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.


  1. There’s A LOT of money in hopes and dreams. Now with all the Art Academy franchise schools, and so many other for profit art colleges, its amazing at how many of these types of art school factories there are out there. Watch daytime tv in any market and you’ll prob see at least 1 commercial for one in your area.

    If you’re gonna go to art school invest the time and effort to try and get into a tier 1 school like RISD, ACCD, SVA, MICA, etc which actually have really tough admissions, deep ties into dozens of creative industries and quality teachers and deep alumni network.

  2. I’m a scad grad and I have mixed feelings about the contents of these articles. Paula Wallace appeared, to me, to be everything they say she is. She thrives on the celebrity and makes decisions to better herself and not the students. I saw that in a million different ways during my time there. That being said, the faculty I was fortunate enough to engage with were amazing. They were extremely knowledgeable and would go out of their way to help you. As for the acceptance rate, I think that statistic needs a bit more context. It’s no secret that it is easy to get it, it is however, much more difficult to finish. The beginning of every quarter, the building would be bustling with new students bit by the end of the first few weeks they’d disappear. What does weed out the weak and underperforming, it just usually occurs deeper into the academic cycle. A lot of people get hit with the reality that art school is work and I’d be curious to hear the numbers behind how many students drop out.

  3. Student loans should be tied to completion/graduation, job placement, and student loan repayment rates. If college or university [non-profit or for-profit] does an unacceptable rate among these categories, the federal government and loan companies should be able to clawback a portion of the student loan with this amount being forgiven for the students.

  4. I worked at a University in GA for 8 years before leaving to attend Center for Cartoon Studies and I heard disturbing things about the hiring practices at SCAD when I was looking at some of their jobs. Namely that they did the bare minimum to get accreditation and they still treated their professors like shit and would fire them at the drop of a hat. I’d also like to point out that James Sturm who founded CCS worked at SCAD for quite some time and made quite clear that his teaching philosophies are very different that what SCAD practiced.

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