Outdoor Vision Fest at SFUAD, spring 2012

SFUAD Cuts Tuition in Four Programs: An Interview with President Larry Hinz

Santa Fe University of Art and Design will lower tuition by 38 percent across four of its arts programs beginning in spring 2013 through spring 2014, the school announced Tuesday.

The program concentrations receiving tuition reductions are Graphic Design, Creative Writing, Digital Arts and Arts Management, which will see tuition prices drop to $17,800. Departments of Studio Art, Contemporary Music, Film/Video (Moving Image Arts), Performing Arts and Photography tuitions will stay at the current rate of $28,836 through the academic year ending spring 2014.

Larry Hinz is SFUAD President

Moving forward “under the banner of affordability,” is how Santa Fe University president Larry Hinz characterized the decision, which extends to the school’s also eliminating course materials fees across the board for the next academic year. “That’s pretty dramatic and unique for an art-and-design school,” Hinz said.

In an interview Wednesday, Hinz stressed that the school undertook the cuts as a conscious program of recognizing “life impacts” on students, and focusing on graduating rather than simply enrolling them.

“Our attempt to make this school more affordable and more accessible is really holistic. We’ve seen existing students struggle to stay in school and graduate. It used to be if you could afford to finish freshman year, you could get through senior year. We want kids to take on less debt and get to graduation,” Hinz said.

The art school president acknowledged that cost comparisons to competing institutions both nationally and in New Mexico were assessed. Nationally, the analysis applied to some 10 other art schools including School of Visual Arts, RISD, Otis, Parsons and Pratt that SFUAD student recruits had told recruiters they were also considering.

Dae In Chung who chairs SFUAD’s Digital Arts program, has degrees from California Institute of the Arts.

The selection of which four departments to apply the $11,000 tuition cut to was widely discussed among department heads and administrators, Hinz said. He added that it reflects where costs savings can realistically be achieved, not a hidden agenda to “downgrade” or “compromise” any SFUAD programs.

For example, he said, the film program’s delivery costs remain more expensive than creative writing and digital arts which, while discrete departments, share a new digital media building and digital facilities. The film/video facilities include three professional film soundstages comprising 25,000-square-feet, which in turn generate income for SFUAD as they are rented to professional productions (including last spring, Longmire.)

Hinz insisted that program delivery will not be affected by the tuition cuts and that maintaining the quality of the arts offers is top priority.

“We have one of the most unique photography programs in the country. Theater is top-notch. Those are programs that any way you want to look at it are expensive to offer.”

The Two Guns set being constructed at SFUAD soundstages.

They also go to Santa Fe University’s unique selling proposition, averred Hinz. “We are a private art and design school — –that’s our competitive differentiator.” While SFUAD has been recruiting nationally, Hinz said that New Mexico contributed 20% of this fall’s incoming students. He said the current enrollment is 500 degree-program students from 41 of the United States. New Mexico, Colorado and Texas remain top recruitment markets.

“We recognize that we’re in a state that is not generally wealthy.

“We are trying to keep the best and the brightest that really want an art school experience not a state school or public experience,”  Hinz said, acknowledging what he called “excellent” art programs offered at both University of New Mexico and Santa Fe Community College.

The subject of student debt relative to the anticipated earning benefits that college degrees confer on young people has won a lot of national attention as student loan defaults and the poor economy have made for headlines and politics. A Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE) study found that students who attend for-profit colleges are less likely to be employed and have lower earnings six years after enrolling than similar students who attend public and not-for-profit colleges, according to Education News dot org last February.

California Watch dot org reported in May 2011 on a “controversial study” that had concluded private, for-profit colleges were better for taxpayers than the California public university system. Critics of the study argued that because study funding came from entities including the private University of Phoenix system, the findings were “obviously self-interested.”

Hinz said that the lowering of tuition at SFUAD might apply to national metrics but only “indirectly.” The school, he said, remains singularly committed to its arts, and he advised “peeling back a layer” to get a fuller picture than the newsbyte.

“That whole umbrella connotation of ‘for profit’ in grouping diverse schools that have different backgrounds, different missions and (some) bad players, who have abused Title 4 and have had bad recruiting practices ..doesn’t have anything to do with the DNA of our school.

Scapin, a new production, opens at SFUAD October 5.

“Art-and-design schools are expensive to operate if you’re going to do them well, versus a business school where you can crank up class size and compromise programs,” he said.

Hinz stressed that there will be little to no impact on class size because of the tuition reductions — and that professional development remains core to SFUAD’s mission and programs, which currently deliver internship opportunities in Santa Fe’s visual art galleries, and New Mexico film, among others.

“We clearly own a responsibility that students who attend this school and graduate will have fulfilled careers. We are hitting that responsibility head on,” Hinz said.


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