Rampage is on a rampage (the most expensive schools are art schools)

After a mere week or so at work, it can no longer be said that Catherine Rampell is the most underrated force in economics writing and journalism (or can it?).  Here is her post on which are the most expensive schools.  It is art and music schools, when you take all relevant costs and financial aid into account.  Excerpt:

Now here’s a list of the top 10 most expensive four-year private nonprofits, after subtracting the average amount of government and institutional grant/scholarship aid at each institution:

1. School of the Art Institute of Chicago

2. Ringling College of Art and Design

3. The Boston Conservatory

4. Berklee College of Music

5. California Institute of the Arts

Do see the earlier MR post “Artists grew up in households w/typically higher incomes than doctors did.”  What does this imply about the competitiveness of the sector?  About our models of child-rearing?


Years ago I lived in the Bay Area working in real estate. I asked an elder what the deal with the California Institute of the Arts was and his response: "Oh, that's this guys sham arts school that's really an excuse for a real estate empire."

You mean Walt Disney. The California College of the Arts is in the Bay Area.

There is also the San Francisco Art Institute, but I'd pay good money to take courses from Ansel Adams and Mark Rothko. It was also founded in 1871.

I don't think that any amount of money will get you classes with Ansel Adams (d. 1982) or Mark Rothco (d. 1970).

But, I think ElamBend is thinking of the "Academy of Art University," which I think is the scammy one. See, e.g., http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/13/academy-of-art-fraud_n_1672162.html

Eli, That looks right. Good catch. Don

Huh! My niece works for an art school in San Francisco. I'll have to check which one it is. Her previous job was telemarketing, so . . .

A few students did well out of the California Institute of the Arts back in the 1970s: Tim Burton, John Lasseter, etc.

"The secret of Pixar's magic can be found at CalArts, where legendary old-school animators from Disney's golden era passed on their knowledge -- and passion -- to younger generations."


Steve, Interesting. I didn't know about that connection. Don

There seems to be a "First Class" phenomenon, referenced in the X-Men movie of that name. This is most notable in Hollywood, where the first class of the American Film Institute school included Terrence Malick, David Lynch, Paul Schrader, and Caleb Deschanel. Similarly, the first students of CalArts in Valencia in Character Animation in the 1970s included Brad Bird, Tim Burton, John Lasseter, and John Musker. Congregation of talent or old boy's network?


"I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.


- John Adams

Excellent. The son (and daughter) also rises, culturally speaking.

Here Here! In my day children from respectable families went into the Clergy, Law, Medicine, or the Forces. I don't know why this new generation thinks they're better than those careers.

Law is hopelessly oversubscribed and the lucrative slices of it are skeezy (and a bellwether of decadence). As for the clergy, most denominations are fine studies in clownish self-destruction. If there are any exceptions it would be the eastern churches or some of the more rigorist oldline protestant sects like the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Quite a sacrifice to ask your son to enter a collapsing building (and yes, I am aware I am supposed to be praying for vocations).

I am Elmer J. Fudd, millionaire. I own a mansion, and a yacht.

The forces have been bad form for persons of quality since the Cardwell Reforms.

Society doesn't want to fund arts as much as engineering or business school, so you personally pay more to do it.

However we now see a major dearth of people wanting to pursue these careers, which is why I call for an extension of H1B visas to help keep the workforce supply up. I was just in the Far East with stops at Yokohama, Port Arthur, Hong Kong, and Siam and I was constantly amazed at the talent I saw there. We need to bring these people to do the jobs our lazy fellow citizens dont want while they just whittle away their lives puppetiering and painting.

I like the Montgomery Burns aspect of your Tom Friedman itinerary:

"Smithers, I've designed a new plane. I call it the Spruce Moose, and it will carry 200 passengers from New York’s Idylwild airport to the Belgian Congo in 17 minutes!"

They should ban areas of economic activity which rely on creativity.

Products with creative origins, and most especially the "lazy" people involved in making those products, should be marginalized for their useless activities that only make people happy and contribute nothing to military or pharmaceutical capacity.

Then, we can import cultural products from lazy foreigners and the American public can get to "real work", like factory jobs, accounting, etc.

How much soft power do wannabe pre-Hollywood pupeteers buy America?

--and what does this say about the academic captivity of the arts in this country? or about the qualities of specific arts that emerge from their academic constriction?

I would imagine the implication is that some wealthy people don't want or expect their children to ever be exposed to something as banal as work.

There's a parallel there to the United States having the largest per-capita government assistance in the OECD -- you have to be rich to afford leisure.

These aren't high status colleges though. More likely than not they target middle class people who simply don't know any better, while the real wealthy get art degrees at Ivy schools or tiny private Catholic colleges.

I think the School of the Art Institute of Chicago may have a reputation (and a handsome museum appended). They had a handsome journal at one time, now no longer available in print.

Liz Phair went to the School of the Art Institute.

Berklee is quite good, although no Juilliard.

If you want to do jazz, Berklee is IT.

SAIC is pretty prestigious, but indeed the elite kids go to schools in the Northeast like RISD, Yale, Cooper Union, VCU, Columbia, Pratt, Hunter, SVA, etc.
Ringling is the real outlier here though, very little cache.

The elite universities like Ivy League have high academic standards for admission. They don't just open the door and let you in because you are rich. Less-accomplished rich kids go to lesser institutions.

Actually, they get art history degrees. You don't have to actually be able to make any art, and to get a decent job you need connections at Christie's and Sotheby's.

However I do not begrudge anyone their choice of a lifestyle that capitalizes on family advantage. That's one reason I'm still working; I can afford to retire, but my children might enjoy a bit of a leg up. Also, working is kind of fun.

Not so much that, is that parents in question unwilling to lower the boom on their children as regards the feasibility of their career goals. I've a relation in art school who's got a brother (not a relation of mine) who runs an atelier. Her father knew perfectly well that art school was a poor idea for both, but neither he nor their mother were willing to put their foot down and refuse to liquidate assets for these endeavours. The paternal side aunt and uncle weighed in on the subject to no avail.

That must mean that art and music professors pull in the big bucks. No wonder people want degrees in those fields.

No doubt some in the upper tier do, but who are teaching the courses? Sessionals?

The ultimate statist gravy train in that world, however, is to be an Administrator. More income than the (few) Professors, much more than the (many) Instructors, and less stress.

It's always been like this though. These are some of the many "trade colleges" that prey on people. None of them are high status, and all charge through the roof. Like the Rhode Island Institute of Design, or Devry.

Rhode Island School of Design is not a trade college but an art school. I seem to recall it had a good reputation for that sort of thing back in the day.


They are the art versions of trade schools, and don't have as good a rep as people make out.

There's the liberal arts and there's the mechanical arts. "The art version of a trade school" is an incoherent phrase.

They teach art like people teach others how to be electricians or HVAC techs. Things like animation, architecture, design, sculpture, and things are actually mechanical arts and more akin to the trades. They just have more airs than something like the Joe Kubert school or the colleges that used to teach radio broadcasting.

Sculpture is not a 'mechanical art' unless you work for Seward Johnson. Animation has that aspect, but you can get work in commercial companies with those sorts of skills (and I've a relation who did that). Architecture is a licensed profession and practical as well as artistic (and not taught in art schools). Young architects earn modest salaries, but they do well if they achieve a partnership.

Talking Heads went to RISD.

British rock stars in the old days were often art school dropouts: Lennon, Richards, Townshend, Bowie, Mick Jones of the Clash, etc.

I'm having a hard time feeling resentful toward people who have given me so much fun.

3 of the Heads went to RISD. Jerry Harrison went to Harvard.

It may be naive of me, but are there costs associated with teaching subjects where students are subjected to many hours a week of individualised craft instruction, rather than pitching up for the occasional mass lecture?


That was also my point above when I mentioned Adams and Rothko. Although they're gone, you might be taking intensive classes with very fine artists.

But it seems "individualised craft instruction" is as much an effect as a cause of high price. Any engineering or science student will tell you that bespoke one-on-one instruction is better than lectures -- and not just in lab subjects. Yet they also know that it is a luxury that few outside of Oxbridge can get.

Heavens, often enough books are better than lectures. But the Oxbridge humanities student, who reads a lot and writes a lot, will perhaps have two (or sometimes three) tutorials in a week. Surely the craft arts people get more than that?

When Paul Johnson was a teenaged student at Cambridge (Oxford?) he got 24 hours of private tutorials from C.S. Lewis.

I had no idea they intersected. That's interesting.

To insiders the differences matter. To outsiders less so; Oxford is more beautiful from the street, Cambridge from the river.

Despite that, Johnson turned out OK!

Right, everyone analyzing rising tuition turns to Baumol at some point - isn't this just that same logic playing out? This seems more confirmation of a straightforward thesis than a surprising discovery.

Clay, I agree that Baumol would be worth checking, but I've found that I'm just to lazy to try today. Don

Wouldn't we expect artists to be from one or all three of the following groups of people:
- raised in families where money is really not an issue;
- more whimsical and less practical approach to opportunity costs; or
- excessively positive self-appraisal of skill and creativity.

It seems like those characteristics will select both for people who want to be artists and for people willing to pay more than average for postsecondary instruction.

I tend to agree.

So, i) wealthy, ii) impractical (from indifferent to dumb, depending on the spectrum), or iii) self-deceived (or nuts).

I think ii) and iii) amount to the same thing. That leaves i) and iia) and iib).

However, there are also those who are pushed into the Arts by necessity. I have several acquaintances who can't work at much except making art. They can have good years, making six figures (a lot for an artist). They might constitute another category.

In India where I live I notice that students enroll as music or classical dance majors because they have the aptitude for music/dance and also a passion for these arts. Most are from low income backgrounds ( the rich folks who like music/dance study either engineering or medicine and learn music privately from an outstanding guru , paying a hefty fees ) With very few exceptions the students who enroll in humanities and social science departments do so because with their poor school grades they could secure admission only in those worthless academic programmes and to postpone being labelled "unemployed".

Humanities and social research can be made worthless by bad practitioners. They are not worthless in essence. Worthless in essence in this country (or worthless as a rule) would be certain occupational programs (teacher training, social work, and library administration).

I've heard stuff like that before.

Science and engineering people have oh so much of an inflated sense of their intelligence.

Newsflash: intelligence tests are geared towards testing the kinds of intelligence involved in science and math.

We need creative people too. Otherwise life would be bland and dumb.

I think most of the rich wannabe artists go to these schools because they want to learn from all the other rich wannabe artists how to perfect the art of the shmooze, an essential elements to a career of an artist who achieves renown or wealth during their lifetime.

It is sad, how much value art & design adds to people's life, and how little respect this garners from narrow-minded science & engineering types.

Tyler, I think cause and effect may be reversed.

Tuition minus financial aid is merely perfect price discrimination. So wherever the kids of the super-wealthy go, those are the places that will have the biggest end-user price point.

The person in my circle of acquaintances who eventually graduated from RISD was a doctor's kid. Well to do, but not 'super-wealthy', particularly back then when doctor's wives seldom had paid employment, usually had more children than people do today, and the professional-managerial types tended to have living standards closer to the wage earning element than they do today.

It is useful to point out the extremely low incomes of artists in this context:

"For instance in 1990, the average income of a full-time artist in the us was 30% lower than that of all other full-time managerial and professional employees, ‘a
group broadly comparable with artists in term of educational attainment’. Moreover, according to existing standards, us poverty rates for artists are higher than for any other group in professional or technical occupations."

From *Why Are Artists So Poor?* by Hans Abbing. Abbing is a Dutch artist who is also a trained economist. The book is available free online here:


Class isn't quite the same as income, i.e. there is a difference between being broke and being in poverty. I went to grad school - my stipend put me above the poverty line, but I was still relatively broke. I never fell into poverty.

For ex., a starving artist from a rich family probably has that family to fall back on if they start actually starving.

I saw the Abbing, which looks interesting, was Free, but then I found it on Kindle and Purchased it. Explain That.

Because for you $30 for a native Kindle version is no big deal?

PDFs can be converted for Kindle automatically (no idea how well this works):


If one studies industrial design at California Institute of the Arts (which is, incidentally, in Pasadena, CA), they are worth infinitely more than all the Harvard MBA's put together.

in what sense are they worth more?

My degree is worth more than yours.

How can I tell?

ww said so.

But I'm inclined to agree, based on the principle that art creates a value for society that can hardly be measured in dollars and cents. Everyone with half a soul has met a priceless piece of art, but I yet to meet that priceless part for the mill upgrade.

Not sure about *all* the Harvard MBAs, but a good industrial designer's work is often a joy to behold (and, hopefully, use).



And not sure these USPS stamps are for sale anymore, but they are beautiful:

Pioneering Industrial Designers Celebrated on New Forever Stamps


If I had been rich I would not have studied Chemical Engineering and then an MBA in my spare time, it is too much like hard work. I would have done an arts degree instead and maximized my time at college for my enjoyment rather than my career prospects. In other words arts degrees are more like consumption rather than career as consumption there will be a positional aspect, just like fine wine or hotels or fashion, prices will not be set by the return on investment but by the prestige garnered versus others.

While I recognize the tradeoffs from the individual perspective, I think your comment mostly reflects a very low valuation of art.

Perhaps that's why you chose not to go into art, because a) you do not value it very highly and b) perhaps you haven't developed your artistic talent much.

In any case, you work in a field which had theoretical principles established in the 1940s. Not sure there's much use in saying that cultivating your artistic side could help lead to revolutionary discovery, but perhaps cultivating your artistic side could lead to some process improvements via improved design of tools/machines/etc involved in production processes.

Oh, where would chemistry be without the arts&design-driven marketing that actually sells the products? In an absence of those artistic skills, you company would have gone out of business, as the competition would have the market cornered. Even the best products need help: few things sell themselves.

You totally missed my point. I highly value the arts, especially English Literature. But I am from a poor family and needed to earn money, so I chose a degree and career orientated to making money (of course in hindsight I could have improved my career choices even further but as a clueless 18 year old Chemical Engineering turned out not be too bad a bet.). But compared with my then girlfriend who did do English, I had to work much harder. So my point was that if I had been rich, I would not have had to make that trade off and I would have likely maximized my time at College around enjoying myself, rather than my future career prospects. So this is an explanation to the apparent paradox presented by Tyler; if you consider chemical engineering and an English degree both to be training for a future career, the English degree leads to a lower paid career and therefore ought to be cheaper, but its not. The explanation is that the English degree is not training but consumption.
But I do have to chuckle at your comment on the value of marketing to chemicals manufacture. I don't actually work in the chemical industry anymore, but I can't imagine someone buying a bulk chemical commodity because of the superior marketing.

Well, if all the producers of the bulk chemical commodity deliver the same product and charge the same price, isn't it tautological to say that whoever you bought it from had the best marketing?

Whatever your answer, if you can find out the salary and bonus of the head of marketing for the producer of your favorite bulk chemical commodity, please post it here. We will then compare it to published average salaries for chemical engineers and draw our own conclusions as to the value of each.

When asking about observation that might have implications about our models of child-rearing I have mention an article I read the other day about the millenials and their job prospects. In the survey underlying the report, 8 % of the applicants had their parents with them in their job interview and for 3 % the parent was actively involved in the interview.

Ruling out special cases I'm not quite sure how one puts this on the millennial over the parent.

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