The Chicago native quit school to pursue a career in hip-hop and even named his debut album The College Dropout to acknowledge the fact, but he was back in Illinois to attend the school's commencement ceremony on Monday, when he was given the title Doctor of Fine Arts.
Wearing a traditional cap and gown, West gave a brief speech to his fellow graduates after he was handed the honorary diploma.
The rapper explained he hoped the doctorate would help legitimise him as a serious artist, explaining, "You don't have to defend me as much. And I'm going to make all of our lives easier.
"Whether it's the co-sign of Paul MCCartney grabbing me and saying, 'It's OK, he doesn't bite white people', or the New York Times cover. Or the Time 'Most Influential' cover. And now, a doctorate at the Art Institute of Chicago..."
West joins an impressive list of artists who have received honorary doctorates from SAIC - they include Patti Smith, artist Jeff Koons and writer David Sedaris.
After graduating high school, West received a partial scholarship to Chicago's American Academy of Art in 1997, before he transferred to Chicago State University, where his late mother, Donda West, was head of the English Department.
West spent just one semester at Chicago State University, and four years later, he released his Grammy-nominated album, The College Dropout.