American Theatre: “How Rising Student Debt Affects Theatre Graduates”


It might seem more reasonable for medical and business graduates to amass up to six figures’ worth of debt, considering the average salaries in those occupations. But in a report from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP, part of Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research)—which surveyed 65,837 arts alumni across the country in 2011 and 2012 (nine percent of whom had received a theatre degree and who graduated as far back as before 1982)—the median income for those who worked in the theatre was $35,000.

“Artist compensation is a huge problem for the nonprofit theatre,” Bundy says flatly. “And there’s a lot of evidence that theatres are over-invested in fixed assets like buildings, and in fixed costs like administrative staff, and under-invested in compensating artists.” He also believes that the student loan issue is not one that can be solved with higher wages: “It will be fixed by reducing the debt from the get-go.” —American Theatre


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