Hi there--I've made the decision to put myself into student loan debt to make myself more competitive as a future game artist of some kind, and I picked RMCAD's Game Art program. I'm doing it online, and I'm having some second thoughts based on how my classes have gone so far. An online program is preferable for me, as well as a degree heavy on the art side. Is RMCAD well thought of in the industry, or should I look elsewhere?
So… first and foremost, the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design (RMCAD) isn’t any place I’ve heard of before you asked. I did a little research into it, I asked an artist friend, and I’ll just give you the extremely cautious your-mileage-may-vary thumbs-up in that it might be a good stepping stone towards entering the game industry, if you’re willing to put in the effort and improve yourself. But if you’re hoping for the school to teach you most of what you need to know and not willing to push yourself extra hard, you’d probably be better off looking elsewhere.
First off, I highly advise you to be extremely cautious when choosing a school like RMCAD instead of a traditional university. Specifically, RMCAD is a for-profit school, meaning that their business model is to get as many students to pay their tuition as possible. Thus, their goal is to profit on their students’ tuitions. They are not cheap either - $22,000 per year in tuition. Unless you’re obtaining scholarship money, a four-year degree will run you $88,000 in debt on tuition alone. This is higher than some other game schools like Full Sail ($19,000), but still less than Digipen ($27,000). Compare these costs to something like the University of Texas ($9800), Ohio State University ($9200), or the University of Washington ($11,800).
Especially beware of accruing too much debt - student debt, unlike other kinds of debt, is not dischargeable via bankruptcy and will stick with you for the rest of your life. Too much debt can negatively affect your credit rating and that will affect your ability to get a home, car, or even some jobs. Also, the more debt you have, the larger the amount of interest will build up after you graduate. It will take you longer to pay off a larger loan than a smaller one.
Secondly, and more importantly, getting hired as an artist is primarily about your portfolio. Where you went to school isn’t really as important unless the school itself has some sort of job placement assistance or outreach, and even then it only matters if you actually take advantage of it. I’ve never heard of a hiring manager deciding to move a candidate out of the “no” category because of where that candidate went to school. At best, the name of the school is a tossup-decider if the candidate is on the cusp of being acceptable. Which school you went to is going to be icing, not cake. What really matters is whether you can do the job, and that has to be conveyed through your resume and portfolio. If you have the talent and the skill, it should come through your portfolio regardless of what school you attend.