Affordability and Access

Increasing financial aid is a central pillar of our equity, inclusion and diversity commitment since income inequality and student debt are rising to unprecedented heights. Our challenge, however, does not end with enrollment. We must ensure that all admitted students, once they arrive on campus, continue to have equal access to the entire spectrum of the RISD experience.

“Artists are empathy dealers in a callous culture.” Kara Walker MFA 94 PT/PR

Grants and Scholarships

Over the past five years, RISD has steadily increased the amount and rate of financial aid it assigns to students with demonstrated need, as represented in terms of the percentage of the overall need. Approximately 19 percent of the fall 2018 first-year class are from low-income backgrounds. This is the second year that we have achieved this rate, compared to 13 percent for the students that entered RISD for fall 2016. Below are further statistics for the upcoming academic year.

2018/19 success:

  • Total funding for scholarships and need-based financial aid will increase next year by 5.3 percent. This will allow us to provide more than $21.9 million in aid to our students, the highest amount of financial aid that we have ever offered in our history.
  • We’ve increased the average scholarship award to $25,878, the equivalent of two years worth of free tuition and the largest in our history.
  • All admitted students that were eligible for need-based aid received an award from RISD. This was the second year that resources were strong enough to realize this commitment.

Estimation of Course Costs

Some students have avoided taking certain courses, even classes that would support their interests and expose them to new subject areas, because they could not afford the additional course fees.

This year RISD moved from separate course fees to one annual Academic and Technology fee of $800. Because this fee is now part of the overall cost of attendance, it is considered when awarding financial aid. This gives students and parents a clear picture of total costs at the point of billing and eliminates the need for students to avoid specific classes with associated fees. Substantial free software continues to be made available as well.

Social Equity Funds

Social Equity Funds help students obtain required art supplies and other materials, pursue international learning opportunities, and participate in unpaid internships.

Since inception:

  • Awarded Materials Fund grants to 266 students, equaling more than $89,361 to provide students with technology, textbooks and art supplies
  • Dispersed $233,177 in grants to provide students with global study opportunities
  • Sponsored 22 student internships for a total of $82,500

Materials Fund
The Materials Fund was created to make it possible for RISD students with demonstrated financial need to purchase the equipment and supplies needed to advance their art and design education and practice.

Materials Fund Application

Study Abroad Fund
Scholarships are available for RISD students for off-campus semester programs. Students must submit a scholarship application, in order to be eligible. Scholarships may cover part of, or the entire, program cost and/or airfare cost to the course location.

RISD scholarships are awarded based on a combination of financial need and academic merit. These funds are intended to provide students the unique and often life-changing opportunity to participate in an off-campus global learning experience during their time at RISD.

Study Abroad Fund Scholarship


Internships help you build a stronger resume; make professional contacts; see your field firsthand; gain academic credit; get a better starting job; and determine what you want to do, and don't want to do. Funding is available to help you pursue internship opportunities you might not otherwise be able to afford.

Internship Funding Application

Resource-sharing and Reallocation Initiatives

  • Provided more than 50 winter coats for students in need through the program Coat Closet
  • Waived cost of programs (Student Art Sale, Artist Ball, CommenceFest) for students in financial need
Other initiatives
  • Swipe it Forward: a platform for students to donate their meal swipes to other students in order to alleviate ongoing food insecurity on campus. This program provides a confidential and efficient way for students who may be having difficulty finding their next meal to receive the help they deserve.
  • RISD Flips: an annual yard sale held at Market Square that generates funds for the Staff Council student scholarship; supports international students by providing available supplies that might be otherwise thrown away; donates unsold articles to community organizations; and reduces environmental impact by reducing the amount of waste generated on campus.
  • RISD Second Life: a nonprofit, student-run, upcycling program that collects usable art supplies and raw materials and redistributes them back to RISD students and to the local community.

College Preparation Programs

Project Thrive

Project Thrive helps first-year, underrepresented students transition to college and connect to the RISD community in a meaningful way that allows them to have an overall positive and impactful RISD experience.

Project Open Door

Project Open Door is a college access initiative for urban youth. It invites creative teens attending public and charter high schools in Rhode Island’s urban core cities of Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket to participate in free art and design programming.


RISD Pre-College offers high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to access life as a RISD student and experience college culture while studying with award-winning faculty in our art studios to create supplementary pieces for their college admission portfolio. Recent enhancements to the program include:

  • 19 Pre-College full scholarships for summer 2018, up from nine in 2017 and zero the year prior
  • Two full-time counselors hired in addition to planned wellness events
  • Creation of two new Pre-College majors: Art + Science and Art + Activism