Yale Daily News

The Yale School of Art has permanently removed course and facility fees for art classes, a policy change that aims to make the art major more accessible to students.

The move to eliminate course fees was a joint decision made by the School of Art, Yale College and the Office of the Provost. According to Associate Dean for the Arts Kate Krier, the Financial Aid and Student Life offices provided guidance in implementing the initiative. The Provost’s office increased the budget allocated towards the Art major “so that the courses can be run to the same high standard without charging these fees to students,” Krier said. 

“I celebrate this change because it brings costs for art courses into line with course costs in other fields and into alignment with the financial aid provided for the purpose of books and academic supplies,” Krier said. “I hope that it makes it more comfortable for all students to explore courses in this major and relieves stress from our committed and talented art majors.”

Prior to the policy change, many arts courses charged enrolled students fees ranging between $75 and $150, which differed based on the instructor’s agenda for the class. This money would typically be spent by the instructor on art supplies, field trips, museum tickets or guest speakers. Digital art classes often charged higher fees given increased costs associated with cameras, darkroom ink or other specialty equipment. Fees for drawing classes were typically on the lower end of the spectrum, and often used to hire models and secure supplies for the class. 

Course fees often drew the ire of students and faculty, providing a barrier to entry for some undergraduates. 

“A lot of my friends among FGLI students simply weren’t able to pursue the arts education at Yale because of the cost,” said Abeyaz Amir ’22, a double major in art and history. “I don’t have the same financial concern with any of my history courses because I can always get used books from my friends or the library. But with art courses, you can’t ask for people’s ‘used supplies.’ Over the years, it all adds up to $3,000-$4,000, or even more. I stopped counting at some point.”

Lisa Kereszi ART ’00, senior critic and director of undergraduate studies in art, who was a first-generation low-income student in college herself, shared Amir’s sense of frustration. She was “upset” to find out that many students at Yale would avoid taking classes or even majoring in art simply because they couldn’t afford it. “It just didn’t feel right,” Kereszi said.

The only avenue available for students looking to receive additional financial assistance — aside from working part-time — was the Creative and Performing Arts, or CPA, grant – a grant supported by the Louis Sudler Fund, the Welch Art Fund and the Bates Fund, which offers a maximum of $500 for a visual arts project with a requirement to display one’s artwork to the community. The planning of such an exhibition often resulted in “added pressure” on students and took away the enjoyment from “freely exploring one’s interests,” according to Amir. 

Kereszi said that, while the School of Art administration continuously discussed the issue over the past several years, they felt they were unable to individually absorb enough funding to eliminate the fees. Most of the art courses that undergraduates take are offered by the School of Art. But according to Kereszi, since its classes are funded not by Yale College but by the School itself, it is nearly impossible to initiate a change in policy on its own. 

The School of Art first hoped to discuss the elimination of course fees with Yale College Dean Marvin Chun in April 2020, but the meeting was postponed due to the deteriorating public health conditions brought by COVID-19, Kereszi said. She added that the discussion was revived in the summer of 2021 with the appointment of Kymberly Pinder as the new dean of the School of Art. She raised the issue to the Provost’s office. Course fees were eliminated at the beginning of the spring 2022 semester.

“The change in policy says that we want everyone to have access to art-making and it’s not the privilege of the wealthy to be able to afford good art supplies,” Kereszi said. “On an individual level, it helps each person who needs it and takes the pressure off, but collectively, it’s just a greater sign of respect to students at Yale on financial aid. It sends a message: we want you here, and we want you to take our classes and not feel like you can’t do that because you can’t afford it.”

From now on, each art course at Yale will receive the same flat fee towards its class budget, which the faculty will be able to use however they see fit to enrich the class experience for students.

Undergraduates will still have to buy items ranging from drawing paper to brushes from a “supply list” for most classes, but those who need to can either use money from the financial aid package — $500 per semester for all classes — or apply for a CPA grant. Amir noted that he would be “very happy” if Yale made extra provisions to eliminate certain studio fees and provide further support to FGLI students, while acknowledging that this change is already “a huge improvement.”

“It’s making education more accessible in every way, meaning that any student regardless of background can pursue any type of studies,” Amir said. “Now that Yale’s eliminated those fees, it’s one of the most accessible — and world renowned — art education programs in the country. Having access to the department and faculty is just so important for aspiring artists. That’s why I am really excited about this change, knowing that it will allow many more people to pursue their dream.”

The Yale School of Art was founded in 1869 as the first professional fine arts school in the United States.