Let me start off by saying that I am a Graphic Designer both full-time and part-time. I have a degree from AI Online – Game Art and Design, an Associate’s in Art Studies from a comm. college, and I am a self-taught artist from a very young age. I am a huge proponent of putting in what you want out of college.
I really wish I could recommend this school as it has so much potential but I can’t. AI was great as I can say I have a degree in the field, but beyond that, the only positive I really got out of the school is the fact that it allowed me to work full time and it gave me a great portfolio.
I chose AI because many of the colleges at the time offered graphic design as a major based in “fine arts” - I wanted my degree to be based in computer. AI teaches computer graphics via Game Art and Design AND allowed me to maintain my fulltime job while attending classes without a scheduling conflict.
I have several personal complaints about the school but I’ll keep it to the main issues. Note that these key points I’m citing are concurrent with other students as well.
1) THEY MAKE IT VERY DIFFICULT TO TRANSFER IN COURSES: I have my Associate’s and several other courses, but I only had enough transfer over so that I only had to attend for just under the 4 years of the 5 year circuit. They don’t mention that you can use work experience to substitute for class experience, and if you do you have 30 days to apply for it upon entering the SCHOOL not just the semester (unless the rules have change sense). Though that part is in writing, it’s buried somewhere among the FinAid paperwork under the fine print.
2) THEY CHARGE INTEREST: Yes, they charge interest on their tuition payment plan. Even if you have a student loan which is guaranteed moneys, if that money is releasable after a particular time from they’ve designated but don’t discern, then they charge you interest for your out-of-pocket expenses.
3) YOU SPEND MUCH OF THE TIME TEACHING YOURSELF: You don’t actually have to study for these classes or purchase the books in order to pass. It would have been nice if the courses at least offered video tutorials on what to expect if you truly don’t understand a subject, but they don’t.
4) STAYING IN CONTACT W/ PROFESSORS IS DIFFICULT: Professors are rarely available at their office number provided. Some do supply you with a cell phone, but usually they’re hard to track down as they’re never there - most teaching at other universities.
5) 90%+ GRADUTES GETTING A JOB IN THE FIELD: Umm, no. That little factoid isn’t contingent on anything. If you already have a job in the field prior to attendance or just after attendance (i.e. haven’t really started taking any courses), you’re counted too. There’s no way to tell who actually gets a jobs based on the skills they’ve received from AI.
6) WAAAAY OVER PRICED: College is expensive enough, but the school is on-line. You’re paying for your own books, your own computer, your own programs, you’re not using their facilities or materials save for wherever they have a server farm to host the classes, you don’t live on campus, you’re professors are only there long enough to read the materials you’ve posted so they don’t have to actually be present anywhere, sooooo why does it ONLY cost about a grand or two less than a traditional college? On top of that, the cost of the degree way out paces the cost of the job in the job market. Designers traditionally are only paid $25K-$45K a year. The degree cost near $100K, so compound that with interest on loans, you’ll be paying that off for quite some time, if at all depending on where you live.
Bottom line is that they are a “for-profit” school. Honestly, because of the simple fact that you can teach yourself there AND that the professors teach at other schools, should tell you that you’re paying way too much for a degree from AI. If you want the convenience and pay for it, be my guest, but know you’re field. Take the time and buy a book - there’s plenty of FREE material out there with a simple search on Google, About.com, YouTube, Wiki, or any of the thousands of free tutorials out there. Employers honestly don’t care where the degree comes from they just want to know that you have a degree in the field and that you can show what you know. That’s it. Just make sure you research your school and find a curriculum that fits what you are trying to do, and put a little extra effort in on the side.