Unlike most other degree programs that require students to purchase standard materials such as books and school supplies, fashion design students will spend a considerable amount of cash on everything from fabrics, dye, other art supplies, and accessories to thread, sewing, and patternmaking tools. Without these in their arsenal, it would impossible for students to bring their creations to life. Simply put, fashion students will spend the bulk of their college years buying tools, equipment, and materials that the average student won’t have to. Add this to tuition costs, housing and other fees, and a fashion degree could become one of the most expensive undergraduate degrees in the world.
While having to purchase supplies and equipment throughout is a given, paying an exorbitant amount of money for your degree doesn’t have to be. In fact, some of the least expensive fashion programs may cost less than $20,000 per academic year, while some of the most expensive programs (typically offered at private schools) can cost more than $50,000 per year. Even better news is, just because the less expensive programs cost less, it doesn’t mean they offer less. In fact, many of the affordable fashion schools that we found rank among the best in the U.S. Fashion Institute of Technology New York (FIT NY), San Francisco State University (SFSU), and Columbia College Chicago are just a few.
There are dozens of affordable fashion schools out there, so keep in mind that the buck doesn’t stop here. But we think that the 15 schools on our list is a darn good start. Please take a look at some of America’s most affordable fashion schools—in no particular order.
1. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, New York
This public school of fashion, art, design, business and communications is home to five academic divisions including the School of Art and Design, Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology, the School of Liberal Arts, the School of Graduate Studies and the Center for Continuing and Professional Studies. The School of Art and Design is home to an endless number of one-of-a-kind fashion programs. Options include AAS and BFA degrees in Accessories Design (the first of its kind in the U.S.), AAS and BFA degrees in Fashion Design, a BFA in Fabric Styling, an AAS in Jewelry Design, an AAS in Menswear (the only menswear degree in the U.S.), AAS and BFA degrees in Textile/Surface Design, and the country’s only Certificate programs in Millinery and Performance Athletic Footwear.
Students have access to internship opportunities at major brands from Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan to Michael Kors and Liz Claiborne. Study abroad opportunities run the gamut from stays at the London College of Fashion and the fashion capitals of Paris and Milan to the unique International Fashion Design degree that allows first-year students to begin their studies in Italy. FIT students often land positions at leading companies such as Liz Claiborne, Michael Kors, Steve Madden, Nicole Miller, Calvin Klein, Nautica, and many others.
For all of this, New York residents will pay $3,235.00 per semester ($6,470/year), and nonresidents will pay $9,796.00 per semester ($19,592/year) for the 2016-2017 school year. Please note that the rates listed are for tuition only. See more FIT tuition information here.
2. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College Chicago is home to more than 10,000 students enrolled in over 100 academic majors or programs. The School of Fine and Performing Arts, Department of Fashion Studies offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include BA and BFA degrees in Fashion Design, a BA in Fashion Business and a Fashion Business Minor.
Program highlights include a Semester in LA, internship opportunities, and access to the school’s Fashion Lab, the Fashion Study Collection (FSC), and the Fashion Study Collection Research Center (workspace and archive). Students also have the opportunity to display their creations in the Fashion Studies Exhibition Windows on campus.
Annual tuition at Columbia College is $24,590.00 for the 2016-2017 school year. This is among the lowest of all private arts and media colleges in the nation. See more Columbia College tuition information here.
3. California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, California
California State University Long Beach (CSULB) is home to 35,592 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across eight colleges. The College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), Department of Family & Consumer Sciences offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers including a BA in Family and Consumer Sciences with an Option in Fashion Design and a Minor in Textiles. Program highlights include participation in the Annual Spring Fashion Show and Fashion Study Tours of New York City offered every January and July. Tours of Paris luxury fashion industries are also offered every June.
Tuition for CSULB is $5,472 for the 2016-2017 school year for residents. Nonresidents must add $372.00 for each unit of credit taken per semester or $248 per quarter unit. Rates are for tuition only. See more CSULB tuition information here.
4. Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) is home to more than 22,000 students enrolled in more than 140 academic programs. The school’s College of Behavioral Science offers a Textile, Merchandising, and Design major that allows students to pursue a BS in Apparel Design or Fashion Merchandising. This unique major also provides the opportunity for students to Minor in Art, Entertainment Arts Design, Entrepreneurship, or Mass Communication.
Tennessee residents will pay $3,300 per semester for 12 credit hours, so that’s $6,600 for the 2016-2017 school year. Nonresidents will pay $23,736 for 12 credit hours for the 2016-2017 school year. Rates are for tuition only. See more MTSU tuition information here.
5. AI Miami International University of Art and Design, Miami, Florida
AI Miami International University of Art and Design is a member of The Art Institutes, which consists of more than 40 educational institutions located across North America. AI Miami offers an extensive number of programs in the Design, Fashion, Media Arts, and Culinary fields. Offerings for fashion design students include a BFA and AA degrees in Fashion Design, AA degrees in Accessory Design and Fashion Merchandising, and a BA in Fashion Merchandising.
The total cost for tuition and fees for any 45-month bachelor’s degree program is $88,020 ($22,005 per year). See more AI Miami tuition information here.
6. Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey
This public school is home to 20,897 students enrolled in 300 majors, minors, concentrations and certificate programs across nine schools. The College of Art, Department of Art and Design offers a BA and a Minor in Fashion Studies, and a Fashion Merchandising Minor. According to the Department, “the curriculum includes courses in textile and apparel manufacturing, fashion merchandising, retailing, consumer action, marketing, administration, accounting, and economics.” Students can also choose from “a wide range of art-making courses such as figure drawing, fashion illustration, and costume and interior design.” Students “gain hands-on industry experience through full-time internships and cooperative education experiences with a range of companies that develop, produce, and promote fashion.”
Tuition and fees for residents of Montclair total $12,112 for the 2016-2017 school year. Nonresidents will pay $20,004 for tuition and fees for the 2016-2017 school year. See more Montclair State University tuition information here.
7. University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio
The University of Cincinnati (UC Cincinnati) is the oldest institute of higher education in Cincinnati. The school is home to 44,338 students enrolled in 13 colleges and a graduate school. The College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) houses the School of Design, which offers a BS in Design. Students may choose from two concentrations including Fashion Design or Product Strategy. A Fashion Design Studies Minor is also on the menu.
The Design program has a mandatory education component that allows students to graduate with a year and a half of professional fashion experience. Students in the mandatory Cooperative Program work full-time in the fashion industry on alternating semesters, beginning in their second year.
Fashion students who are residents of Ohio will pay $11,000 for tuition for the 2016-2017 school year. Nonresidents will pay $26,334. Some residents of Kentucky and Indiana may qualify for Ohio-resident tuition. Click here for more information. Also, see more UC Cincinnati tuition information here.
8. New Mexico State University-Main Campus, Las Cruces, New Mexico
New Mexico State University (NMSU) is home to more than 15,000 students enrolled in more than 180 degree programs. Fourteen are offered nowhere else in New Mexico. The College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES) is home to the Clothing, Textiles & Fashion Merchandising (CTFM) program. Here, students can earn a BS in Clothing, Textiles & Fashion Merchandising. Besides Fashion and Merchandising, students in the program will study Studio Art, Accounting, Business Administration, Communications, Consumer Science, Journalism, Marketing, and Management. Retail and design internships are also on the menu as well as participation in the annual fashion show. Graduates of the CTFM program go on to become Fashion Designers, Buyers, Journalists, Coordinators and Stylists, Quality Control Technicians, and Entrepreneurs.
Tuition rates are as follows: Fall 2016 $2,653.50 resident; Fall 2016 $2,919 nonresident (135-mile radius). Spring 2017 $2,653.50 resident; Spring 2017 $2,919 nonresident (135-mile radius), Nonresident $9,906 Spring 2017; Fall 2017 $9,906. See more NMSU tuition information here.
9. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Ohio University is the oldest public institution of higher learning in the state of Ohio and the first in the Northwest Territory. The school is home to more than 17,500 undergraduate students enrolled in over 250 academic programs across dozens of departments and schools. The Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education, Department of Human and Consumer Sciences house the Apparel, Textiles, and Merchandising (ATM) program. Offerings include a BS and a Minor in Retail Merchandising and Fashion Product Development (B.S.H.C.S.) and an MS in Apparel, Textiles, and Merchandising (ATM). The fashion programs at Ohio University prepare students for positions in retail management, marketing, and distribution, as well as product development positions such as Buyer, Store or Corporate Manager, Visual Merchandiser, Manufacturer's Sales Representative, and Fashion Coordinator.
Tuition and fees for Ohio University residents is $5,268 per semester, so $10,536 for the 2016-2017 school year. Nonresidents will pay $19,500 for the 2016-2017 school year. See more Ohio University tuition information here.
10. Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
Arizona State University (ASU) is home to more than 71,000 students across five campuses including Tempe, West (Glendale), Polytechnic (Mesa), Downtown Phoenix, and Thunderbird (Glendale) and another 20,000+ students at SkySong—the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center. Established in 1885, the Tempe campus (main) is home to the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts (ASU Herberger). The Institute offers several programs or aspiring fashion designers including a BA in Art with a Concentration in Fashion Design and an AAS-to-BAS in Fashion Merchandising.
Base tuition and fees for Arizona residents is $10,370 for the 2016-2017 school year. Nonresidents will pay $26,470. See more ASU tuition information here.
11. University of Wisconsin – Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin – Madison (UW-Madison) is home to 43,389 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across 21 colleges and schools. The School of Human Ecology (SOHE) offers a BS in Textiles and Fashion Design (TFD). Part of the Design Studies Department, the program blends Art, Design, Science, Textiles, and Fashion Design, and it allows students to specialize in Apparel or Textiles and Accessories. Both specializations highlight “finding sustainable solutions” to real-world problems as well as internship opportunities and participation in the annual THREADS Fashion Show.
Tuition only for Wisconsin residents is $5,207 for 12-18 credit hours for the Spring 2016 semester and $5,244 for the Fall 2016 semester. Nonresidents will pay $14,832 for Spring 2016, and $16,369 for Fall 2016. See more UW-Madison tuition information here.
12. San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California
San Francisco State University (SFSU) is home to 30,500 students enrolled in more than 140 undergraduate and graduate programs, 17 credential programs, and 38 certificate programs across seven colleges. The College of Health and Social Sciences is home to the Consumer & Family Studies/Dietetics Department, which offers a BS in Apparel Design and Merchandising (ADM). Students may choose from two emphasis areas including Apparel Design or Fashion Merchandising.
Tuition only for California residents is $2,736 for the Fall 2016 semester. Nonresidents must pay an additional $372 Per Semester Unit, so for 12 units the tuition cost for the Fall 2016 semester would be $7,200. See more SFSU tuition information here.
13. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University at Raleigh (NC State Raleigh) is home to 33,989 students enrolled in more than 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across 12 colleges and 65 departments. The College of Textiles is home to two academic departments—the Department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management, and Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science. The Departments offer five BS degrees, four master’s degrees, an accelerated program, and two doctoral degrees. According to the Department, the College of Textiles also has a “long-standing and robust distance education program. Textile Online Programs (TOP) offers over fifty courses taught online.”
Program offerings include BS degrees in Fashion and Textile Management, Polymer and Color Chemistry, Textile Engineering, and Textile Technology; MS degrees in Textile Chemistry, Textile Engineering, and Textiles, an MT in Textiles, an Accelerated Bachelor’s Master’s (ABM), and PhD degrees in Fiber and Polymer Science and Textile Technology Management.
Tuition only for North Carolina residents is $6,407 for the 2016-2017 school year. Nonresidents will pay $23,926. See more NC State-Raleigh tuition information here.
14. California State University Los Angeles (Cal State LA), Los Angeles, California
California State University - Los Angeles (Cal State LA) is home to 27,000 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across eight colleges and dozens of departments. The College of Arts and Letters, Department of Art offers a BA with a Major in Fashion, Fiber and Materials, and an MA with an Option in Fashion, Fiber and Materials. The BA program features 120-units of study, of which 62-69 units are in the major. The MA is a 30-unit program, which focuses on advanced study and practice in Fashion, Fiber and Materials.
Tuition only for California residents $6,356 for the 2016-2017 school year. Nonresident students are assessed an additional $372 per unit resulting in a rate of $15,284 for the 2016-2017 school year. See more Cal State LA tuition information here.
15. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana State University (LSU) is home to more than 29,000 students enrolled in more than 200 programs across 11 colleges and schools. The College of Agriculture offers a BS in Textiles, Apparel, & Merchandising (TAM) with Concentrations in Apparel Design, Merchandising and Textile Science. According to the College, graduates pursue careers with textile and apparel manufacturers, retailers, testing laboratories, government agencies, and media firms, and some even open their own businesses.
Tuition only for Louisiana residents is $10,758 for the 2016-2017 school year. Nonresidents will pay $27,434. See more LSU tuition information here.
Program and tuition information for all schools listed has been obtained from each school’s official website.