Mar 5, 2007, 2:24 PM
Post #96 of 427
Any current or former students care to chime in about the Columbia experience? I've just been accepted there without funding and am a little apprehensive about it all. There have been some great discussions though, notably this one:
Re: [Clench Million] Literary Reponse?
"Congrats to all who got into Columbia--it's a very, very strong (i.e. top 15) program, and getting in says a lot about your talents. There's nothing anyone could ever say which would take away from that amazing accomplishment. Period.
That said, the funding is an absolute scandal. If you have outstanding student debt (like from another graduate degree) you're not going to be able to go. If you have bad credit you're not going to be able to go. If you're anything other than a) fabulously wealthy, or b) willing to suffer crippling debt for the next fifteen years--and as a lawyer, I'm learning now how devastating a high debt burden can be to your credit (want a mortgage? A car? A personal loan?)--you're not going to be able to make the numbers work. Five years from now, when the Michigan and Cornell grads have zero student debt and the Columbia grads $110,000, what's Columbia's justification going to be? That Michigan grads don't excel in the marketplace? Please.
Columbia made sense pre-1990, when there were only a handful of decent programs and when few programs were (as maybe half of the top fifty programs are now) free or close to free.
Now there are roughly 20 programs who have the same or close to the same reputation as Columbia (by "close to the same," I mean something less than $110,000 worth of difference) in the field of creative writing who also offer outstanding funding packages and don't suffer from the sort of homogeneous workshop environment engendered by only allowing rich kids to matriculate. Columbia's goal is to scare you into thinking that if you're not living in New York City for the next two years--two years, out of a writing career which might span 50!--you're not going to make it as a professional writer. Sorry, but I think Iowa, Michigan, Cornell, Brown, Texas, Irvine, Washington, Virginia, Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, Florida, Arizona, Wash U, Houston, and Indiana grads do just fine and have ample support post-graduation from their school's alumni. Not to mention that their reputations are--in this field at least, which is all that matters--on par with Columbia's or so close to on par that we can accurately say the following: provided you write well (always a prerequisite), nothing about going to __________ instead of Columbia will do anything but help you enormously in your career as a writer.
I say all this so that for those of you with strong offers elsewhere--i.e., top twenty schools which actually offer funding--you'll take those offers seriously. I've only recently learned how debt catches up with you, and I'm 30. Those of you who are younger and who still have time to make a different choice (so long as you're still going to a program with a similar reputation: and yes, Virginia, there are such programs!) are the ones I direct this comment to. Columbia is one of the only MFA programs left in the country which could accurately be described as a "cash cow," and from the looks of their website (just go to the FAQ and look up "financial aid," you'll be amused) they don't intend on changing a damn thing anytime soon.
And no, this isn't some sort of Ivy League envy. I've been to two Ivies and both actually funded their students properly."
Anything at all you can offer up is greatly appreciated. And also, is it possible (and by possible I mean realistic) to go there without funding and without being independently wealthy? Also, what has the experience been like? If you could do it over again would you? Is the financial burden so great as to diminish an otherwise top program?