There is no question to be had in 2014 – getting a great college music education can be exceptionally pricy.
With some college’s yearly tuitions rising over $40,000, the price of sending one student to college per year can be the equivalent of doling out what could be a decent salary for most people. Some of these numbers would be exceptionally handsome annual incomes for musicians.
But how expensive is getting a complete college music education, in exact dollar amounts?
Well, of course this will vary from school to school, as well as from individual to individual, and from location to location.
Some musicians’ complete education will consist of attending an in-state school for just an undergraduate degree, while other musicians’ total education will consist of getting a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate at top private music conservatories.
So without further ado, examining very realistic dollar amounts for tuition, fees, textbooks, and living expenses, let’s get into the real numbers behind a full college music education for music students.
After we go through the analysis and give a summary breakdown of the cost of a college music education, we will see if there are any practical solutions for cutting down those numbers so we can all save at least some money and headache.
All numbers given below are exact or calculated estimates derived from numbers provided by each school’s website. Obviously, the true amount will vary from student to student depending on a number of factors – that said, I would say that in the absence of merit-based financial aid as well as any grants, all of the following numbers are probably accurate to a 10% deviation or even lower than the real cost. I don’t factor the the prices of tuition and living expenses increasing every year.
Undergraduate Public School Degrees (In-State)
We’ll start with those who just want to have an undergraduate degree at a state school in which they qualify as residents. As we all know, attending a state school in which you are qualified as a resident will mean you pay less tuition than those coming from out of state.
There are a number of quality music schools that are housed in state-sponsored public universities, including the University of Michigan, the University of North Texas, Florida State University, and Indiana University.
So if you are only pursuing an undergraduate degree and are in-state at one of these schools, tuition & fees can often be less than $20,000.00 per year. Although a lot of money, this is manageable as far as college costs go.
Some schools are a little more expensive…
Keep in mind that the real figures would actually be higher than the ones above since my equation only factors 2014-2015 costs provided by each school’s website multiplied by four years – this equation does not factor tuition increases. Tuition increases every single year are typically around 3-4%.
Undergaduate Private College, Music Conservatory, and Out-of-State Public College Degrees
The fact of the matter is, most conservatories will charge pretty handsome fees for tuition, even if the school’s endowment is a cool $1 billion dollars. Ditto for music programs that are attached to major universities, like the University of Southern California and Rice University.
This is when you start having to think about the total cost of college for four years. According to these numbers, a four year undergraduate education at a top conservatory like Juilliard would be close to $160,000 in tuition alone. At the University of Southern California, this number would actually be greater than $200,000 in just tuition and fees alone.
So assuming you get no financial aid, going to the University of Southern California will cost you over $200,000 in four years for tuition/fees alone.
Clearly, a college music education running upwards of $200,000+ would be an incredibly difficult challenge for most families.
The good news is, many music students do not pay this amount of money for attending college, as many music schools have enough endowment to offer some financial aid.
My best recommendation is to apply to a wide range of schools that are known to dole out large amounts of money, then see who gives you the best offer. On top of the four well-known schools of music that are completely free of tuition, the Yale School of Music (for graduate students), the Colburn School, the Curtis Institute of Music, and the Academy of Vocal Arts, a number of top schools are known for giving out generous amounts of financial aid.
These include but are not limited to the Eastman School of Music, Bard Conservatory of Music, the Mannes College of Music, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Additionally, many graduate programs are free or at least have more scholarship opportunities for students. Graduate programs are also frequently less expensive than undergraduate programs, but not always.
There are a few other “insider” tips I can share with you today.
One is, if you decide to go to a public state school like FSU or UMich, see if you can establish residency in that state for the purposes of tuition reduction. There are specific requirements that vary from state-to-state for obtaining residency. It is not always easy to establish residency, however it is indeed a real possibility at some places.
Another tip is to apply for as many scholarships as possible. I am highly considering making a “scholarships and competitions” page that links to opportunities for musicians to select. But for now, google “music scholarships” or “undergraduate scholarships,” and see what you can find.
In college, I found I was able to pay for my own living expenses outside of rent with a part-time job and solid budgeting. With work-study and/or a job, this can be a solid option for students who need to take some load off of their debt.
Many students who are excellent academically end up getting great academic scholarships that help pay for their music degree.
Finally, you need to decide if the investment is worth it for you.
In the end, it is your future, and only you can decide if the enormity of this investment is right for you. It’s great to follow your dreams and make money doing so – it’s also great to eat healthy and live happily without the burden of Federal debt.
Now You Know the Numbers – the Next Move Is Yours.