Graphic designers create experiences that are increasingly shaping our world for the better. Visual communication allows us to present our world-changing thoughts and ideas in innovative new ways. The study of graphic design – especially at an advanced, post-graduate level – is a smart decision on your path to a career in any field that deals with the visual language of ideas.
As such, universities are offering fully funded Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Graphic Design.
What Does “Fully Funded” Really Mean?
Fully funded is a financial aid package for full-time graduate students. As part of the package, universities will cover tuition and offer an annual stipend. In exchange, the university usually requires students to contribute research work that is related to your studies and take part in graduate teaching.
In the same way that universities incentivize students in their medical faculties to study at a post-graduate level to boost the profile of the university, universities are increasingly seeing the value in creating similar opportunities in the advanced study of graphic design.1
Best Fully Funded Graphic Design Masters Programs
To help you with the decision process, here are five American universities offering fully funded postgraduate graphic design degrees.
Georgia State University
Georgia State University offers graduate MA programs in Art History, Art Education, and Studio Art, as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching in Art Education. The university’s goal is to challenge and foster conceptual, technical, and intellectual development by offering rigorous, scholarly, and studio-based activities.
All MFA students enrolled in the studio program receive free tuition and monthly stipends in exchange for assistantships, along with 24-hour studio access and a third-year experience for residency travel, funding, or exhibition purposes.2
Graduate assistants are expected to work, on average, 10 hours per week for the School of Art and Design. Work assignments are made according to the needs of the various areas within the school. Payment of the stipend is contingent on the full, satisfactory completion of all assigned duties and the maintenance of proper academic standing. Graduate assistantships are awarded annually and stipend amounts are specified in an award letter that each candidate receives upon acceptance into the program.3
University of Florida
The University of Florida (UF) MFA program aims to develop your critical and creative abilities in a constructive and collaborative environment. Emphasis is on making design matter by tackling themes such as culture, inclusivity, social justice, and sustainability.4
The graduate program consists of 60-credit hours of coursework. This three-year residential program has students:
- Spend time in seminars and in studio;
- Participate in hands-on courses and electives, and;
- Use everything they learn to complete their MFA creative project.5
Fees for graduate students are estimated to be $850 to $950 per semester and $45 to $75 per course. For graduate assistantship, students work approximately 20 hours per week and are required to enroll in nine credit hours of coursework.
UF offers graduate assistants tuition remission, health insurance, and generous stipends.6
University of Illinois
While there are plenty of MFA specializations offered at the University of Illinois, the MFA in Design for Responsible Innovation stands out among them all. This program will prepare students to either continue their design studies or enter the workplace as a design specialist — whatever they may choose.
If students are looking for further specialization, the program offers different tracks of study. These include:
- Sustainable and regenerative design;
- Urban sociology and critical race design, and;
- Visual and cultural studies.
For those willing to take the initiative, students can propose their own track. Just as long as it includes the main principles of the program — responsible innovation, social impact, and engagement.7
To enroll at the University of Illinois, students are required to have:
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited U.S. institution or equivalent;
- A grade point average of 3.0 or above, and;
- Proof of English proficiency if English isn’t their native language.8
For MFA programs, students are required to submit their Graduate Record Examination scores. Additionally, the university recommends that graduate students have some experience in teaching. However, that is not a strict requirement.
Since the University of Illinois holds academics in high regard, financial aid, which includes fellowships, assistantships, and waivers for tuition and services, is awarded based on a student’s grade point average and the quality of the art they produce in the program.
University of Minnesota
Through their graphic design programs, the University of Minnesota challenges students to redefine the global definitions of creative production, research, and practice.9 As such, the university’s three-year MFA focuses on the subjects of:
- Design theory;
- Design process;
- Design research, and;
- Design practice.
To complete the program, students are required to submit a creative thesis on what aspect of design they wish to explore. These aspects can come in the form of specializations, such as:
- Multicultural communication;
- Visual representation of information;
- Human interaction with designed objects;
- Social and cultural implications of design;
- Color systems and perception;
- Design history, and;
- Design education.10
The Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel Job determine graduate assistantship opportunities and financial support for all graduate students. Graduate assistants work a maximum of 20 hours per week. They receive tuition benefits for assistantships of 12.5 percent or greater and health care benefits for assistantships of 25 percent or greater. No matter the number of hours, all graduate assistants receive a stipend.11
The MFA in Graphic Design at Ohio University offers a balance between the rigors of professional work and the value of social experiences. In this three-year program, students will look at design research within the context of a multi-cultural world. With help from faculty, students will be able to share their research through lectures, papers, and publishing their work in professional journals.
While the program focuses on graphic design, students are encouraged to participate in other art forms, such as music, theater, film, and dance.12
Stipends and tuition waivers are available to students that apply before the admissions deadline. A student’s consideration for this funding is determined by the quality of their application and portfolio. In total, Ohio University awards $750,000 to MFA and MA students.13
How to Find More Fully Funded Programs
As schooling becomes more expensive, it becomes crucial to find proper funding, especially for popular fields like graphic design. Be it for a master’s degree or PhD, fully funded graduate programs are a great option for prospective students to consider. Just be wary as not all universities provide full funding to their master’s students. Also, the degree of assistantship and course hours required can vary greatly between universities.
While the finer details are often hidden in program handbooks or confirmed upon acceptance, don’t let that stop you from researching now. An online search can help can do wonders in determining which program is right for you.