2020 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Art Degrees

By the OnlineU team | Updated 8/23/2021
2020 Most Affordable Art & Design Bachelors Degrees Badge
By the OnlineU team | Updated 8/23/2021

If you're interested in pursuing a creative career, an online degree in art or design can provide a strong foundation. Once enrolled in an online program, you'll discover the basics of design. From there, you'll develop specialized skills in the design area of your choice, whether it be for printed items, websites, or video games. You could become a graphic artist with a median annual salary of $53,380, or an animator with a median annual salary of $77,700.

Below is our list of the 11 most affordable online degree programs in art and design, with schools offering programs in digital photography, graphic design, and more. We also provide information about online art degrees, common courses found in these programs, the cost of earning an online degree, and career paths for art and design graduates.

You can read more about our ranked schools below or browse our rankings of the most affordable online master's in art & design. View our methodology or learn more about OnlineU.

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 Southern New Hampshire University Online $9,600
# 2 #2 Liberty University $11,700
# 3 #3 Central Michigan University $13,454
# 4 #4 Bellevue University $13,600
# 5 #5 Upper Iowa University $14,130
# 6 #6 Lindenwood University $14,850
# 7 #7 University of Florida $15,000
# 8 #8 Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design $16,058
# 9 #9 The University of Montana $21,600
# 10 #10 Cogswell College $24,750
# 11 #11 Academy of Art University $28,890
#1
#1
Annual Tuition: $9,600
Annual Tuition: $9,600
Annual Tuition: $9,600
  • Online Degrees: 5
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 77%
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 86,849
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 19,526
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE
  • Phone #: (603) 668-2211

Example Classes: 3-D Art and Design, 3-D Modeling and Animation, Creature Design, Environment Design, Game Art and Development Capstone, Intro to Digital Sculpting

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BA Digital Photography
  • BA Game Art & Development
  • BA Graphic Design and Media Arts
  • BA Graphic Design and Media Arts - 3D Modeling & Animation
  • BA Graphic Design and Media Arts - Web Design
#2
#2

Liberty University

Lynchburg (VA)
Annual Tuition: $11,700
Annual Tuition: $11,700
Annual Tuition: $11,700
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Acceptance Rate: 30%
  • Average SATs: 1040 -1260
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 34,092
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 36,337
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (434) 582-2000

Example Classes: Advanced Typography, Digital Photography, History of Graphic Design, Interactive Publication, Publication Design, Vector Illustration

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BFA: Graphic Design
  • BS: Information Technology: Gaming Design
#3
#3

Central Michigan University

Mount Pleasant (MI)
Annual Tuition: $13,454
Annual Tuition: $13,454
Annual Tuition: $13,454
  • Online Degrees: 6
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
  • Graduation Rate: 61%
  • Acceptance Rate: 68%
  • Average SATs: 990 -1200
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,326
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,485
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (989) 774-4000

Example Classes: 3D Printing and Fashion, Apparel Product Development, Dress and Culture, Fashion Design: Illustration, Fashion Retail Management, Textile Analysis

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Applied Arts in Fashion Merchandising & Design
  • Bachelor of Applied Arts in Fashion Merchandising & Design - Product Development
  • Bachelor of Applied Arts in Fashion Merchandising & Design - Visual Merchandising
  • Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising & Design
  • Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising & Design - Product Development
  • Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising & Design - Visual Merchandising
#4
#4

Bellevue University

Bellevue (NE)
Annual Tuition: $13,600
Annual Tuition: $13,600
Annual Tuition: $13,600
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 84%
  • Graduation Rate: 24%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 7,352
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,151
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (402) 291-8100

Example Classes: Branding, Identity Design, Interactivity Basics, Publication Design, Single Page Design, Website Development

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design
#5
#5

Upper Iowa University

Fayette (IA)
Annual Tuition: $14,130
Annual Tuition: $14,130
Annual Tuition: $14,130
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Acceptance Rate: 56%
  • Average SATs: 980 -1160
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,872
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 514
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (563) 425-5200

Example Classes: Advertising Design, Digital Illustration, Digital Imaging, Publication Design, Typography, Web Publishing and Social Media

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design
#6
#6

Lindenwood University

Saint Charles (MO)
Annual Tuition: $14,850
Annual Tuition: $14,850
Annual Tuition: $14,850
  • Online Degrees: 8
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 50%
  • Acceptance Rate: 74%
  • Average SATs: 980 -1170
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 494
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,042
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (636) 949-2000

Example Classes: 3D Animation, Arts Entrepreneurship, Concept Design, Design with Photoshop, History of Games and Critical Theory, Level Design

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BA in Art and Design
  • BA in Game Design
  • BA in Game Design - Game Art
  • BA in Pre-Art Therapy
  • BFA in Art and Design - Digital Art
  • BFA in Art and Design - Graphic Design
#7
#7

University of Florida

Gainesville (FL)
Annual Tuition: $15,000
Annual Tuition: $15,000
Annual Tuition: $15,000
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 88%
  • Acceptance Rate: 42%
  • Average SATs: 1310 -1470
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,029
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,401
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (352) 392-3261

Example Classes: Advanced Digital Animation Techniques, Digital Storytelling, Entrepreneurship in New Media, Theory of Digital Media Protocols, Wearable and Mobile App Development, Writing for Interactive Media

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BA in Digital Arts and Sciences
#8
#8
Annual Tuition: $16,058
Annual Tuition: $16,058
Annual Tuition: $16,058
  • Online Degrees: 16
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 43%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 851
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (303) 753-6046

Example Classes: Animation Sound Design + Video Editing, Business, Ethics + Copyright for Animation, Creative Visualization, Design: Stills to Motion, Digital Painting for Film + Games, Tools + Techniques of Contemporary Animation

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation - 2D Animation
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation - 3D Animation
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Education
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Education - Animation
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Education - Graphic Design
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Education - Illustration
#9
#9
Annual Tuition: $21,600
Annual Tuition: $21,600
Annual Tuition: $21,600
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Acceptance Rate: 93%
  • Average SATs: 1055 -1245
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 346
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 263
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NWCCU
  • Phone #: (406) 243-0211

Example Classes: Graphic Design Applications, Presentation to the Community, Studio Synthesis, Techniques of the Web, Topics in Film and Media Studies, Visual Language: 3-D Design

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Art
  • Bachelor of Arts in Media Arts
#10
#10

Cogswell College

Sunnyvale (CA)
Annual Tuition: $24,750
Annual Tuition: $24,750
Annual Tuition: $24,750
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 55%
  • Acceptance Rate: 64%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 0
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 0
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: WSCUC
  • Phone #: (800) 264-7955

Example Classes: Character Rigging, Environment Art, Game Animation, Game Usability, Level Design, Texturing

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BA in Game Design Art
#11
#11

Academy of Art University

San Francisco (CA)
Annual Tuition: $28,890
Annual Tuition: $28,890
Annual Tuition: $28,890
  • Online Degrees: 30
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 59%
  • Graduation Rate: 45%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,911
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,298
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: WSCUC
  • Phone #: (800) 544-2787

Example Classes: Book Arts, Composition & Painting, Intermediate Figure Drawing, Printmaking, Silkscreen, Still Life Painting, Watercolor Painting

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • B.Arch. in Architecture
  • BA in Architectural Design
  • BFA in Animation & Visual Effects - 3D Animation
  • BFA in Art Education
  • BFA in Fashion Product Development
  • BFA in Fashion Styling

Can You Go to Art School Online?

Very few schools offer online courses in the traditional visual arts, such as painting, drawing, and sculpture. However, many online schools have developed distance learning programs for creative fields that blend art with technology, including digital photography, graphic design, web design, animation, and video game design. Earning an online four-year degree in one of those subjects can help prepare you for a creative career, but if you're committed to pursuing a degree in the traditional arts, you should consider on-campus programs.

Art and Design Degree Quick Facts
  • Average Credits: 120
  • Average Duration: 4 years

What is the Best Online Art and Design Degree to Get?

If you're planning to pursue a creative field through online learning, you may want to focus on one of the technology-oriented arts. Based on data from ONET Online regarding well-paying, high-growth fields, a few of the most promising art and design subjects to study online include web design, video game design, and animation and 3D graphics.

Online Art and Design Courses

Art and design programs typically start with foundations in art and art history, progress through courses related to your area of specialization, and culminate in a capstone course designed to help you polish your professional portfolio of work. Some of the most popular online classes in art and design include:

  • Digital Imaging: This graphic arts course will provide you with an essential understanding of how digitized art must be prepared for use in electronic media and in print. You will most likely learn to use the Adobe Creative Suite or similar software programs.
  • Digital Photography: Although there are entire degree programs devoted to digital photography, design students are often required to take a summary course on the subject. Coursework will enable you to learn how to use a digital camera, how to create various light effects, and how to use photo editing software to enhance your images.
  • Introduction to Web Design: Typically a hands-on, application-oriented course, you'll learn the basics of HTML, CSS, and possibly other languages and programs to build websites. Your technical skills will be enhanced with an understanding of appealing visual design and usability.
  • Principles of Design: This fundamental course is included in nearly every art and design program. You'll learn to utilize the formal elements and principles of design, especially color, and you may be introduced to the basics of typography. Problem solving and decision making are important skills that art students develop through this course.
  • 3D Graphics Basics: While gaining experience in using industry-standard software, you'll learn the fundamentals of creating 3D motion graphics. Hands-on projects will introduce you to the process of storyboarding and rendering graphic objects and animations.

Cost of Online Art and Design Programs

The 11 schools on our list offer the most affordable online art and design degrees available, with annual tuition averaging $16,694, typically for 30 credit hours per year. In many cases, tuition rates for online students are comparable to those for in-state students. You may also save money on housing, transportation, and other fees by living at home or off campus while earning your online degree, which can help with affordability.

The 11 schools on our list offer the most affordable online art and design degrees available, with annual tuition averaging $16,694.

Funding an Online Art & Design Degree

Students who enroll in accredited, online degree programs in art, graphic art, and design may be eligible for financial aid. To begin the application process, students should complete and submit the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Once this form has been reviewed by representatives of both the federal government and the schools, the applicants will receive a letter that details the type and amount of financial aid being offered. If applying to multiple schools, the offers from each school may be the deciding factor as to which program the student will choose. If students have any questions about their financial aid offers, they should contact the financial aid representatives at the college(s) they have applied to.

The best offers include scholarships or grants, which may come from the federal government, the state government, or from the college itself. Unlike student loans, grant and scholarship money does not have to be repaid. Applicants who are offered a student loan should review the loan terms carefully. Federal student loans are generally preferred over private student loans, which typically feature higher interest rates and more stringent repayment plans.

Online art and design majors may want to consider applying for the following private scholarships and/or participating in these art competitions:


Art and Design Careers

Online bachelor's programs in art and design prepare art students for occupations that combine creativity with technological skills, many of which are highlighted in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. For example, graduates may become animators, with a median annual salary of $77,700, or digital designers, who earn a median annual salary of $77,200.

Graphic design has also been a popular choice for many years, although the BLS reports that demand for graphic designers is expected to decline by 4% over the next decade. On the other hand, the job market in web design, UX/UI design, 3D design, video gaming, and animation remains strong, with demand for several of these occupations projected to grow 4%-8%.

After gaining several years of experience, some designers move into management positions as art directors, where they guide the vision and direction of an organization's brand presentation. At this level, art directors earn a median annual salary of $97,270.

Median Annual Salary of Careers in Art and Design Bar Graph

Is an Online Art Degree Worth It?

A college degree is not required to thrive in some creative fields like fine arts and web design. Many talented individuals with artistic skills and drive have been successful without one, and that may turn out to be the best path for you, depending on your personal circumstances and career goals. However, an undergraduate degree is strongly recommended for other fields, such as graphic art, animation, and game design, and most professionals hold degrees. Additionally, all of these occupations are highly competitive, and the technical skills and business acumen you gain from earning an online degree in art and design may give you a competitive edge.