accredited university for a graphic design degree, Arkansas Tech University is a public institution of higher education located in Russellville, Arkansas. Students may pursue a cheap Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design offered through the Department of Art and develop the techniques and skills they need to be successful in various fields of advertising art. Low-cost coursework includes general education requirements as well as topics in two- and three-dimensional design, color design, animation techniques, and drawing as well as digital skills, package design, art history, and digital illustration. Students are also exposed to Web design and production design, printmaking, and typography and layout. During the senior year, students participate in a graphic design exhibition, and they are required to complete a professional portfolio that showcases the best examples of their work.
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design
In-State Tuition: $7,254
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,678
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1
6. Wayne State College
Ranked among the most affordable colleges for a graphic design degree in the U.S., Wayne State College is a four-year public college located in Wayne, Nebraska. A member of the Nebraska State College System, WSC offers two low-cost options for students looking for a cheap graphic design degree, each of which requires 120 credits of study: a top-value Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science. Students receive training on the latest design software as well as the methods, procedures, and techniques that make up the design process. Topics of study include graphic design, digital imaging, art history, typography, app design and prototyping, Web design, and interaction design. All students must complete an internship before graduating with a degree in graphic design, and WSC supplements the curriculum through on-campus clubs and organizations, on- and off-campus shows and exhibits, opportunities for students to sell their own artwork, study-abroad programs, workshops and critiques, and trips to local museums, galleries, and design firms. WSC also offers related programs in electronic media, studio art, and PreK-12 art education.
B.A. in Graphic Design
B.S. in Graphic Design
In-State Tuition: $7,172
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,602
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18:1
5. Brigham Young University-Provo
Brigham Young University is a nonprofit, private research university located in Provo, Utah. Owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYU offers a best-value graphic design degree with one of the lowest tuition rates in the country. The school limits enrollment in its cheap Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design to 40 students, and those accepted must first complete foundational courses before applying for the high-value BFA professional program through a portfolio review. Students are required to complete coursework in design, media design, typography, motion, and interaction design, and they may select three courses from areas such as branding, design thinking, three-dimensional design, and a portfolio. An internship, BFA capstone project, and design seminar are also required for graduation. At the culmination of the program, students will have developed skills and knowledge regarding design across media types, design impact and sustainability, professional practice, design thinking, effective communication through design, and cultural change, context, and audience.
Graphic Design BFA
In-State Tuition: $5,620
Out-of-State Tuition: $5,620
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 20:1
4. University of Arkansas-Fort Smith
Fort Smith, Arkansas
Located in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith is a four-year, public university and one of 13 campuses that make up the University of Arkansas System. UAFS offers a cheap Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design through the Department of Art and Graphic Design within the College of Communication, Languages, Arts, and Social Sciences. This economical degree program emphasizes technical and creative solutions to design problems, including illustration, digital media, photography direction, copywriting, identity design and advertising, package, brochure, and logo. Students also receive training in printing, pre-press, and production issues. Undergraduate research opportunities include the UAFS Undergraduate Research Symposium. After completing the program requirements, students will have developed a portfolio in preparation for employment in corporate design firms, television stations, design studios, advertising agencies, and other graphics-related industries.
BS – Graphic Design
In-State Tuition: $5,593
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,666
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18:1
3. Brigham Young University-Hawaii
Brigham Young University-Hawaii, located in Laie, Hawaii, was established in 1955 as the Church College of Hawaii. Today, the school is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and confers affordable degree programs in management, liberal arts, and mathematics. The Department of Visual Arts at BYU-Hawaii offers a cheap Bachelor of Arts in Art and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art, each with a graphic design track. The low-cost B.A. in Art involves coursework in three-dimensional concepts, design principles, drawing concepts, readings in aesthetics, and the history of graphic design as well as global art history and contemporary art history. Students following the graphic design track are required to complete 27 hours in areas such as packaging design, motion graphics, publication design, Web for designers, branding, typography, digital photography, digital tools, and the fundamentals of Web design and technology. The economical B.F.A. option includes 66 hours of study, and all candidates must complete an additional 12 hours of thesis-level coursework. Graphic design students are also required to participate in an internship to earn their B.F.A.
Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design
In-State Tuition: $5,560
Out-of-State Tuition: $5,560
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
2. Elizabeth City State University
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
With the lowest tuition on our list, Elizabeth City State University has rightfully earned its place as one of the most affordable universities for a graphic design degree. Established in 1891, this public HBCU is located in Elizabeth City, North Carolina and is a member-institution of the University of North Carolina System. Students may pursue a cheap Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design at ECSU, a 124- to 125-semester-hour program that includes 46 to 47 hours of general education core classes. Students are required to complete 60 hours of major core courses in areas such as graphic design, photography, typography, drawing, and foundations of art. The top-value curriculum allows students to further focus their degree through six semester hours of related courses and available options include ancient art, Medieval art, Renaissance art, African-American art, 19th-century art, 20th-century art, and more. Students round out there degree with 18 hours in minor electives. The program also includes an internship in graphic design as well as a senior portfolio and show.
Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design
In-State Tuition: $3,194
Out-of-State Tuition: $7,194
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
1. University of the District of Columbia
The University of the District of Columbia, our best affordable college for a graphic design degree, is a public HBCU located in Washington, D.C. Established in 1851, it is the only public institution of higher education and one of the few urban land-grant universities in the nation. Students who are interested in the visual arts may pursue a cheap Bachelor of Arts in Art with a concentration in graphic design. Offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, the curriculum includes courses in digital media, photography, design, drawing, and conceptual thinking. Art history and advanced studio courses help students synthesize diverse art theories and techniques. The 120-credit graphic design concentration also includes communication design courses that explore animation, illustration, Web design, digital typography, posters, and logos. Students have many opportunities to display their work in Gallery 42, and both the UDC Photo Club and the UDC Art Student Union bring undergraduates together to listen to guest lecturers, take field trips, exchange ideas, and network within their disciplines. Graduates are prepared for careers as professional web and print designers for government agencies, design studios, freelance clients, and commercial institutions.
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Art
In-State Tuition: $5,888
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,416
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10:1
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Career Options for a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design Degree?
After some thought and careful consideration, you have decided that a graphic design career might be the right path for you. However, before you commit money and time to a formal program, it is important to understand what your job prospects will be after you graduate. Although the answer “graphic designer” certainly applies here, and it is the most popular career option for a graduate who has earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, there is much more to the field than one occupation. In fact, graphic design programs teach useful, usable skills that can be applied to a variety of careers in different industries, including digital effects, interactive publishing the business of digital media, project management, design theory, animation, motion graphics, and portfolio development. Below are 10 common positions for students who have earned a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design:
- Art Director
- Multimedia Artist and Animator
- Web Developer
- Marketing Specialist
- Graphic Designer
- Product Developer
- Production Artist
- User Interface (UI) Designer
- User Experience (UX) Designer
- Creative Director
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment of graphic designers across all occupations is projected to increase 4 percent between 2016 and 2026, slower than the average for all occupations. Although this may initially seem like the job outlook is poor compared to other occupations that are growing at a more rapid rate, the projected change of employment will vary depending on the industry in which a graphic designer works. For instance, employment of graphic designers working with a directory, book, periodical, or newspaper publisher is expected to decrease 22 percent, while employment of graphic designers working with computer systems design and related services will grow 20 percent over the same timeframe. Since companies are continually increasing their digital presence, they turn to graphic designers to help create effective and visually appealing website layouts.
What is the Salary Potential for a Graphic Design Degree?
You have the drive, creative spirit, and maybe one or two technical skills. When it comes to graphic design, however, you might be plagued by one major concern: How much money will you make in this field? Keep in mind that, while salary is important and your career should meet your financial needs, your occupation should also fit your lifestyle, skills, and personality. If you have done some soul-searching and you are convinced that a graphic design career is right for you, check out the following salary information, courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The BLS reports that the annual mean wagefor graphic designers was $50,370 per year, or $24.21 per hour, as of May 2018. The highest 10 percent earned more than $85,760, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,610. The BLS also indicates that the median annual wages for graphic designers were the highest in the following industries:
- Advertising, public relations, and related services: $51,380
- Specialized design services: $51,320
- Newspaper, book, periodical, and directory publishers: $43,450
- Printing and related support activities
What Courses and Concentrations Are Available in a Graphic Design Degree Program?
The courses you can expect to take in a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design will depend on the school you are attending, but they are generally a combination of technical and creative classes. This applies for both on-campus and online programs. Although each school is different and provides its own set curriculum that allows students to meet certain objectives, there are five fundamental graphic design courses found at most post-secondary institutions:
- Web Graphics
- Multimedia Animation
- Digital Photography
- Desktop Publishing
Despite being a specialized field, graphic design is also multifaceted. Students may choose to focus on developing designs for traditional media such as television and print or for the digital market. Graphic designers may also be tasked with developing interactive websites, implementing advertising campaigns, and designing commercial packaging products. Five concentrations that may be available depending on the institution you attend include marketing and advertising design, game design, illustration, and sustainable design.
Depending on the program, students can expect to spend four years fulfilling the degree requirements to earn a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design. Most programs are comprised of about 40 courses or 120 credit hours of study. Some schools may offer an accelerated option for students looking to complete their degree in reduced time. Regardless of the program or school you choose, we hope that the above list of the top 15 best affordable colleges for a graphic design degree is helpful as you narrow down your options and select an institution for your studies.
This concludes our ranking of the top 15 best affordable graphic design degree Programs in 2019.
Other Rankings of Interest: