Should You Attend a For-Profit Film School? The Truth About Full Sail University, New York Film Academy, and the Los Angeles Film School

Going to film school can help you build a close-knit professional network and gain a foothold in a highly competitive industry, and earning your degree at a for-profit university may seem appealing. For-profit universities offer film degrees that are accelerated and cost less on paper; they also have an even greater emphasis on acquiring hands-on experience. But they also come with drawbacks you should know before you apply.

Get the facts about studying film at three popular for-profit universities, plus the truth about the quality of education and the expenses.

What is a for-profit university?​

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The average for-profit university is owned and operated by a private company. Key stakeholders make decisions that aim to increase the bottom line. In other words, for-profit universities such as Full Sail University sell degrees and certificate programs. To do good business, they go to great lengths to please applicants — even if that means paradoxically enrolling applicants who are less likely to graduate and end up unsatisfied, according to researchers at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

Unlike non-profit universities, for-profit universities aim to cut back on fixed expenses by employing adjuncts over tenured faculty and using office buildings over traditional classrooms. Non-profit universities may have higher fixed expenses reflected in miscellaneous costs and fees; they also receive ample funding from state governments and invest more into maintaining their academics and facilities. For-profit universities are funded mainly by their students and prioritize technical training over academics. In fact, the first for-profit colleges were heavily based on the trades.

What are the most popular for-profit universities for film?​

Full Sail University, New York Film Academy (NYFA), and the Los Angeles Film School offer associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees in film, along with certificate programs with flexible start dates. Take a look at their cost of attendance and acceptance rate, plus the types of film degrees and certificate programs they offer.

FULLSAIL_KatrinaFilm-218.jpgFull Sail University

Full Sail University offers BFA and MFA degrees, along with its Film and Video certificate program for undergraduates. The university is located in Winter Park, Florida, and offers flexible partial or total online degree programs. It is accredited at the national level by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.

Quick statistics:
  • Full Sail University Tuition: Varies by program and degree; costs are projected to increase. These examples reflect the 2024 budget and account for the entire degree program:
    • Bachelor of Fine Arts Film: $94,000 total
    • Master of Fine Arts Film Production: $36,000 total
  • Full Sail University Acceptance Rate: 100% (open-enrollment policy)
  • Program Length: 20 months or 27th months (undergraduate); 48 weeks (graduate)
If you have attended Full Sail, review it on our page for the program below:

Full Sail University

Full Sail University

If you have a passion for filmmaking, Full Sail’s Film bachelor’s program provides you with a comprehensive overview of the industry – while allowing you to discover your unique place within it. You’ll start by sampling the varied skills and technologies a professional film studio has to offer –...

New York Film Academy (NYFA)shutterstock_1488322028-2.jpg

New York Film Academy (NYFA) offers AFA, BFA, BA, MA, and MFA degrees in film, along with film certificate programs. New York Film Academy is based in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Australia. It is accredited at the national level by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

New York Film Academy is well-known for offering a summer camp for young filmmakers and film certificate programs that cost less than its film degrees. The key drawback is restrictions on how you can apply your credits (more on this in a moment).

Quick statistics:
  • New York Film Academy Tuition: Varies by program and degree; costs are projected to increase. These examples reflect the 2024 budget:
    • Bachelor’s of Fine Arts Degree in Filmmaking: $16,218 per semester
    • Master of Fine Arts Degree in Filmmaking: $15,717 per semester
  • New York Film Academy Acceptance Rate: 100% (open-enrollment policy)
  • Program Length: 1-2 years (undergraduate); 1 year (graduate)
If you have attended NYFA, review it on our page for the program below:

New York Film Academy (NYFA)

New York Film Academy (NYFA)

Our various workshops and programs offer students the most intensive and comprehensive experiences possible as they immerse in hands-on courses in the visual and performing arts. The curriculum is designed for people with little or no experience as well as for those who wish to deepen their...

Los Angeles Film SchoolLAFS_shutterstock_2239247489.jpg

Located on historic Sunset Boulevard in the heart of the film and entertainment industry, the Los Angeles Film School offers AS and BS degrees, and a Completion Degree for the Bachelor of Science in Entertainment Business for film students who earned an associate’s degree. It is accredited at the national level by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

Quick statistics:
  • Los Angeles Film School Tuition: Varies by program and degree as well as semester; costs are projected to increase. These examples reflect the budget instated in October 2023:
    • (In-person) BS in Film Production: $8,500 per semester
    • (Online) BS in Digital Filmmaking: $5,250 per semester
    • (International) AS in Audio Production: $6,050 per semester
  • Los Angeles Film School Acceptance Rate: 100% (open-enrollment policy)
  • Program Length: 36 months (bachelor’s); 18 months (associate’s)
If you have attended Los Angeles Film School, review it on our page for the program below:

Los Angeles Film School

Los Angeles Film School

You’ll explore every aspect of modern filmmaking, from pre- to post-production and everything in between. Get ready — it’s time to tell your story.Degree Total: $74,820

Why are for-profit film schools such as Full Sail University, New York Film Academy, and the Los Angeles Film School so popular?​

If you have cable or a streaming service, the chances are you’ve seen advertisements for Full Sail University. Research affordable film schools in New York and Los Angeles, and you’ll get plenty of pop-ups for New York Film Academy and the Los Angeles Film School. For-profit film schools embrace selling film programs and film certificates, and the shift to working remotely triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic made it easier to reach thousands of new students.

In 2020, enrollment at for-profit universities increased by 3 percent while enrollment at non-profit universities fell by 9 percent, as outlined in a report published by Brookings. Many for-profit film schools capitalized on aspiring filmmakers in quarantine by offering partial or total distance learning programs for a lower sticker price than their non-profit counterparts.

3 advantages to attending a for-profit film school​

1. A greater emphasis on vocational training

Many bachelor’s degrees in film cost over $200,000 for tuition and cost of living; many master’s degrees in film cost well over $100,000 without factoring in thesis production expenses. Current and aspiring filmmakers who want to build their professional toolkit as quickly as possible may be reluctant to take out loans or pay out of pocket for academic film coursework.

If you already hold an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree in film but feel they need additional training, Full Sail University, New York Film Academy, and the Los Angeles Film School offer accelerated certificate programs at reasonable costs. At Full Sail University, graduate film students can focus mainly on preproduction and postproduction coursework and spend less than $40,000 for the entire program, including books and equipment.

2. Exceptional flexibility with scheduling and online coursework​

Many traditional film degree programs at non-profit universities require a minimum number of hours working on student productions and few online courses. For working professionals — including filmmakers who want to hone their skills — for-profit universities offer film degrees and film certificate programs that revolve around their schedule. Most or all courses can be taken online, and there are several start dates compared to the traditional fall-only start at many non-profit film schools.

3. Fewer barriers to acceptance​

For-profit universities are first and foremost concerned with selling their film degrees and certificate programs, so an exceptionally low GPA is unlikely to pose problems. Many for-profit universities also do not require standardized test scores.

5 drawbacks to attending a for-profit film school​

1. Hidden tuition costs​

While non-profit film schools can be expensive for some students, historical data shows that film students at for-profit universities tend to pay more in the long run. For one, the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing 2022 report shows that the average for-profit university charges $15,710 in tuition each year. In comparison, the average non-profit university charges $10,750 in tuition each year.

Attending non-profit film schools is more attainable if you qualify for scholarships and financial aid. Many of the most coveted non-profit film schools worldwide, from the University of Southern California School of the Arts to the University of California at Los Angeles, offer substantial financial support.

For more resources about affording non-profit film schools, explore’s Admissions Statistics under our Reviews section to discover the average scholarship amount awarded to accepted applicants.

2. Lower quality academics​

Film school should incorporate hands-on coursework. But versatility is the name of the game in a highly competitive industry — and learning about film history and theory helps film students understand how the craft may evolve and how to make meaningful media.

While some non-profit film schools allow students to take a limited number of online courses for credit, many of these programs intentionally require in-person courses to prepare film students for the demands of industry work. And unlike for-profit film schools, they have stricter curriculum review processes. For instance, Full Sail University came under fire in 2022 after its national accreditor, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, found that an alarming number of its degree programs and certificate programs suffered from below-benchmark student achievement rates.

If you have a low GPA or low standardized test scores, attending a for-profit film school is not your only option.’s Application Database shows the GPA and additional demographic information for applicants who were waitlisted or accepted. Plus, our Admissions Statistics outlines the lowest average GPA accepted by hundreds of reputable film schools worldwide. Many non-profit film schools also have a holistic admissions process where GPA and standardized test scores (if they’re required at all) make up only one part of the applicant profile.

3. Lack of regional accreditation​

A key reason many students struggle to afford for-profit film schools is due to their lack of regional accreditation. As a result, Full Sail University, NYFA, and the LA Film School cannot receive funding from their state government. Not only that, but nationally accredited film schools also pose these issues:
  • Non-transferable credits: Film students can’t transfer their credits to a regionally-accredited university. This becomes especially perilous when a for-profit university closes.
  • More skepticism from potential employers: Research shows many employers still favor regionally accredited universities. Why? Because regional accreditation conveys stricter academic and institutional standards and helps foster trust.
For additional information, this handy chart from Drexel University shows the key differences between nationally accredited and regionally accredited universities.

4. Greater likelihood of default on student loans​

Graduates of for-profit universities have a greater likelihood of struggling to pay their student loans. Statistics from the Education Data Initiative show that 15.6 percent of student borrowers who attended for-profit universities defaulted on their student loans within only three years.

On top of that, a poll conducted by Pew Center Trusts on the damages of defaulting on student loans shows that 60 percent of affected student borrowers suffered significant damage to their credit score and other financial hardships, including garnished wages. The U.S. Office of Federal Student Aid will also cut off access to additional financial aid.

5. Higher unemployment rates​

Getting a job in the film industry can pose challenges that require preemptive networking and creative thinking, and a respected non-profit film school often has the resources for pitching, networking, and obtaining internships well before graduation. For-profit film schools fare worse: Emerging data shows that the average for-profit university struggles to set up its graduates for success.

These findings support a 2013 study from Harvard University that shows for-profit university alumni are less likely to believe that their education was worth the cost — and are more likely to be unemployed and earning less than their peers.

The bottom line: Weigh the pros and cons before you apply​

Not all graduates from for-profit film schools such as Full Sail, New York Film Academy, and the Los Angeles Film School struggle with debt and difficulty obtaining employment. However, with the cost of associate's degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees comparable to the cost of attending a non-profit university as an in-state resident, aspiring film school students should carefully evaluate the pros and cons of attending a for-profit film school — namely, the quality of academics and what their education may afford them in the field.

As the for-profit sector continues to grow, for-profit universities may be stricter and higher standards. New proposed rules by the U.S. Department of Education will require for-profit universities to provide proof that alumni are gainfully employed and earning more than the typical high school graduate. Ultimately, the decision to attend a for-profit film school for an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree is personal and depends on your academic goals and financial background.

Have you attended a for-profit film school, or have you applied to one for 2023-2024 entry? Share your experiences and comment below or on our forums.
About author
Alexa P.
Alexa Pellegrini (she/her) is a freelance copywriter, editor, poet, and essayist. Keep up with her latest musings on Twitter.


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