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Top level: UW-Stout ranked best in Wisconsin, among best in Midwest, nation for game design

Princeton Review’s 2024 list cites ‘awesome’ programs with top-notch faculty and facilities

By Jerry Poling, UW Stout

One of the nation’s premier college ranking organizations has given high marks to University of Wisconsin-Stout’s academic programs in game design.

The 2024 rankings by Princeton Review list the Bachelor of Fine Arts in game design and development-art and Master of Fine Arts in design-game design focus as the best in Wisconsin and Minnesota, top five in the Midwest and, for public colleges, top 10 in the nation.

“We’re again honored to continue to be considered a top-tier institution in these categories, both on the undergraduate and graduate level,” said Dave Beck, School of Art and Design director. “This is truly a testament to the diversity of creative disciplines, faculty expertise and hands-on facilities that we strive to offer at UW-Stout.” 

For more than a decade, UW-Stout’s game design programs have led state rankings and have been among the national leaders. They are part of UW-Stout’s polytechnic, lab-based, hands-on approach to learning. The School of Art and Design is the largest in the Upper Midwest with approximately 1,300 students.

The 15th annual Princeton Review rankings cover more than 150 schools. Criteria considered included academics, faculty, technology and career prospects.

“The schools that made our lists for 2024 have awesome game design programs,” said Rob Franek, Princeton Review's editor-in-chief. “Their faculties are superb. Their facilities are state-of-the-art, and their alumni include many of the industry’s most successful game designers, developers and entrepreneurs. We recommend them highly to all students aspiring to a career in this exciting field.”

The average starting salary of students completing their game design studies with a bachelor's degree from the schools was $64,065 and master's degree $73,947.

Ninety-seven percent of undergraduates and 96% of graduate students developed an actionable plan to launch a functional game after graduation.

In the U.S., video games have become a $56.6 billion a year industry, nearly quadrupling in the past 10 years. Worldwide, the video game sector is the largest in the entertainment industry and is expected to grow by nearly 9% over the next three years.

Princeton Review ranked UW-Stout’s bachelor’s program in game design:

  • No. 1 in Wisconsin and Minnesota

  • No. 4 in Midwest among public colleges

  • No. 7 in U.S. overall among public colleges

  • No. 29 in U.S. overall (up one place from 2023)

“Now in its second decade, our undergraduate program has matured and the rankings reflect that stability,” said Associate Professor Kim Loken, program director. “Fundamentally, this is a mark of students’ individual and collective achievements. They are exhibiting at conferences and competitions; they are finding success both in the games industry and adjacent industries with their creative, technical and collaborative skills.”

The university also offers a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science with a concentration in game design and development.

The Master of Fine Arts in design, with an option of a game design focus, was ranked:

  • No. 1 in Wisconsin and Minnesota

  • No. 2 in Midwest

  • No. 5 in U.S. among public colleges

  • No. 19 in U.S. overall (up four places from 2023)

“It's outstanding to hear that our M.F.A. in design continues to do well on the national and international scene,” said Professor Erik Evensen, program director. “Our graduate students are continually engaged in interdisciplinary research, leveraging our excellent labs, faculty and resources to explore topics in and around the field of game design.”

Animation Career Review rankings

Industry leader Animation Career Review also ranked game design programs for 2024. UW-Stout was:

  • No. 1 in Wisconsin

  • No. 7 in Midwest

  • No. 21 in U.S. among public colleges (No. 45 overall)

For animation programs, Animation Career Review listed UW-Stout’s animation and digital media Bachelor of Fine Arts, among public colleges:

  • No. 1 in Wisconsin

  • No. 6 in Midwest

  • No. 32 in U.S.

More than 200 schools were surveyed.

Another college ranking organization, College Factual, lists the bachelor’s in game design at UW-Stout No. 1 in the U.S. for best value. For program quality, it’s No. 2 in the Midwest and No. 5 in the U.S., along with high marks for other UW-Stout programs.

UW-Stout’s game design and animation lab spaces include a state-of-the-art Vicon Motion Capture Studio, along with many other labs, studios and galleries. The semiannual Stout Game Expo, SGX, is the largest event of its kind in the Upper Midwest.

The School of Art and Design will offer a new program, illustration, in the fall. It was recently approved by the Universities of Wisconsin Board of Regents. Illustration joins a lineup of six other B.F.A. programs.

UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes. Learn more via the FOCUS2030 strategic plan.


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