Maia Kobabe is a very talented up and coming cartoonist as the above page from her Tom O’Bedlam adaptation shows. (disclosure: she is also a reviewer for me at Publishers Weekly.) Recently she wrote a very frank tumblr post in response to a question about whether to enter the California College of the Arts MFA program. This kind of degree program is very pricey, and let’s be real, a cartooing degree isn’t going to may off that five figure school loan any time soon. Kobabe gives a very detailed response:

I have no idea how my situation compares to yours- if you received the same scholarships, if you have loans from undergrad, if you have dependents, or medial bills- all of these things factor in. My goal going into grad school was to try and keep my debt under $20,000 (I didn’t have to take loans in undergrad so these were my first). I didn’t quite manage that, as you can see. The debt I ended up with will probably take me 5 years to pay off if I continue to live rent-free, or 15 to 20 years if I move out. Those are the costs. For me they were worth it. If I had been unable to pay any of my tuition upfront during school and had had to take out $50K+ in loans- I would still have received an amazing education but I think it would have been less worth it. So that’s something to consider.

A lot more in the link. Obviously YMMV, but any expenditure of this kinds comes at the price of a long term monastic lifestyle. But then, you’re a cartoonist; did you expect any different?


  1. If you enter the Fine Arts Degree programs looking to recoup your investment, you’re too pragmatic to make it work. You should be in a Commerce program instead. My experience in pursuing Fine Arts withan (unnamed) institution led me to leave after Foundation Year: I saw too many older students who didn’t seem to have grasped the basics, or show direction toward doing advanced work. Your mileage may vary, but I gave up “the piece of paper” and went for practical experience, mixed with a sauce of night courses, workshops and ‘working till I dropped”, all of which eventually paid off.

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