Several factors contribute to the cost of culinary school tuition, such as program comprehensiveness, geographic location and school prominence. Internationally recognized culinary schools typically cost more than public universities and community colleges but offer comparable curricula. Factors to research when considering culinary school tuition include the student-to-instructor ratio, the school's placement rate and if it provides job-placement assistance.
Community colleges and trade schools offer culinary educations at a fraction of the cost of private universities and formal cooking colleges. Most community colleges offer certificates of completion or associate in occupational science (AOS) degrees. Similar to formal culinary institutions, many community colleges have student-staffed, school-operated restaurants where students work and complete classes before graduation. As of February 2011, the cost of tuition at trade schools and community colleges ranged from $2,000 to $5,000.
Culinary schools provide more comprehensive programs than trade schools or city colleges and typically offer AOS and bachelor of arts (BA) degrees. They also have more choices regarding degree concentrations, including hotel and hospitality management, culinary arts, baking and pastry arts and restaurant management. Culinary schools also require students to complete an externship at an approved hotel or restaurant before graduation in addition to empirical coursework performed at the school's restaurant. As of February 2011, the cost of tuition at a formal culinary institution ranged from $7,000 to $52,000.
Several public universities offer culinary training as well as comprehensive instruction-specific areas within the discipline, such as baking and pastry, hotel management and hotel administration. Degree programs offered by public colleges include AOS and BA, although many also offer certificate programs. Federal financial aid is available to students of public universities, and there are myriad grant and scholarships not normally available to students of private universities. The cost of culinary training at a public university ranged from $3,000 to $18,000 as of February 2011.
Unlike state schools, private universities are not state-funded and operate on a for-profit basis. They often have higher tuition than many public universities and some culinary schools. Private universities typically offer comprehensive culinary programs and have paths of study that focus on the practical and administrative aspects of the hospitality industry. As of February 2011, the cost of tuition at a private university ranged from $14,000 to $45,000.
A large price disparity exists between culinary training at the community college level and the private university level. Several factors contribute to this, including the school's geographic region and the instructors' backgrounds. Also, internationally recognized culinary schools often have more resources than trade schools, and therefore they might have more kitchen space, a lower student-to-teacher ratio, and, in some cases, as many as four school-operated restaurants. However, community college and public university chef instructors have to meet the same criteria as culinary school chef instructors, pursuant to guidelines issued by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, and teach comparable subject matter.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.