|Motto||Built by artists for artists|
|Type||Private for-profit art school|
|Campus||Urban 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 private 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. It has 283 full-time teachers and 1154 part-time teaching staff, and about 11,000 students;[when?] it claims to be the largest privately owned art and design school in the United States.
The school has open admissions and an admission acceptance rate of 100%. In 2016, its accreditor expressed concern over low graduation rates; 37% of students who enrolled in 2010 graduated by 2017.
It was founded in 1929 as a school for advertising art. The founder, Richard S. Stephens, a painter and magazine editor, led it until 1951 when his son Richard A. Stephens took over, who in 1992 was replaced by his daughter Elisa Stephens. Under her presidency, student numbers increased from around 2000 to 18,000 by 2011, but have since fallen to under 12,000. Forbes estimated the Stephens' family wealth at $800 million in 2015.
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; in May 2016, the city brought a lawsuit against the school. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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. The former employees eventually became whistleblowers in a Federal Case, suing the school in U.S. District Court in Oakland in 2009.
As of January 2018, it was fighting a 2009 lawsuit alleging that it defrauded the federal government of student aid through illegal recruitment practices.
Accreditation and teaching
The school offers associate, bachelor's and master's degrees in about twenty-five subjects. Some courses are offered online.< 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.
Academy of Art University received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in 2007. The WASC does not require schools to disclose job placement figures. The school is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. 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. 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.
In 2016, approximately 7% of students completed a four-year degree within the allotted time. 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"). 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. For part-time students the 6-year graduation rate is[when?] 3%. About 58% of students are[when?] female.
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%.
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. 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.
- Mobolade Ajomale, Canadian Olympic sprinter
- Henry Asencio, figurative painter
- Rick Baker, winner of an Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling and special effects for An American Werewolf in London
- Lauren Conrad, actress, fashion designer and author
- Deanne Fitzmaurice, photographer and photojournalist, winner of a 2005 Pulitzer Prize
- Vicky Jenson, film director
- Kara Laricks, fashion designer
- Bilal Lashari, Pakistani film director and cinematographer
- Cheol-ha Lee, film director
- Chris Milk, music video director and photographer
- Heidi Montag, actress, singer and fashion designer
- Rodrigo Prieto, cinematographer
- Jolene Marie Cholock-Rotinsulu, Indonesian actress, TV Commercial Model, singer, Puteri Indonesia 2019 and Miss International Indonesia 2019
- Rudianto Soedjarwo, Indonesian film director, film and television movie producer, cinematographer, graphic designer and film maker
- Raven-Symoné, actress and singer
Past and present faculty of the school include:
- Diane Baker, actress
- Tom Bertino, animator
- Michael Brandt, co-founder of Nootrobox
- James Claussen, lithographer and abstract painter
- Richard Hart, journalist
- Kamshad Kooshan, movie writer & director 
- Tim McGovern, Academy Award-winning visual effects director 
- Adam Savage, creator of Myth Busters 
- Peter Schifrin (born 1958), Olympic fencer and sculptor
- Art Spiegelman, cartoonist
- Terryl Whitlatch, illustrator
- Lindsey Yamasaki, basketball player
- Jan Yanehiro, television journalist
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- "Legendary Star Wars Special Effects Makeup Artist Announces Retirement". Makeup Artist Edu. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
- "Lauren Conrad Biography". People Magazine. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
- Katie Baker (November 17, 2009). "Ask The Appeal: Does Academy Of Art University Have Any Notable Alumni?". San Francisco Appeal. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
- "The 2005 Pulitzer prize winners – feature photography: Deanne Fitzmaurice". The Pulitzer Prizes, Columbia University. Retrieved December 17, 2006.
- Vicky Jenson. ACME Film Works. Accessed June 2016.
- Dunhill, Heather. "Qs for Fashion Star's Kara Larick". Heather Dunhill's Fashion IQ. Sarasota Magazine. Archived from the original on August 23, 2012. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
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- "Tom Bertino". Nova Online. 1997. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
- "The Animated Side of Star Wars: An Interview With Rob Coleman, The Film's Animation Director". Animated World Network. August 1999. Archived from the original on September 5, 2014. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
- "A Pair of Entrepreneurs Focuses on 'Nutrients for Your Brain'". WeWork. June 18, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
- "This Twenty-Something Ditched His Dream Job At Google And Now He Has A Startup That Sells Brain-Enhancing Pills". Business Insider. August 6, 2014. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
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- "Sony Pictures to produce "Tehranis" by Director Kamshad Kushan". Payvand Iran News. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
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