Academy of Art University

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Academy of Art University
Academy of Art University building, New Montgomery Street.jpg
Motto Built by artists for artists
Type for-profit
Established 1929
President Elisa Stephens
Students 12,608
Undergraduates 8,303[1]
Postgraduates 4,305
Location San Francisco, California, United States
Campus Urban and online
Colors Black and Red         
Athletics NCAA Division II

The Academy of Art University, formerly Academy of Art College, 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 12,600 students;[3] it claims to be the largest privately owned art and design school in the United States.[4]

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.[5]


It was founded in 1929 as a school for advertising art,[6] the founder, Richard S. Stephens, a painter and magazine editor, lead it until 1951 when his son Richard A. Stephens took over, who 1992 was replaced by his daughter Elisa Stephens.[6] Under her presidency, student numbers increased from around 2000 to 18,000 by 2012.[7] Academy of Art University has been participating in the NY Fashion Week event bi-annually since 2005.[8][9][10] A private bus fleet transports students between dorms and classrooms located across San Francisco.[7]

Starting in 2007, the San Francisco city planning commission held more than twenty hearings relating to possible violations of the land-use laws of the city, including the unauthorized conversion of rent-controlled housing to academic use;[11][12] in May 2016, the city brought a lawsuit against the school.[13] In December 2016 an agreement was reached whereby the Academy agreed to pay the city $20 million in fees, $7 million of which will go to purchasing low-income housing, the school will also provide additional low-income housing for seniors as part of the deal.[14]

Accreditation and teaching[edit]

Academy of Art University received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in 2007.[15] The school is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.[16] In interior architecture and design, the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (taught or online) and Master of Fine Arts degree are both accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation.[17] 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.[18][19]

The school offers associate, bachelor's[1] and master's degrees[20] in about twenty-five subjects.[1] Some courses are offered online.[1][21]

in 2016, approximately 7% of students completed a four-year degree within the allotted time.[21] According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 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.[22] For part-time students the 6-year graduation rate is 3%.[22]

About 58% of students are female.[1]

Automobile Museum[edit]

The university owns and operates the Academy of Art University Automobile Museum. Among its 200 vintage cars are some of the world’s rarest and most valuable, with Forbes valuing the collection at over $70 million.[23] Approximately half of the cars housed in the museum are owned by the university, while the rest belong to the Stephens family, among the cars in the collection is the Tucker 48; the 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow; and a 1928 Hispano-Suiza H6C.[24][25][26]


The school sports teams, the Urban Knights, compete as members of the Pacific West Conference in nine sports in NCAA Division II.[27]

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,[28] the Academy of Arts 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.[28]



Past and present staff of the school include:

See also[edit]


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