Academy of Art University

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Academy of Art University
Academy of Art University building, New Montgomery Street.jpg
MottoBuilt by artists for artists
Type for-profit
President Elisa Stephens
Academic staff
283 full-time
1154 part-time
Undergraduates6,694 [1]
Location, ,
United States
CampusUrban and online
Colors Black and Red         
Athletics NCAA Division II

The Academy of Art University (AAU), formerly Academy of Art College and Richard Stephens Academy of Art, is a privately owned for-profit art school in San Francisco, California, in the United States. It was founded as the Academy of Advertising Art by Richard S. Stephens in 1929. [2] It has 283 full-time teachers and 1154 part-time teaching staff, and about 11,000 students;[ when?] [3] it claims to be the largest privately owned art and design school in the United States. [4]

The school has open admissions and an admission acceptance rate of 100%. [1] [5] In 2016, its accreditor expressed concern over low graduation rates; [6] approximately 7% of students then completed a four-year degree within the allotted time. [5] As of 2015, the school had not published job placement rates since 2006, and was disagreeing with the US Department of Education over whether it is required to do so. [7]

The school is one of the largest property owners in San Francisco, with the main campus located on New Montgomery Street in the South of Market district. [8]


It was founded in 1929 as a school for advertising art. [9] The founder, Richard S. Stephens, a painter and magazine editor, led it until 1951 when his son Richard A. Stephens took over, who 1992 was replaced by his daughter Elisa Stephens. [9] Under her presidency, student numbers increased from around 2000[ citation needed] to 18,000 by 2011, [10] but have since fallen to under 12,000[ citation needed]. Forbes estimated the Stephens' family wealth at $800 million in 2015. [11]

The school has been participating in the NY Fashion Week event bi-annually since 2005. [12] [13] [14]

The university owns and operates the Academy of Art University Automobile Museum with 200 vintage cars, a collection that started in the 1990s. [15] [16] [17]



Starting in 2007, the San Francisco city planning commission held more than twenty hearings relating to possible violations of city land-use laws, including the unauthorized conversion of rent-controlled housing to academic use; [18] [7] in May 2016, the city brought a lawsuit against the school. [19] In December 2016, an agreement was reached whereby the Academy agreed to pay the city $20 million in fees, $7 million of which were to go to purchasing low-income housing. The school was also to provide additional low-income housing for seniors as part of the deal. [20] The University failed to meet the terms of the 2016 agreement and in January 2020 the agreement was amended, requiring the Academy of Art University to pay $37.6 million to the city to build affordable housing. [21] [22]

The Academy of Art and the City of San Francisco settled a $60 million case due to the Academy of Art and various related Stephens' family LLC's acquisition and use of real estate in San Francisco. [11] The Academy of Art converted 33 of its 40 buildings from residential use to private use which in San Francisco must be approved to avoid furthering the housing crisis in the region. [11]

Student enrollment fraud

In 2009, four former admission officers alleged that the Academy of Art had compensated them based on how many students they could enroll. [7] The Department of Education bans such incentives, and during the Obama Administration a memo was issued to recoup funds from schools that used these illegal recruitment techniques. [23] The Academy of Art requires no portfolio and has a 100% acceptance rate for admissions. With low recruiting thresholds, the school took in over $1.5 billion dollars in Federal aid to be repaid by students since 2006. [11] The former employees eventually became whistleblowers in a Federal Case, suing the school in U.S. District Court in Oakland in 2009. [7]

As of January 2018, it was fighting a 2009 lawsuit alleging that it defrauded the federal government of student aid through illegal recruitment practices. [6]

Accreditation and teaching

The school offers associate, bachelor's [1] and master's degrees [24] in about twenty-five subjects. [1] Some courses are offered online. [1] [5]

Academy of Art University received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in 2007. [25] The WASC does not require schools to disclose job placement figures. [7] The school is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. [26] In interior architecture and design, the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (taught or online) and Master of Fine Arts degree are accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation. [27] The Master of Architecture degree has, since January 1, 2006, been accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board while the Bachelor of Architecture program was granted as of January 1, 2015. [28] [29]

In 2016, approximately 7% of students completed a four-year degree within the allotted time. [5] According to the National Center for Education Statistics,[ when?] 31% of students complete a four-year degree within 150% of that time (the "6-year graduation rate"). [3] For online-only students, the 6-year graduation rate is much lower, at 6%; in mid-2015, about 35% of all students were online-only. [30] For part-time students the 6-year graduation rate is[ when?] 3%. [30] About 58% of students are[ when?] female. [1]

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics in 2019, the school's graduation rate for "full-time, first-time" students was 45%. [31]


The school sports teams, the Urban Knights, compete as members of the Pacific West Conference in 14 sports in NCAA Division II. [32]

In the 2014–2015 season, the men's cross country team had a second-place finish and the women's team had a record fourth-place finish, earned at the Pacific West Conference Championships. Valentin Pepiot, their third NCAA Nationals individual qualifier, was one of the top finishers from the PacWest in the postseason finale. [33] Academy of Art earned a record 10 PacWest postseason honors. For the 2015, indoor and outdoor track and field seasons, they had seven All-Americans honors and one NCAA individual champion in Jordan Edwards. [33]

Notable alumni

Notable faculty

Past and present faculty of the school include:

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Academy of Art University. Peterson's. Accessed January 2014.
  2. ^ "The Academy of Art University is a school with a soul". National Collegiate Athletic Association. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Academy of Art University. College Navigator. National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed June 2016.
  4. ^ "Who We Are". Academy of Art University website. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Academy of Art University. US News and World Report. Archived 28 August 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Academy of Art could face federal trial over fraud suit". February 11, 2018. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e Savchuk, Katia. "Black Arts: The $800 Million Family Selling Art Degrees and False Hopes". Forbes. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  8. ^ John Cote (November 15, 2010). "Academy of Art land use violations ignored". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  9. ^ a b Brickman, Sophie (May 22, 2011). "Elisa Stephens of Academy of Art University". SFGate. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  10. ^ Lee Romney (July 9, 2012). "San Francisco rule would encourage building student housing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d "Academy of Art could face federal trial over fraud suit". February 11, 2018. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  12. ^ "Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week". Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  13. ^ "Academy of Art University (San Francisco, CA, United States)". Fashionista. 2016. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  14. ^ "". Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  15. ^ Clark, Meaghan (March 12, 2015). "ust How Much is Academy of Art's Vintage Car Collection Worth? — The Bold Italic — San Francisco". The Bold Italic. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  16. ^ "Classic cars go on display at the Academy of Art University". ABC7 San Francisco. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  17. ^ "Join the Chronicle VIP party at the 57th annual International Auto Show". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  18. ^ Lee, Vic. "SF suing Academy of Art University for alleged permit violations". ABC News. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
  19. ^ Vic Lee (May 6, 2016). SF suing Academy of Art University for alleged permit violations. ABC News. Accessed June 2016.
  20. ^ Brinklow, Adam (December 19, 2016). "Academy of Art settles with city, pays $20 million in fees". Curbed. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  21. ^ "Academy of Art University will pay San Francisco for the affordable housing it eliminated". January 8, 2020. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Fact Sheet: Protecting Students from Abusive Career Colleges | U.S. Department of Education". Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  24. ^ Home: Graduate Schools: Academy of Art University. Peterson's. Accessed January 2014.
  25. ^ "Statement of accreditation status: Academy of Art University". Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities, Western Association of Schools and Colleges. July 19, 2007. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  26. ^ "Accredited Institutional Members". National Association of Schools of Art and Design. 2014. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  27. ^ "Accredited Program History". Council for Interior Design Accreditation. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
  28. ^ "Architecture programs: Academy of Art University". National Architectural Accrediting Board. 2006. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  29. ^ "School View". Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  30. ^ a b Katia Savchuk (September 7, 2015). Black Arts: The $800 Million Family Selling Art Degrees and False Hopes. Forbes magazine. Archived August 19, 2015.
  31. ^ "College Navigator - Academy of Art University". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  32. ^ "Academy of Art University". NCAA. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
  33. ^ a b Garcia, Rob. "ART U Track & Field Announces New Coaching Staff". The PacWest. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  34. ^ 2015 Universiade bio Archived April 6, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
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  39. ^ "The 2005 Pulitzer prize winners – feature photography: Deanne Fitzmaurice". The Pulitzer Prizes, Columbia University. Retrieved December 17, 2006.
  40. ^ Vicky Jenson. ACME Film Works. Accessed June 2016.
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  54. ^ . Academy of Art University, Board of Directors, Administrators and Faculty, accessed January 25, 2019
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Latitude and Longitude:

37°47′16″N 122°24′02″W / 37.78785°N 122.40065°W / 37.78785; -122.40065