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10 Affordable Colleges for Game Design

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

Written By: Max Mitchelson

Edited By: Huimin Zhuo


While debates continue over the merits of specialized game design programs over traditional computer science and programming degrees, a great game design program can still be immensely helpful in your career path. It can connect you to a community of people passionate about games, and it gives you time to grow as a developer, artist, and collaborator. But just deciding on your degree isn’t enough when confronted by the sheer number of schools available.

All too often, creative industries seem impenetrable to all but those who can afford elite colleges. For-profit, online universities often take advantage of lower-income prospective students with a less than satisfactory education at a premium. With all the hurdles of getting a quality education, picking the right school for you can be one of the hardest challenges to overcome.

As a non-profit dedicated to making the games industry more accessible, we have compiled a list of accredited, affordable and respected undergraduate game design programs!

Taking the number nine spot in the top 50 game design schools of 2020 in the Princeton Review, Shawnee State University is one of the best public colleges for game design in the country. It’s also one of the most affordable, averaging about $8,000 per year for residents of Ohio. But the college also has reciprocity with several other states, including Kentucky and a good chunk of the Midwest. Without these benefits, out-of-state tuition starts at around $14,000 per year.

This cross-disciplinary program is divided between two degrees. The first being a B.F.A. in Game and Simulation Arts and the other being a B.S. in Digital Simulation and Gaming Engineering Technology. Both majors at Shawnee State University offers not only focus on game design but also game art and asset creation, making it a great all-around program for anyone interested in games. It also looks to apply interactive media to corporate training, healthcare, design, engineering, animation, motion capture, and more.

  • In-State Tuition Per Year: $8,604

  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Year: $14,647

  • Housing Per Year: $6,894

  • Reciprocity with Other States

Landing on many top game design lists is Ferris State University. Averaging $12,000 per year, this Michigan university is a suitable choice for those looking to get into the visual side of games. With an 87 percent acceptance rate, according to the Princeton Review, it’s also not a difficult school to get into.

Ferris State’s Digital Animation and Game Design degree focuses on creating 2D and 3D art. For those looking to explore VFX and craft digital worlds, this program would be a great fit. Although the degree also teaches elements of game design, app creation, programming, video editing, and much more.

  • Tuition Per Year for the United States and Candian Residents: $12,908

  • Housing Per Year: $10,036

Though not at the top of lists, Kennesaw State University often ends up on many for its excellent game design program. Not only is Kennesaw State University a competitive choice, but it is also cheap for residents of Georgia. It starts at about $6,000 per year for in-state tuition. On the other hand, for those not residing in Georgia, tuition is much higher, starting at $17,000 per year.

The program covers the essentials of design, as well instruction in programming. As a B.S, Kennesaw’s degree appears to teach less of art and asset creation to focus more on the technical aspects of making games. For those looking to be more involved in coding and development, Kennesaw would be a fine choice. Also, it is rather close to Atlanta, which could open internship opportunities for interested students.

  • In-State Tuition Per Year: $6,561

  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Year: $17,815

  • Housing Per Year: $7,200 ($8,600 for out-of-state)

In my home state of Wisconsin, there is the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Tuition per year for in-state residents averages at about $9,000, but like other Midwest schools, there are ways around paying the full out-of-state tuition ($17,000 per year). Residents of Minnesota and states part of the Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP) are eligible for significant discounts.

The University of Wisconsin-Stout offers a computer science degree with a game design concentration and a full B.F.A. in Game Design and Development. The B.F.A. is a visually focused major, but it still covers elements of game design. But it does boast of collaboration with Stout’s computer science students. There is also mention of a cultivation of level design skills, computer science skills, and programming skills in both programs.

  • In-State Tuition Per Year: $9,488

  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Year: $17,455

  • Housing Per Year: $7,598

  • Reciprocity with Other States

Fitchburg State University, though absent from some lists, offers unique opportunities. However, if you aren’t a Massachusetts resident or a resident in a state apart from the New England Regional Student Program (NERSP), it can get a bit pricey. The subsidized yearly tuition is about $10,000 per year, while out-of-state tuition is about $17,000 per year.

Students can expect instruction on core concepts of game design, the basics of game art and asset creation, and programming skills. Like some other game design programs, there is a new focus on the emerging field of virtual reality and making games, art, and applications for that platform.

Fitchburg State also requires students to complete a semester-long internship, allowing many to take the first step in their professional careers. For someone interested in making games from the ground up, Fitchburg State would be an excellent choice.

  • In-State Tuition Per Year: $10,565

  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Year: $16,645

  • Housing Per Year: $7,390 (varies)

  • Reciprocity with Other States

  • Full-Time Students Need Health Insurance

Dakota State University sits around the lower end for tuition rates, averaging about $9,000 per year. The university offers the same to surrounding states and at a discounted cost for Minnesota residents to due reciprocity deals. But the cheap price is not the only positive, as the program itself offers a broad swath of courses that cover the gamut of making games, as well as a great community filled with game-related clubs, events, and game jams.

Similar to Fitchburg State University, Dakota State University’s B.S. Computer Game Design degree lies between traditional STEM degrees and fine arts majors. The courses are project-based, and many focus on team projects in addition to individual work. Beyond teaching programming languages, elements of computer science, and design fundamentals, the program also teaches 3D modeling, rigging, 2D graphics, and narrative design.

  • In-State Tuition Per Year: $9,138.75

  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Year: $12,209.75

  • Housing Per Year: $7,148

  • Reciprocity with Other States

Rounding out the top of many lists for game design schools, The University of Texas at Dallas starts at around $13,000 per year for in-state residents. However, for out-of-state residents, a year of tuition will come out to about $38,000. With that high cost taken into account, the school is recommended for residents of Texas unless cost is less of an issue.

In the School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication, the university offers concentrations on games, critical media studies, animation, and design and production. Though not as comprehensive as some other game design programs, UTAD offers a wide skill-set for those interested in the degree. Though, this is not to say that it ignores the fundamentals. The focus teaches game development, principles of design, critical theory, and more. It combines the artistic elements of game design with the collaborative and practical elements.

  • In-State Tuition Per Year: $13,992

  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Year: $38,970

  • Housing Per Year: $11,762

As with the University of Texas at Dallas, Indiana University Bloomington, while quite affordable for residents of Indiana, is very expensive for out-of-state residents. It sits at the middling tuition rate of about $11,000 per year for residents, while averaging about $38,000 for just tuition for out-of-state residents.

Riding the line between an arts degree and a stem focused major, Indiana University’s B.S. in game design offers a well-rounded experience for incoming students. It focuses on a social systems approach to game design and pushes students to create a finished product they develop and publish on relevant platforms. The program also allows for elective courses in computer science, music, art, and architecture to be used toward a degree in game design to expand skills and abilities.

  • In-State Tuition Per Year: $13,992

  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Year: $38,970

  • Housing Per Year: $11,762

With an average yearly tuition of $13,000 for New York residents, SUNY Polytechnic offers a solid program for a modest price. Out-of-state tuition averages at the fairly competitive $18,000 per year. However, SUNY Polytechnic also offers a much less expensive online program for around $8,000 per year for out-of-state students only. But, given the collaborative nature of game design, this might not be the best choice for everyone.

SUNY Polytechnic offers several concentrations in its B.S. in Interactive Media and Game Design. These include software development, marketing and entrepreneurship, and art and asset production. SUNY Polytechnic’s program is a useful stepping stone for those looking to enter the game industry as a programmer or designer and also for students interested in the business side of the games industry.

  • In-State Tuition Per Year: $7,070

  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Year: $16,980

  • Online Tuition Rate: $8,480

  • Housing Per Year: $8,444

While researching this list, this cost came as a surprise, as with the reputation as one of the top animation schools in the world, one would expect an exorbitant price. But with an annual cost of $15,000 per year, the cost seems small compared to similarly renowned schools like CalArts, Digipen, and the University of Southern California, among many others. However, it is still the most expensive college on this list, but if you are looking for international experience at a relatively affordable price, this could be a good choice.

Along with a slew of certificates, Sheridan College’s Honours Bachelors of Game Design teaches the core elements of making games. These include the obvious, like game and level design fundamentals, programming, narrative, audio, 2D and 3D art and animation, but also professional development and project management. Students will complete projects, simulations, and case studies. They are also required to do a Co-op work term within the games industry. The final project for students is to break up into teams and to complete a game.

  • International Tuition Per Year: $15,276

  • Housing Per Year: $7,575 (varies)

Making Decisions for the Future

This list is by no means comprehensive, and many great programs were left out. In addition, some expensive private schools and public schools do offer extensive aid, making them viable even if you are on a budget. But if the price is your main concern, look at schools in your state for a better deal. There are many more affordable programs in colleges throughout the country.

Also, remember that even if colleges lack a full degree program, there are many more that offer industry-focused clubs and organizations, along with minors and certificates in game design. Pairing up these opportunities with a degree in computer science can give you a wide skill-set while still letting you pursue your passion.

But ultimately, it is about finding what works for you. If you are having trouble making games or don’t even know where to start, it is a good idea to look into a formal degree. But if you are already an experienced programmer with connections, the benefits will be less so. However, a good program that works for you will always come with benefits.


For more game design programs and advice, click the links below.


Follow the EGD Collective on social media to get updates on our upcoming events and workshops (Twitter / Instagram / Facebook). We encourage you the community on the EGD Discord server to meet some new friends and gain access to our wide array of services and resources!

Finally, consider joining our membership program! Benefits of registering for our membership tiers include access to student support services, fellowship programs, and more. You can find more information on our website here.

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