In 1904, (1868–1930) joined the artist Robert Henri (1865–1929) as a teacher at Chase's school; in the same approximate time frame, Parsons studied for two years with the vanguard artist and educator, at Columbia University Teachers College, graduating in 1905 with a degree in fine arts. A few years later, he became president of the New York School of Art. Anticipating a new wave of the , Parsons predicted that art and design would soon be inexorably linked to the engines of industry. His vision was borne out in a series of firsts for the School, establishing the first program in , , , and in the United States. In 1909, the school was renamed the New York School of Fine and Applied Art to reflect these offerings. Parsons became sole director in 1911, a position which he maintained to his death in 1930. , who established the school's Paris Ateliers in 1921, succeeded Parsons as president. In honor of Parsons, who was important in steering the school's development and in shaping visual-arts education through his theories about linking art and industry throughout the world, the institution became Parsons School of Design in 1936.
First established as the Chase School, the institution was founded in 1896 by the American impressionist painter (1849–1916). Chase led a small group of Progressives who seceded from the in search of a more free, more dramatic, and more individual expression of art. The Chase School changed its name in 1898 to the New York School of Art.
In 1970, the School became a division of the New School for Social Research (now ). The campus moved from Sutton Place to Greenwich Village in 1972. The merger with a vigorous, fully accredited university was a source of new funding and energy, which expanded the focus of a Parsons education.
Director of the New York School of Fine and Applied Art, Frank Alvah Parsons, first began a program in Paris in 1921. In 1941, it was named for him. In 1970, the school merged with the New School for Social Research. Subsequently the name Parsons was licensed to the but this arrangement ceased in 2010. In November 2012, The New School President David E. Van Zandt announced that Parsons The New School for Design would be opening a new academic center, to be called , in Paris in the autumn 2013. Located in Paris’s First Arrondissement, Parsons Paris incorporates a faculty of French and European design educators as well as visiting professors from around the world. The school offers a variety of bachelor's and master's degrees in design, fashion, curatorial studies and business. All classes are taught in English.