Calarts, the Valencia, California-based art school that serves as an important pipeline for the Los Angeles animation industry, has announced a 4.5% tuition increase for the fall of 2019, meaning that student will now have to pay a total of $50,850 a year.

Combined with the estimated costs for housing, transportation, medical, food, and art supplies, the overall price of attendance is approximately $78,000 per year for the school’s character animation program, or $311,400 to obtain a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree on a four-year track.

In response to the tuition increase announcement, which was delivered via a school-wide email on Monday, March 4, Calarts student organized a protest on Tuesday morning outside the Hauser & Wirth gallery in Los Angeles, where the school’s Board of Trustees met behind closed doors to vote on the tuition and budget for the upcoming academic year.

Student protesters carried signs that read “You Are Nothing Without Us,” “International Students Shouldn’t Pay More,” and “Stop Raising Tuition, Stop Oppressing Students.” Aside from their concerns regarding the increased costs, students also demanded more financial transparency, including information about scholarships, more decision-making power for the student body as a whole, and a more visible commitment to diversity. Affected students pointed to the tuition increase as a threat to diversity, as those from underprivileged backgrounds already have a difficult time accessing the higher education offerings at Calarts.

Thirty-nine students were granted access for 10 minutes to the private board meeting, and they collectively used their time to read a letter with their concerns and demands. After the meeting, Hyperallergic reports,  the chairman of the board, Tim Disney (son of Roy E. Disney), came out to speak with the students, telling them that the board had drafted a list of resolutions to address the students’ pleas, though the school would still follow through with its tuition increase.

Through a five-point set of resolutions, the board promised to do the following:

  • Have greater transparency with the student body.
  • To make faculty, staff, and student more active participants in the board’s decision making process.
  • Re-evaluate how financial aid packages are handled in the case of continuing students with demonstrable financial need.
  • Analyzing how financial aid is distributed and why the school’s tuition is rising so rapidly.

Calarts president Ravi S. Rajan told Hyperallergic the increase was necessary to keep up with costs of teacher salaries and administrative wages, which are surpassing inflation rates. Tuition represents around 75% of the institute’s budget. It’s unknown whether the board might decide to raise tuition again in 2020. (The Calarts website, which had previously indicated that tuition would increase approximately 2-4% annually now states that tuition will increase approximately 4% annually.)

Notable artists in the animation industry who have attended Calarts include Brad Bird, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Glen Keane, Genndy Tartakovsky, Mark Andrews, Craig McCracken, Tim Burton, Peter Chung, Peter Sohn, Henry Selick, Alex Hirsch, Pete Browngardt, Tom McGrath, Chris Buck, Brenda Chapman, Jorge Gutierrez, Pen Ward, Conrad Vernon, Gary Trousdale, John Musker, J. G. Quintel, Thurop Van Orman, Ralph Eggleston, Stephen Hillenburg, Chris Sanders, Butch Hartman, and Mark Osborne, to name a few. Of the 18 Academy Awards presented for best animated feature, 12 of them have been won by a film that had at least one director who attended Calarts.

(Photo of protest banner at Calarts campus via @FHaiabe)

Latest News from Cartoon Brew