A Message From SFAI’s President

A Message From SFAI's President About Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020

Dear SFAI Community, 

At SFAI, we fundamentally believe that artists play a critical role in society. Through their work, artists ask important and sometimes difficult questions about what it means to be human, confronting and challenging the status quo so that meaningful change can happen. As national rhetoric continues to denigrate the value of higher education, particularly arts education, we stand firm that SFAI, a school devoted to nurturing emerging artists as critical thinkers and thought-leaders, has an urgent and essential mission.

We are also sensitive to the financial challenges many of our students face while enrolled at SFAI. We believe that a quality fine arts education should be accessible to anyone with the courage, creativity, talent, and curiosity to be an artist. At the same time, like most colleges, SFAI has been faced with the reality of increasing operating costs – the money it takes to run a school, especially in an expensive city. We have worked hard to control costs, while each year also needing to increase tuition by small but cumulatively significant margins. The compounding effect of annual tuition increases over the last decade has made it more and more difficult for our current and prospective students and their families to afford an SFAI education.

In the words of SFAI’s Board Chair Pam Rorke Levy: “This is an untenable path. The rising cost of higher education is a national crisis that undermines fundamental principles of accessibility, inclusion, and opportunity, and has become a major contributing factor to our country’s growing income gap. The current trend of passing along rising costs to our students is clearly unsustainable, and anathema to who we are — and have been for the last 148 years — an arts institution committed to fostering the unique and diverse perspectives of artists.”

As a first step in remedying this disconnect between our values and the realities of operating a college, and with the support and approval of the Board of Trustees at its meeting last night, SFAI has decided to freeze both undergraduate and graduate tuition for the 2019-2020 school year. This means that there will be no increase in tuition for next year, with tuition staying at the same rates as 2018-2019 for both returning and new students. This decision will not impact SFAI scholarships and grants which will be awarded in a similar manner to this year.

There are also small changes to SFAI’s fees to better support student learning and engagement. With feedback from student leadership, we are increasing the Student Activities Fee from $35 to $50 a semester. In addition to many current activities that Student Alliance and Legion of Graduate Students offer through salons, exhibition openings, lunchtime brown bag lectures, departmental meetings, and the food pantry, these additional funds will help students apply to attend off-campus workshops, art conference trips and other community outreach opportunities. Additionally, a modest increase of $25 per semester to the Materials Fee will provide increased funding for Department Chairs who oversee studio departments and support more technical courses across the curriculum, including upper-division, advanced courses.

Our charge now is to continue increasing access to SFAI for all exceptional students, including those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. This will require the support of the wider Bay Area community and others around the country (and world!) who are inspired by our mission.

Since I arrived at SFAI nearly two years ago, I have clearly stated my belief that growth in contributed income and endowment is essential for a small school’s success in today’s America – and an ethical imperative. We must reduce the portion of SFAI’s budget that is dependent upon student tuition dollars, and increase philanthropic support. We must limit the amount of student loan debt our students and their families incur in order to finance their education. And we must remove barriers to access in order to provide promising artists an opportunity to realize an SFAI education and share their unique visions and contributions with the world.

I am proud of SFAI’s decision to freeze tuition next year in support of our students and families. I also recognize that much more work is required to make headway against the high costs of college education and deep-rooted inequality in our society. In partnership with the Board of Trustees, I am wholeheartedly committed to the significant work ahead and look forward to sharing news of future efforts.



Gordon Knox