SCAD – the Savannah College of Art and Design – is one of the best known cartooning schools, turning out many very accomplished artists and animators, such as Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing and many others.
However, it’s also a very controversial school due to the huge salary its president and founder draws, and some other financial matters. A link to an expose on on the school has been floating around my Facebook feed but hasn’t really gotten a lot of comments.
Approaching its 40th year, SCAD has matured into one of Georgia’s most prominent academic institutions. Its enrollment reached almost 14,000 this fall, rivaling that of Georgia’s largest private college, 181-year-old Emory University. SCAD operates campuses in Savannah and Hong Kong, Atlanta and France, each renowned for preserving historic buildings. It offers degrees in of-the-moment fields: luxury and fashion management, motion pictures and television, theme-park design. SCAD succeeds by attracting students who want both artistic achievement and acclaim — and who are undeterred by $50,000 a year in tuition and other fees.
But a cult of personality surrounding Wallace enables her to eclipse her own school and make millions of dollars doing so, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found.
According to the piece, president Paula Wallace made $19.9 million in salary between 2011 and 2015 – for comparison, Harvard’s president makes 1/3rd as much. While Wallace’s financial gain from the school is heavily scrutinized in the piece, a real problem is that $50K tuition and the level of students accepted:
With SCAD relying so heavily on student revenue, admission is relatively easy. In 2014, the bond-rating firm Moody’s said SCAD accepted almost 94 percent of applicants. SCAD claims its acceptance rate runs closer to 70 percent. At the most selective private universities, the rate rarely exceeds 20 to 25 percent. SCAD professors complain that many students arrive ill-equipped and less talented than they think.
“We’re getting anyone and everyone with a pulse and a bank account,” said Sakievich, the former art professor on the Hong Kong campus.
Apparently Wallace’s flamboyant lifestyle has been common knowledge for a long time. It also employs many people as teachers, and flies many folks down to the school every day for career day.t
Over the years, I’ve heard many people mention SCAD but not the problems there. Along with CCS, SVA, RISD and MCA it seems to turn out the highest number of cartooning grads, at least at the indie shows I go to, and while a lot aren’t making a living doing it, there is at least some lineage there. It’s sad to hear that behind the scenes is such a mess.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.