MFA in Acting to Be Tuition-Free Starting in 2024-25

Wednesday, Sep 27, 2023
Juilliard Journal
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Two actors in the midst of performance look at each other intently
Shaun Anthony and Katherine Renee Kane (both Group 49) in 'As You Like It,' directed by Ian Belknap, as third-years, in 2019

With the September 27 announcement that the drama MFA program will become tuition-free starting with the 2024-25 school year, Juilliard has added to its growing list of tuition-free programs. This milestone furthers the school’s ambition to remove financial barriers and expand access to all who qualify to study at Juilliard.

It had been a goal since the 2012 establishment of the drama MFA program that it be fully funded. The ability to achieve that dream has been the result of combining existing scholarship funding that had been previously raised with a matching challenge grant from theater producer and Juilliard trustee Stephanie P. McClelland and her husband, Carter McClelland. The McClellands’ matching challenge was met through a major gift from producer John Gore as well as by gifts from the Jacques and Margot W. Kohn Foundation and several estates. 

“We are grateful to Stephanie and Carter for their vision and generosity in crafting this challenge, to John for his matching gift, and to all who have contributed to this important step for graduate education in drama at Juilliard,” said Juilliard’s president, Damian Woetzel, in announcing the gift. Noting that “talent has always been greater than opportunity,” he added that this and other existing and future tuition-free programs further the school’s commitment to “attacking barriers of access to the highest level of artistic education in drama, dance, and music.”

“The impact of these gifts on our students’ futures—and the field—cannot be overstated,” said Evan Yionoulis, the Richard Rodgers dean and director of the Drama Division. “Entering the profession without additional debt will allow these gifted artists the opportunity to take the kind of work, especially in the theater, that will allow them to develop their craft and provide a stable foundation for a lifelong career.”

This funding brings to eight the number of College Division programs that are either tuition-free or fully funded by scholarships. The others are the Artist Diploma programs in jazz, music performance, opera studies, playwriting, and string quartet studies; the Doctor of Musical Arts program; and the Historical Performance program. Additionally, the Music Advancement Program (MAP), which serves students ages 8-17 from the tristate area and is part of the Preparatory Division, is tuition free. With this new development, more than one quarter of the school’s students will pay no tuition to attend. Overall, more than 90 percent of Juilliard College Division students receive financial assistance through scholarships.

“With this remarkable gift, Juilliard’s mission of creating great artists to thrive within and serve the arts at large has taken an enormous step forward,” said board vice chair Laura Linney (Group 19), who also expressed her gratitude to the McClellands, Gore, and the Kohn Foundation. “They have changed the lives of generations of artists to come, and I know those artists will enrich our culture and nourish our existence with an artistic astuteness and vigor we all need and deserve.”

Juilliard’s drama MFA program, the only four-year program of its kind in the U.S., was founded in 2012 by then-Richard Rodgers Director of the Drama Division James Houghton (1958-2016) with the aim of broadening employment opportunities for students, especially as educators and arts leaders. The fourth and final year of the MFA in acting program has been tuition free since the program’s inception, and fourth-year MFA students will continue to be provided with a living stipend.

“Under Jim Houghton’s inspirational leadership, the MFA in acting degree was established; it was also his wish for this extraordinary program to become tuition-free,” Stephanie P. McClelland said. “By creating this challenge grant, Carter and I hoped to honor Jim’s legacy by achieving this goal for the MFA actors. We could not be more thrilled that our challenge was both embraced and met by Juilliard, leading to this beautiful result that will support these talented students for years to come.”

“Potential should never be curtailed by access to education,” said Gore, the chairman and CEO of the John Gore Organization. “I am thrilled that, through [which is part of the Gore Organization], I can help provide a pathway for generations of promising talent to gain the training they need to flourish and make an impact through the theater. I was not able to finish my drama school training due to a lack of funds after the death of my father, so I am proud and happy to be helping to ensure the same situation can never happen for any MFA drama student at Juilliard.”

In an article about the announcement of the tuition-free MFA in acting program in the New York Times, Woetzel said, “My aim is to make the school tuition-free—the ultimate artistic education deserves that access. Wouldn’t that be something?”