2020 Most Affordable Online MFA Programs

By the OnlineU team | Updated 8/11/2021
2020 Most Affordable MFA Masters Degrees Badge
By the OnlineU team | Updated 8/11/2021

This list highlights 17 schools, all of which offer affordable online MFA programs. Ranked #1, Regent University Online charges $9,750 per year for their MFA in Film & Television. In the #2 spot is Southern New Hampshire University Online, offering an MFA in Creative Writing for $11,286 per academic year. Available courses for this program include Non-Fiction Fundamentals, Poetry Fundamentals, and Studies in Place & Setting.

You can read more about our ranked schools below or browse our rankings of the most affordable online master's programs. 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 Regent University Online $9,750
# 2 #2 Southern New Hampshire University Online $11,286
# 3 #3 Lindenwood University $11,880
# 4 #4 University of Arkansas at Monticello $12,511
# 5 #5 National University $13,260
# 6 #6 Albertus Magnus College $13,500
# 7 #7 University of Houston-Victoria $13,934
# 8 #8 Bay Path University $14,800
# 9 #9 University of Nebraska at Omaha $15,000
# 10 #10 Arcadia University $15,300
# 11 #11 Liberty University $16,350
# 12 #12 Brenau University $19,251
# 13 #13 Academy of Art University $19,494
# 14 #14 Goucher College $20,400
# 15 #15 Seton Hill University $21,249
# 16 #16 Radford University $22,320
# 17 #17 Drexel University $29,969
#1
#1

Regent University Online

Virginia Beach (VA)
Annual Tuition: $9,750
Annual Tuition: $9,750
Annual Tuition: $9,750
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 57%
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Average SATs: 990 -1220
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,146
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 5,092
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (757) 352-4127

Example Classes: Directing Actors for the Camera, Feature Film Scriptwriting, Film-Television Equipment Workshop, Lighting & Cinematography, Sound Production & Design, Story Structure for Stage & Screen

Online Master's Degrees

  • MFA in Film-Television - Directing
  • MFA in Film-Television - Producing
  • M.F.A. in Film & Television
#2
#2
Annual Tuition: $11,286
Annual Tuition: $11,286
Annual Tuition: $11,286
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • 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: Contemporary Writers and Publishing, Fiction and Film, Genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Other Popular Fiction, Non-Fiction Fundamentals, Poetry Fundamentals, Studies in Place & Setting

Online Master's Degrees

  • MFA in Creative Writing
#3
#3

Lindenwood University

Saint Charles (MO)
Annual Tuition: $11,880
Annual Tuition: $11,880
Annual Tuition: $11,880
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • 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: Advanced Studies in Prose: Shakespearean Revisionist Fictions, Contemporary Foundational Literature: Creative Nonfiction, Focused Nonfiction Workshop: Memoir Chapter Workshop, Focused Poetry Workshop: Ekphrastic Poetry, Genre Fiction Workshop: Romance Writing, The Literary Journal: Fiction & Essays

Online Master's Degrees

  • MFA in Writing
#4
#4

University of Arkansas at Monticello

Monticello (AR) (and 1 other)
Annual Tuition: $12,511
Annual Tuition: $12,511
Annual Tuition: $12,511
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 29%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 219
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 184
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Advanced Workshop: Form & Craft, Art History I Survey: Prehistoric to Renaissance, Art History II Survey: Renaissance to Present, Introduction to Graduate Study and Critical Methods

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Fine Arts
  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
#5
#5

National University

La Jolla (CA)
Annual Tuition: $13,260
Annual Tuition: $13,260
Annual Tuition: $13,260
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 33%
  • Graduation Rate: 29%
  • Average SATs: 750 -1170
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,849
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 4,165
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: WSCUC
  • Phone #: (800) 628-8648

Example Classes: Cinematic Writing, Marketing for Film & TV, Script Reading and Coverage, The Business of Screenwriting, Transmedia Writing Workshop, TV Pilot/Series Writing Workshop

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
  • Master of Fine Arts in Professional Screenwriting
#6
#6

Albertus Magnus College

New Haven (CT)
Annual Tuition: $13,500
Annual Tuition: $13,500
Annual Tuition: $13,500
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 61%
  • Acceptance Rate: 64%
  • Average SATs: 850 -1090
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 219
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 85
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE
  • Phone #: (203) 773-8550

Example Classes: Readings in Fiction, Readings in Nonfiction, Readings in Poetry, The Creative Process, The Literary Marketplace

Online Master's Degrees

  • MFA in Writing
#7
#7
Annual Tuition: $13,934
Annual Tuition: $13,934
Annual Tuition: $13,934
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 19%
  • Acceptance Rate: 49%
  • Average SATs: 930 -1088
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,605
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 934
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (361) 570-4848

Example Classes: American Literary History, British Literary History, Digital Publishing, Legal Environment of Publishing and Contracts, Publication Design, Studies in Latino Literature

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing - Applied Literary Translation
#8
#8

Bay Path University

Longmeadow (MA) (and 1 other)
Annual Tuition: $14,800
Annual Tuition: $14,800
Annual Tuition: $14,800
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Acceptance Rate: 63%
  • Average SATs: 960 -1170
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 870
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 523
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE

Example Classes: Generational Histories: Writing about Family, Health and Wellness Writing: Storytelling as a Healing Art, Immersion in Publishing, Nature and Environmental Writing, Travel and Food Writing for Publication, Women's Spiritual Writing Through the Ages

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction Writing
  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction Writing - Publishing
  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction Writing - Teaching
#9
#9
Annual Tuition: $15,000
Annual Tuition: $15,000
Annual Tuition: $15,000
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 50%
  • Acceptance Rate: 87%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 923
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 511
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (402) 554-2800

Example Classes: Advanced Fiction Studio II, Advanced Screenwriting Studio I, Form and Theory, Nonfiction Seminar, Playwriting Seminar, Poetry Studio

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Fine Arts in Writing
#10
#10

Arcadia University

Glenside (PA)
Annual Tuition: $15,300
Annual Tuition: $15,300
Annual Tuition: $15,300
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Acceptance Rate: 62%
  • Average SATs: 1030 -1260
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 13
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 565
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (215) 572-2900

Example Classes: Craft of Contemporary Fiction, Craft of Contemporary Poetry, MFA Poetry Workshop IV

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
#11
#11

Liberty University

Lynchburg (VA)
Annual Tuition: $16,350
Annual Tuition: $16,350
Annual Tuition: $16,350
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • 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: 3 Baroque Art, Art & Design Research Methodologies, History of Graphic Design, Medieval Art, Vector Illustration, Visualization Illustration

Online Master's Degrees

  • MFA in Graphic Design
  • Master of Fine Arts in Studio & Digital Arts
  • MFA: Creative Writing
#12
#12

Brenau University

Multiple Locations
Annual Tuition: $19,251
Annual Tuition: $19,251
Annual Tuition: $19,251
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 46%
  • Acceptance Rate: 66%
  • Average SATs: 920 -1140
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 746
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 545
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Interior Design Classroom Preparation, Portfolio Presentation, Seminar in Desig

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Fine Arts - Interior Design
#13
#13

Academy of Art University

San Francisco (CA)
Annual Tuition: $19,494
Annual Tuition: $19,494
Annual Tuition: $19,494
  • Online Degrees: 37
  • 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: Crossing Borders: Art & Culture in a Global Society, Digital Design: Laser Cutting and Milling, Innovations in Materials and Processes, Jewelry Fabrication: Knit, Crochet, Weave with Metal, Modular Casting for Sculpture and Jewelry, Wax Model Making and Introduction to Casting

Online Master's Degrees

  • MA in Fine Art - Drawing and Painting
  • MA in Fine Art - Printmaking
  • MA in Fine Art - Sculpture
  • MFA in Advertising
  • MFA in Animation & Visual Effects
  • MFA in Animation & Visual Effects - 2D Animation & Stop Motion
#14
#14

Goucher College

Baltimore (MD)
Annual Tuition: $20,400
Annual Tuition: $20,400
Annual Tuition: $20,400
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Acceptance Rate: 79%
  • Average SATs: 1030 -1260
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 346
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (410) 337-6000

Example Classes: Mentorship IV, Workshop 5: Advanced Study in Craft, Workshop I: Creative Writing, Workshop III: Manuscript: Work in Progress

Online Master's Degrees

  • MFA in Nonfiction
#15
#15

Seton Hill University

Greensburg (PA)
Annual Tuition: $21,249
Annual Tuition: $21,249
Annual Tuition: $21,249
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 65%
  • Acceptance Rate: 75%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 48
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 97
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (724) 834-2200

Example Classes: Readings in the Genre, Teaching Pop Fiction and Writing, Writing About Popular Fiction

Online Master's Degrees

  • MFA in Writing Popular Fiction
#16
#16

Radford University

Radford (VA)
Annual Tuition: $22,320
Annual Tuition: $22,320
Annual Tuition: $22,320
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 55%
  • Acceptance Rate: 74%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 148
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,903
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (540) 831-5000

Example Classes: Advanced Design Studio IV, Collaboration Studio, Environment Behavior, Instructional Design and Evaluation, International Art History II, Readings in Design Thinking

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Fine Arts in Art Design Thinking
#17
#17

Drexel University

Philadelphia (PA)
Annual Tuition: $29,969
Annual Tuition: $29,969
Annual Tuition: $29,969
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 69%
  • Acceptance Rate: 79%
  • Average SATs: 1190 -1390
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,492
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,697
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (215) 895-2000

Example Classes: Book Publishing, Creative Writing Craft Residency, Fiction Writing In-Person Workshop, Reading as a Writer (Genre Authors), Writing Pedagogy

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing - Fiction Writing
  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing - Screenwriting

Common Master's in Fine Arts Courses

The curricula for MFA degrees differ by artistic discipline, but most programs share common themes and aim to develop students' creative talents. For example, creative writing students will learn how to build strong characters through dialogue, and painters will hone their skills by studying and practicing with different materials, styles, and techniques. MFA students also gain exposure to constructive criticism from instructors and peers. Below are some common courses you'll find in online MFA programs.

  • Basics of Screenwriting: Professors introduce script writing, including proper format and general page counts for successful screenplays, character building, and dialogue. Students learn the conventions of different genres and how they fit into a traditional three-act structure. Some introductory courses include a workshop element allowing students to receive constructive criticism.
  • Creative Nonfiction Workshop: Faculty discuss the emergence of the genre and its history through the present day. Students may read prominent examples of memoir, travel writing, nature writing, and investigative or literary journalism. Assignments are written from prompts and then critiqued as a class during workshop sessions.
  • Fiction Workshop This course offers a brief survey of fiction writing through history, spanning the range of genres as they emerged and developed. Each student shares their work during regular class meetings, where classmates offer constructive criticism. Students taking a fiction concentration can use these workshops to refine their culminating project, which is usually a book-length manuscrip
  • Poetry Workshop: As a workshop, this course emphasizes student writing and classroom critique. Professors also assign readings from different eras and styles to provide an overview of the form's variety. Discussion topics may include point of view, rhythm and meter, rhyme, and changing tastes.
  • Introduction to Drawing: Course faculty discuss drawing both as an art form and as preparation for painting and sculpture. Students learn how to use lines and shading to depict perspective and proportion. The course may use live models to introduce the complexities of drawing human figures.
  • Introduction to Sculpture: Students begin to learn how to create three-dimensional figures. Faculty will discuss the variety of available building materials and the best techniques for shaping them. Most sections contain weekly assignments and culminate with a larger work.

Funding an Online Master's in Fine Arts

Online graduate students in the arts at accredited schools can apply for federal, state, institutional, or private financial aid. It's best to exhaust grants, scholarships, and work-study options before accepting loans, because these funds don't need to be repaid after graduation. Students who need to take out loans will usually find the best interest rates through the federal government. Most financial aid is available to both online and in-person students, but applicants should check with their school's financial aid office regarding program eligibility.

Completing the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in determining a student's financial need and eligibility for federal aid. Most states and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for their programs, though some states have developed separate forms for undocumented applicants to use, such as the Oregon Student Aid Application.

Some funding arrangements that are most common for on-campus students, such as full or partial tuition assistance and teaching assistantships, may not be available for online learners. Check with any prospective college's MFA program coordinators to find out if online students can take advantage of these funding programs. Other financial aid opportunities include:

Against the Grain Artistic Scholarship: Asian American MFA applicants in the visual arts may receive $1,000 for tuition and fees.
Cyndy and Al Baran Fine Arts and Music Scholarship: Visual arts MFA students can receive partial funding if they maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA. A second award is given to those studying acoustic guitar or mandolin.
Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship: Five U.S. poetry students between 21 and 31 years of age can receive a grant of $25,800 to help fund their MFA.

Is an Online Master's in Fine Arts Worth It?

If you're considering pursuing an online Master of Fine Arts, you're likely wondering whether it will pay off. Whether or not an MFA will be worth it will depend on your personal interests, career goals, financial situation, and other factors. Here are few things to consider:

What are the potential benefits of getting your MFA online?

Many people enroll in an MFA program as a way to carve out time to develop their craft. Whether you're a graphic designer, writer, filmmaker, or actor, you likely know that finding time to dedicate to creative endeavors can be difficult. An MFA program will provide a guided, structured opportunity to develop your skill set and an incentive to do so.

An MFA program will provide a guided, structured opportunity to develop your skill set and an incentive to do so.

An MFA program can also help you network and gain a better understanding of how to navigate the business side of your field. For creative writers, it can help you make connections in the publishing world. Screenwriters looking to land a job writing scripts for TV shows or movies may be able to network with peers, program alumni, and producers that can help them break into the industry. An advanced degree in fine arts can also help you pursue a job teaching, managing a publication or gallery, coordinating productions or exhibits, and other leadership roles in your field of study.

Enrolling in an online MFA program may be a better option for students who are juggling family, work, and other responsibilities, but still want to develop their skills and get professional guidance throughout their creative process. Some MFA programs are naturally better options for online students – creative writing or visual design, for example, are well-suited for working from home as long as you have the technical tools and programs necessary.

What are the potential drawbacks of an MFA program?

One of the biggest challenges with MFA programs is that there is no guarantee you'll see a financial payoff as a result of your advanced degree. An MFA can help you hone your craft and make connections, but because it is not directly linked with specific career paths, it doesn't necessarily translate to career advancement or salary growth. As a result, MFA graduates may take a second job in restaurants, offices, or other areas to support their art careers.

The financial stress of getting your graduate degree without a clear financial payoff may deter some from enrolling. A graduate program also means a busier schedule, which may be hard to fit in around work, family, and other responsibilities. For students interested in an MFA program in visual or performing arts, it also may be harder to learn at home without the benefits of a full studio on campus or the in-person components of acting or directing programs.


Career opportunities for MFA graduates

Those who graduate from an MFA program go on to pursue a wide range of careers, depending on their previous experience, education, career goals, and field of study. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes an Occupational Outlook Handbook sorted by occupation groups that includes typical MFA categories such as education, art and design, management, and media and communication. Possible career paths within these groups include:

  • Teaching

    Because a master's is the highest degree awarded in fine arts, MFA graduates may be qualified to teach at a university after graduation, and an MFA may actually be required for some teaching roles. Educators at the college level earn a median salary of $80,790, and the need for postsecondary teachers is projected to grow by 9% over the next decade, according to the BLS. Paired alongside a teaching certification, graduates may also seek employment at the middle or high school level – median salaries for teachers range from $60,810 to $62,870, with a projected job growth rate of 4% through 2029.
  • Leadership roles in the arts

    Some MFA graduates go on to administrative roles in art galleries, theater departments, or public arts organizations. Others may work as art directors or creative directors for businesses, publications, theater performances, or TV and movie productions. Art directors earn a median salary of $97,270 per year, but these roles can be competitive and require previous related experience. The need for art directors is expected to decline by 2% through 2029, according to the BLS.

  • Marketing

    Marketing and advertising is another avenue for MFA graduates, who can put their creative talent to use in the business world. Many marketing managers and creative directors within marketing departments use an MFA to complement their education and experience in communications and/or business. Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers earn a median salary of $141,490, with a projected growth rate of 6% from 2019 to 2029.
  • Visual and digital design, written communication, and video production

    Depending on their area of expertise, graduates of visual and digital design programs can become graphic designers, interior designers, UX designers, animators, or special effects artists. Graduates of writing programs may become published authors, work for magazines, or pursue screenwriting opportunities. Writers and authors earn a median salary of $67,120, with job prospects projected to decline by 2% through 2029. Photography or film production graduates can pursue careers in photography, film production, and related areas. The need for film and video editors and camera operators is projected to grow by 18% over the next decade, with a median salary of $61,900, according to the BLS.