Top 10 American Film Schools, Check out the Tuition Fees

Top 10 American Film Schools, Check out the Tuition Fees


As the landscape of filmmaking evolves and financial barriers shift, film schools across the United States are adapting to stand out. From cutting-edge technology to long-established reputations, these institutions are molding the talents of tomorrow. Here’s a comprehensive look at the top 10 film schools in the nation, with a focus on their unique offerings and influential alumni.

1. American Film Institute (AFI)

Location: Los Angeles

  • Overview: AFI, the most storied graduate school in the country, boasts a faculty actively working in Hollywood and a rich history of producing Oscar winners.
  • Program Details: Split into six disciplines over two years, AFI’s program comes with a hefty price tag. However, the average student receives $14,330 in scholarship money.
  • Recent Initiatives: In 2023, Disney and AFI partnered for the Underrepresented Storytellers Initiative, offering a micro-grant of $35,000 and professional development opportunities.
  • Tuition: $68,103 (Graduate)

Alumni: Ari Aster, Andrea Arnold

2. USC

Location: Los Angeles

  • Overview: USC, a storied school with a broad alumni network, offers traditional directing and screenwriting routes. New additions include Themed Design and expanded VFX curriculum.
  • Financial Aid: USC’s affiliation with a larger university enables initiatives like tuition-free attendance for freshmen from families with an annual income of $80,000 or less.
  • Tuition: $66,640 (Undergraduate); $39,533 to $58,621 (Graduate)

Alumni: Shonda Rhimes, Juel Taylor, Rian Johnson, Shawn Levy

3. NYU

Location: New York City

  • Overview: NYU, benefiting from a massive donation, is constructing the Martin Scorsese Virtual Production Center. The graduate film track, mentored by industry professionals like Spike Lee, stands out.
  • Tuition: $66,388 (Undergraduate); $73,698 (Graduate)

Alumni: Dee Rees, Debra Granik

4. Chapman University

Location: Orange, California

  • Overview: Located an hour from Hollywood, Chapman’s Dodge College brings in A-list talent, providing students with free access to film equipment and substantial annual tech updates.
  • Recent Developments: A generous $2.5 million anonymous donation will fund the Innovation Hub, equipped with new LED and AI technology, opening in 2025.
  • Tuition: $62,400

Alumni: The Duffer brothers, Justin Simien

 Top 10 American Film Schools, Check out the Tuition Fees
Top 10 American Film Schools, Check out the Tuition Fees

5. CalArts

Location: Santa Clarita, California

  • Overview: Known for its robust animation program, CalArts counts Pixar leaders like Pete Docter among its alumni. Renovations are underway after water damage in 2021.
  • Programs: CalArts offers programs in character and experimental animation, providing students access to industry-standard tech for film production.
  • Tuition: $56,074 (Undergraduate and Graduate)

Alumni: Mark Andrews, Bruce Berman

6. Emerson College

Location: Boston

  • Overview: Emerson College gained recognition during the awards season, with alums Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert winning accolades for A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
  • Global Opportunities: Students can study in Paris and the Netherlands through partnerships with institutions like Paris College of Art.
  • Tuition: $54,400 (Undergraduate); $1,402 per credit for Graduate

Alumni: Adele Lim

7. Columbia University

Location: New York

  • Overview: Columbia’s School of the Arts has welcomed new faculty members, including veteran film and TV editor Elizabeth Kling. A new writing concentration for film and TV has been introduced.
  • Confidence Building: Despite a high-price-tag education, Columbia alumni feel empowered, with notable figures like Sherman Payne expressing confidence in Hollywood.
  • Tuition: $70,028 (Undergraduate); $71,918 (Graduate)

Alumni: James Mangold, Ashley Lyle, Deborah Chow

8. Loyola Marymount University

Location: Los Angeles

  • Overview: LMU, with a new theater funded by James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, offers a joint master’s program in Entertainment Leadership and Management.
  • Affordability: Slightly more affordable than other private LA schools, LMU provides a healthy local alumni network and easy access to LA-based internships.
  • Tuition: $54,630 (Undergraduate); $1,536 per unit for Graduate

Alumni: Francis Lawrence, Gloria Calderón Kellett, James Wong

9. University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA)

Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

  • Overview: As a state-funded arts school, UNCSA provides accessible financing, including full scholarships through the Posse Arts Program for students from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • Tech Advancements: UNCSA offers advanced tech, including a new LED wall for virtual production, and recently received a $2.3 million grant to support its Posse Arts Program.
  • Tuition: Undergraduate – $6,497 (Resident), $24,231 (Non-Resident); Graduate – $9,696 (Resident), $24,399 (Non-Resident)

Alumni: Brett Haley, David Gordon Green, Craig Zobel

10. UCLA

Location: Los Angeles

  • Overview: Interim Dean Brian Kite has spearheaded progressive changes at UCLA, focusing on diversity and student comfort. The faculty-to-student ratio remains at 1:3.
  • Financial Support: Despite interim status, Kite secured more funding for BIPOC students and reimagined building spaces for student comfort.
  • Tuition: Undergraduate – $14,000 (In-State), $47,000 (Non-Resident); Graduate – $18,000 (In-State), $33,000 (Non-Resident)

Alumni: Dustin Lance Black, Steven Canals, David Koepp

Note: The rankings and information are based on The Hollywood Reporter‘s 13th annual list of the nation’s top film programs as of August 11, 2023.


Varun is a senior editor at Moviezupp, a popular entertainment website devoted to all things movies. He is an experienced reviewer, writer, and news reporter. Varun has been covering the Telugu cinema scene for several years, writing on everything froml film festivals to regional and national releases.