Academy of Art University

Coordinates: 37°47′16″N 122°24′02″W / 37.78785°N 122.40065°W / 37.78785; -122.40065
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Academy of Art University (AAU or ART U)
Academy of Art University building, New Montgomery Street.jpg
Former name
Academy of Advertising Art,
Richard Stephens Academy of Art,
Academy of Art College
MottoBuilt by artists for artists
TypePrivate for-profit art school
PresidentElisa Stephens
Academic staff
202 full-time
601 part-time
Location, ,
United States
CampusUrban and online
ColorsBlack and Red   
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division II

The Academy of Art University (AAU or ART U), formerly Academy of Art College and Richard Stephens Academy of Art, is a private for-profit art school in San Francisco, California. It was founded as the Academy of Advertising Art by Richard S. Stephens in 1929.[2] In fall 2020, it had 202 full-time teachers, 621 part-time teaching staff, and 7,805 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 Académie of Advertising Art,[6] a school for advertising art, at 215 Kearny Street.[7] The founder, Richard S. Stephens,[8] a painter and editor for Sunset Magazine,[9] led it until 1951 when his son Richard A. Stephens took over. In 1992, Stephens was replaced by his daughter, Elisa Stephens.[10][7] Under her presidency, student numbers increased to 18,000 by 2011.[11]

The university owns and operates the Academy of Art University Automobile Museum with 200 vintage cars, a collection that started in the 1990s.[12][13][14]

The school has been participating in the NY Fashion Week event bi-annually since 2005.[15][16][17] Every year, the university hosts a spring show that highlights student work from the school's 75 disciplines.[18]

In 2009, four former admission officers alleged that the school had compensated them based on how many students they could enroll, which was an incentive-based recruitment technique.[19][20][21][22][23] The former employees sued the school in U.S. District Court in Oakland in 2009.[21]

In May 2016, the city of San Francisco brought a lawsuit against Academy of Art University after possible violations of city land-use laws, including the unauthorized conversion of rent-controlled housing to academic use.[21][23][24][25] In December 2016, the school was ordered pay the city $20 million in fees and $40 million in housing concessions, such as providing low-income housing for seniors.[26][27] In January 2020, the agreement was amended, requiring the Academy of Art University to pay $37.6 million to build affordable housing.[23][28]


The school offers associate, bachelor's[1] and master's degrees[29] in about twenty-five subjects.[1] Some courses are offered online.[1][30] 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.[21]

Academy of Art University received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in 2007.[31] The WASC does not require schools to disclose job placement figures.[21] The school is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.[32] 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.[33] 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.[34][35]

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 45% of students who began their studies in fall 2013 completed a four-year degree within 150% of that time (the "6-year graduation rate").[3] For online-only students, the 6-year graduation rate was 6% and 3% for part-time students in mid-2015.[36] Approximately 35% of all students were online-only in 2015.[36] In 2016, roughly 7% of students completed a four-year degree within the allotted time.[30]

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%.[37] The school has open admissions and an admission acceptance rate of 100%.[1][30] In 2016, its accreditor expressed concern over low graduation rates; 37% of students who enrolled in 2010 graduated by 2017.[20]


The school sports teams, the Urban Knights, compete as members of the Pacific West Conference in 14 sports in NCAA Division II.[38]

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.[39] Academy of Art earned a record 10 PacWest postseason honors. For the 2015 indoor and outdoor track and field seasons, they had seven All-American honors and one NCAA individual champion in Jordan Edwards.[39]

Notable alumni[edit]

Notable faculty[edit]

Past and present faculty of the school include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Academy of Art University. Peterson's. Accessed January 2014.
  2. ^ "The Academy of Art University is a school with a soul". National Collegiate Athletic Association. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Academy of Art University. College Navigator. National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed June 2016.
  4. ^ "Who We Are". Academy of Art University website. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  5. ^ John Cote (November 15, 2010). "Academy of Art land use violations ignored". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  6. ^ Cifuentes, Kevin (May 5, 2022). "French-inspired "quintessential Woodside" estate of controversial former Academy of Art President asks $22.5 million". The Real Deal San Francisco. Retrieved August 8, 2022.
  7. ^ a b Brickman, Sophie (May 22, 2011). "Elisa Stephens of Academy of Art University". SFGate. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  8. ^ Whiting, Sam (June 14, 2017). "Richard Stephens, Academy of Art president, real estate mogul, dies". SFGATE. Retrieved August 8, 2022.
  9. ^ "Our Leadership". Academy of Art University. Retrieved August 8, 2022.
  10. ^ Savchuk, Katia. "Black Arts: The $800 Million Family Selling Art Degrees and False Hopes". Forbes. Retrieved August 8, 2022.
  11. ^ Lee Romney (July 9, 2012). "San Francisco rule would encourage building student housing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  12. ^ Clark, Meaghan (March 12, 2015). "Just How Much is Academy of Art's Vintage Car Collection Worth?". The Bold Italic. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  13. ^ "Classic cars go on display at the Academy of Art University". ABC7 San Francisco. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  14. ^ "Join the Chronicle VIP party at the 57th annual International Auto Show". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  15. ^ "Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week". Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  16. ^ "Academy of Art University (San Francisco, CA, United States)". Fashionista. 2016. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  17. ^ "". Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  18. ^ "The Academy of Art University's Spring Shows Keeps on Springing". Juxtapoz. September 9, 2020.
  19. ^ Asimov, Nanette (February 18, 2020). "'It's ruined my life': Academy of Art ex-student owes $431,000 and has no job". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 8, 2022.
  20. ^ a b "Academy of Art could face federal trial over fraud suit". February 11, 2018. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  21. ^ a b c d e Savchuk, Katia. "Black Arts: The $800 Million Family Selling Art Degrees and False Hopes". Forbes. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  22. ^ "Fact Sheet: Protecting Students from Abusive Career Colleges | U.S. Department of Education". Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  23. ^ a b c "Academy of Art could face federal trial over fraud suit". February 11, 2018. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  24. ^ Vic Lee (May 6, 2016). SF suing Academy of Art University for alleged permit violations. ABC News. Accessed June 2016.
  25. ^ Lee, Vic. "SF suing Academy of Art University for alleged permit violations". ABC News. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
  26. ^ Brinklow, Adam (December 19, 2016). "Academy of Art settles with city, pays $20 million in fees". Curbed. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  27. ^ Phillip Matier; Andrew Ross (December 19, 2016). "Academy of Art agrees to $60 million settlement of SF lawsuit". San Francisco Chronicle.
  28. ^ "Academy of Art University will pay San Francisco for the affordable housing it eliminated". January 8, 2020. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  29. ^ Home: Graduate Schools: Academy of Art University. Peterson's. Accessed January 2014.
  30. ^ a b c Academy of Art University. U.S. News & World Report. Archived 28 August 2016.
  31. ^ "Statement of accreditation status: Academy of Art University". Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities, Western Association of Schools and Colleges. July 19, 2007. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  32. ^ "Accredited Institutional Members". National Association of Schools of Art and Design. 2014. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  33. ^ "Accredited Program History". Council for Interior Design Accreditation. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
  34. ^ "Architecture programs: Academy of Art University". National Architectural Accrediting Board. 2006. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  35. ^ "School View". Retrieved December 7, 2016.
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  37. ^ "College Navigator - Academy of Art University". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  38. ^ "Academy of Art University". NCAA. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
  39. ^ a b Garcia, Rob. "ART U Track & Field Announces New Coaching Staff". The PacWest. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  40. ^ 2015 Universiade bio Archived April 6, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
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  44. ^ "The 2005 Pulitzer prize winners – feature photography: Deanne Fitzmaurice". The Pulitzer Prizes, Columbia University. Retrieved December 17, 2006.
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  67. ^ "Faculty". Academy of Art.
  68. ^ "Film Director Jack Perez on "Where's Roman"". Apple Podcasts.
37°47′16″N 122°24′02″W / 37.78785°N 122.40065°W / 37.78785; -122.40065