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Jan 2, 2007, 12:51 PM

Post #126 of 764 (22993 views)
Re: [umass76] More notes on the fiction MFA Can't Post


Now we're having a good time. I liked your latest modification of 'the list.' Here's my current thinking, though: How about a dual ranking for Iowa? Call it a top-five program for the first third of admitees (the fully funded), and a top fifteen program for the remainder? Conceivably, the fully-funded writers at Iowa are going to have a comparable experience to the fully funded writers at UCI, Cornell, and Michigan... maybe better!

ps- do you weigh visiting writer schedules in with "reputation," "other," something else, or none of the above?


Jan 2, 2007, 1:24 PM

Post #127 of 764 (22980 views)
Re: Can't Post

I still think it is incredibly ridiculous that funding counts towards a program's rankings. I believe that funding should be ranked in a different listing all together. Just as some people may prefer New York to small town midwest ans visa versa, some people have plenty of cash to pay for an expensive mfa, while others are struggling to get by. The common thread in looking at programs is the quality of education, reputation of the school, accomplishments of the alumni and faculty, etc. Issues like funding and location are too complicated and varied within programs for each student to be included. Some programs give full funding, but expect a lot of teaching hours in exchange. Some programs, like Iowa, don't give as much funding to some of their students, but give them in state tuition or less. If one program shells out a little more in funding but has a much higher tuition cost, and a program with a lower tuition cost and less funding could still work out to be the better deal. Plus, are you taking into account cost of living for different areas of the country when you consider funding?

Factors that should be ranked should be consistent for any student entering that program.
That, for me, takes funding completely out of the rankings because at many programs (not just iowa) different students receive different levels and types of support. And once you take funding out, as it has been previously acknowledged, Iowa is back up to at least the top five. An applicant's writing sample affects their level of funding - if the committee likes them, they will give them more assistance. Any factor that is affected by the applicant's own application is not a true measure with which to rank a program.

(This post was edited by wordrabbit on Jan 2, 2007, 1:27 PM)


Jan 2, 2007, 2:02 PM

Post #128 of 764 (22966 views)
Re: [jwegman] Current MFA Rankings Can't Post


(This post was edited by Vermont on Jan 3, 2007, 9:59 AM)


Jan 2, 2007, 4:46 PM

Post #129 of 764 (22927 views)
Re: [wordrabbit] Re: Can't Post

In Reply To
I still think it is incredibly ridiculous that funding counts towards a program's rankings. I believe that funding should be ranked in a different listing all together. Just as some people may prefer New York to small town midwest ans visa versa, some people have plenty of cash to pay for an expensive mfa, while others are struggling to get by.

I have to disagree. The programs that offer better funding are fundamentally more competitive. Because more students can conceivably afford the program, they have a wider pool of applicants, and they therefore get to accept the writers who they perceive as having the most potential and talent, regardless of those writers' financial situation.

Plus, isn't there some petty, competitive streak in all of us that wants to get offered a ton of money to go to school, even if we don't need it? Isn't money linked with worthiness in our society?

I suppose you could argue that having a good funding situation would trickle down and therefore be reflected in other areas: for example, the most desirable and promising students, regardless of how wealthy they are, will probably choose a program that's paying them to write rather than the other way around. The talent of the student body would sooner or later result in a strong publication record, which would affect the school's reputation or buzz, etc. But why not cut to the chase and JUST LIST FUNDING as a criteria?

p.s. I'm glad that Indiana got bumped out of the # 3 slot. That was borderline absurd. However, I think haggling about whether a school should be a rank higher or lower is pretty silly. Just let the list be, it's imperfect but vaguely useful and well-explained for those who would find fault with it.


Jan 2, 2007, 5:31 PM

Post #130 of 764 (22912 views)
Re: [Glinda Bamboo] More notes on the fiction MFA Can't Post


Actually, I caught the irony too. :-)

The one thing I hate about doing all this is that I have to wade through numbers when I actually self-identify as "a poet" (and, I suppose, a public defender by day) and not a "number-cruncher." That said, doing this was one way for me to learn a lot about different MFA programs in a very short time--one reason I was willing to do it(!)



Jan 2, 2007, 7:37 PM

Post #131 of 764 (22878 views)
Re: [renapoo] Re: Can't Post

Of course as an Indiana MFA'er, the opinion that IU being ranked so high is borderline absurd is going to hurt my feelings a bit. But, honestly, I think the entire ranking debate is a little silly. Last year as an applicant I was all caught up in it, but once I made the arguably-blind choice on where to go, it just seems...I don't know. When I chose the schools to apply to, I relied on the "gut" method. That is, if I felt it was right, I went for it. I just viewed the rankings as a list of programs in no particular order.

But, seriously guys. Indiana is effing sweet.


Jan 2, 2007, 10:08 PM

Post #132 of 764 (22842 views)
Re: [wordrabbit] Re: Can't Post

Laughing Man,

While it's true that Kealey notes several programs which have a history of bringing in a particularly impressive visiting faculty, there's simple too little reliable data on that point, as the amount of resources it would take to look back over, say, the last ten years and determine the "quality" of various visiting faculties would be enormous. That said--lest it seem I've walked into some sort of a trap here--determining faculty "quality" is exactly the sort of thing U.S. News & World Report has been doing to great popular and commercial success for years now (using various methods for their measures, such as professional memberships, awards, publications, other honors, et. al.), so I'm sure if someone had the time and energy and resources, a school's ability to draw in impressive visiting faculties could be included.

So it could hardly be said that determining the strength of a given faculty is "impossible"; frankly, prospective MFA students do it all the time--looking to see which schools have the most "accomplished" faculty--though I rather think a lot of folks would deny doing so (which is odd, as I think even the programs themselves recommend looking into the faculty, and deciding whether or not you admire their work: and unless you think the artistic community in the U.S. is completely perverse, you would, I think, expect there to be some correlation between a writer being proficient in his/her art by your own measure, and that writer receiving the forms of recognition that organizations like U.S. News are able to acknowledge as "hard" data. Not a perfect correlation by any means; at the same time, you wouldn't get much support if you said the last twenty Pulitzer winners were actually chumps, would you?).

As to your question about affording Iowa "three separate rankings"--I do sense you're putting me on--I'll bite anyway and answer that question below.


Not sure if you're indicating agreement with U.S. News's assessment of the situation or not, but I'd have to call that statement by the editors (if it was quoted accurately; I haven't seen that comment myself) completely absurd. Does anyone really think that law schools, medical schools, engineering schools, economics PhD. programs, et. al., really were so amenable to being ranked before U.S. News "found" a way to do so? It's preposterous. Either schools can't be ranked or they can (acknowledging, once again, that any ranking is nothing more than one resource amongst many). As a lawyer, I actually find it a little offensive that U.S. News would claim we (lawyers) are so predictable in our values that we can be led, like sheep, toward a ranking system which has some sort of internal validity in our community, but artists--those artists!--couldn't possibly have the wool pulled over their eyes like those lawyers, and doctors, and engineers, and art history doctorate-holders, and economics doctorate-holders, and the thirty other educational disciplines which apparently "can" be ranked (which is all of them, really, except poetry/fiction and their kin)...

The simple facts are these:

1) "Hard" data exists; it is a real concept.
2) "Hard" data can be found in every educational/artistic discipline.
2) "Hard" data never exists in sufficient quantity to perfectly map one school (of any stripe) against another.
3) If you believe, however, that sufficient "hard" data can be mustered to craft a ranking for one type of educational discipline, you believe it can be mustered to craft a ranking for any educational discipline.
4) The only concession maxim #3 requires of us is that some disciplines are more easily mapped than others, and that no mapping should be used as the sole resource for a prospective __________ student.


First, let me say that very few schools have tiered funding systems; I know, I've now done the research. Many schools do, however, offer school-based funding (e.g. grants) to [X]% of their students and little or none to the rest of them (aid derived through the FAFSA form excepted). There is a difference. Frankly most people see 100% funding for all students as better than 50% funding for 10% of students, and so it seems clear that, taken on its own terms, The Kealey Scale is able to distinguish between one school and another from the perspective of the average student. Meaning, because the rankings don't know who you are--and because the very concept of rankings so obviously requires that the rankings assume they know nothing about you and that you are, in fact, the "average" applicant--they can't take into account your financial resources, your religion, your gender, your race, your favorite color, your favorite band, your weight, your height, or how many presents you got for your birthday last year. I thought that was obvious...?

I've no qualm about those who simply abhor rankings, or who genuinely believe they can articulate a reason why educational organizations can never be ranked. Those positions are valid, though to varying extents I do disagree with them.

What's not valid is saying in conclusory fashion that "MFAs are different," when there's no evidence whatsoever that "hard" data doesn't exist for MFA programs and can't be, consequently, measured accurately. I've already recited at least a dozen "hard" criteria which MFAs can be measured by, criteria which do legitimately matter to incoming students (who would ever say, for instance, that student-to-faculty ratio--a known quantity for every MFA program in America, just read their websites--doesn't matter in an art degree where you're learning an art?).

Equally dodgy is the notion that "funding" cannot be used as a data point. Since when? Since the early 1990s, when U.S. News started looking at it and most people accepted that usage, or just now, when we're talking about MFAs? How in the world are MFA programs not amenable to any of the following criteria (hint: I'm about to list all the criteria applied to undergraduate programs in the United States by U.S. News & World Report):

1. Peer assessment score.
2. Retention rate.
3. Graduation rate.
4. Faculty resources rank.
5. Average size of classes.
6. Standardized test 25th-75th percentile.
7. Acceptance rate.
8. Alumni giving.
9. Student-to-faculty ratio.
10. Selectivity rank.
11. Incoming students in top 10% of class at former school.
12. Financial resources rank.

It's one thing for U.S. News to say that the MFA programs won't release this data (which may or may not be true, I have no idea), it's another thing altogether to claim, as "Vermont" says U.S. News has claimed, that "there is no set criteria to go by [for MFA programs]." What strange words! No "set" criteria? Were there "set" criteria for ranking undergraduate programs before U.S. News itself decided to "set" them? How about this idea that U.S. News simply "goes by" certain "hard" data points--when in fact, they choose those data points themselves and in some instances even invent them ("Selectivity Rank" comes to mind)?

The whole premise of The Kealey Scale is to affirm that we have sufficient "hard" data about MFA programs that, augmented with some soft data, we can craft an approximate ranking which will be, at best, one resource out of many for prospective MFA students. It's not a particularly ground-breaking (or even aggressively audacious/ambitious) premise, frankly.

My million-dollar question to Wordrabbit would be, "If the Financial Resources Rank of an undergraduate institution is relevant to the U.S. News & World Report ranking of undergraduate institutions, in large part because it dictates the ability of a school to provide benefits to its students (e.g., financial aid), why would it be irrelevant, let alone impossible, to create a Financial Resources Rank for MFA programs--particularly when the schools to be assessed are in most cases schools which have already been tagged with a Financial Resources Rank for another of their departments (cf. the undergraduate wing of the school)?"

In the same way that anyone who isn't worried about whether they'll graduate from undergrad can probably ignore the Graduation Rate data for prospective undergraduate schools; in the same way that anyone who doesn't care about sitting in giant lecture-driven classes can ignore the Class Size data for prospective undergraduate schools; in the same way that Alumni Giving is and has always been an irrelevant data point for anyone going to any school, not because it isn't great to give to one's alma mater, but because alumni giving stats are really no way to deduce student satisfaction (why not just commission a poll?), as people give for different reasons (and schools whose graduates generally have lower incomes may be satisfied but give less frequently, or give in non-monetary forms, just as alumni from schools already rich in endowment may "see no need" to give or give in funds) and what conclusion can you draw, really, from 50% of one school's alumni giving back to the school financially, as compared to 56% of another school?; just as student-to-faculty ratio and peer assessment scores aren't important to those who don't want to know their teachers or who don't care what others think of their school, respectively; just as with all those potentially "irrelevant" data points, sure, if you're independently rich or have no problem about living under massive, debilitating federal and private debt, you don't need to consider funding.

But most people aren't independently wealthy, and/or prefer to pay less for their art degree as opposed to more if given half the chance. And because those people are in the majority, in fact the overwhelming majority--just like the people who believe student-to-faculty ratio is important are in the majority--they win. It's that simple: they win, and they get rankings which reflect (at least some of) their values, because the rankings recognize those prospective students as "average" prospective students, and any ranking system must identify just such a subset before it is developed.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 2, 2007, 10:15 PM)


Jan 2, 2007, 10:32 PM

Post #133 of 764 (22831 views)
Re: [umass76] Re: Can't Post

In Reply To
My million-dollar question to Wordrabbit would be, "If the Financial Resources Rank of an undergraduate institution is relevant to the U.S. News & World Report ranking of undergraduate institutions, in large part because it dictates the ability of a school to provide benefits to its students (e.g., financial aid), why would it be irrelevant, let alone impossible, to create a Financial Resources Rank for MFA programs--particularly when the schools to be assessed are in most cases schools which have already been tagged with a Financial Resources Rank for another of their departments (cf. the undergraduate wing of the school)?"


(from the us news website)

Financial resources (10 percent). Generous per-student spending indicates that a college can offer a wide variety of programs and services. U.S. News measures the average spending per student on instruction, research, student services, and related educational expenditures in the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years.

The above does not state that they use funding as a criteria - it says very specifically that it is considering per-student funding. That, I believe, does matter in terms of ranking a college, but how much a college spends giving a scholarship to an incoming student, or a teaching assistanceship, does not alone represent an accurate financial resources score. A place like Columbia, for example, might spend ten times as much as a smaller program per student, when you take into account visiting lectures, number of faculty, etc., while a smaller less wealthy program might give their students the five thousand a year for tuition, but doesn't spend very much more beyond that on their education. So while I agree fully that how much an institution spends on their student matters greatly, and prospective students should consider that, I believe that is not measured by funding alone, but instead in the whole of what a university offers their students, and what they are willing/able to pay to offer it.


Jan 3, 2007, 12:40 AM

Post #134 of 764 (22798 views)
Re: [umass76] Re: Can't Post

Dude, you write long answers. You should just write your own book or something about getting in. You have a fully formed modus operandi. Out of curiosity, why did you put the Kealey Scale together? Applying yourself to programs?

There he goeth
The lone poet.
His Kealey Scale
The tell all tale.
Let's toast to his posts,
But watch if he boasts.


Jan 3, 2007, 12:48 AM

Post #135 of 764 (22792 views)
Re: [wordrabbit] Re: Can't Post


I think we may have to agree to disagree as to whether school-sponsored grants are covered under the definition of "related educational expenditures" in the U.S. News criteria. I certainly can't imagine any school administrator worth his/her salt not lobbying hard--overtly or covertly--to get that sort of expenditure counted by U.S. News as a measure of his/her school's generosity.

Comparing undergraduate funding schemes--which are wholly based on the FAFSA--to the expectations inherent in pursuing an MFA degree (i.e., just as for many other graduate degrees in "non-major" fields [law, medicine, engineering], there is a reasonable expectation of a partial tuition waiver) is a mistake. There just isn't the same assumption with an MFA as with a BA--that you're going to finance the whole degree through massive, back-breaking loans.

Obviously I agree (at least I hope it's obvious from what I've said!) that there are some assets a school may have which can't be ranked under any scheme. For instance, the physical plant (i.e., the campus itself, with all its brick and all its grass and everything in between). How do you measure that? You don't. Which is why we need rankings--but also need other resources, as I've stressed from the beginning, to assess intangibles (that's why, for instance, people often take campus tours, as imperfect as that stratagem is). Honestly, I just can't tell whether you're making an all-rankings-are-bad argument or a these-rankings-are-bad argument; either way, I'm just not getting it.



Jan 3, 2007, 12:50 AM

Post #136 of 764 (22790 views)
Re: [Fear&Loathing] Re: Can't Post

Yep. I mentioned it in the post just before the rankings post, on my blog.

P.S. I'm a criminal attorney and therefore love the sound of my own voice (entirely without justification or excuse, of course).


Jan 3, 2007, 1:00 AM

Post #137 of 764 (22789 views)
Re: [augustmaria] Re: Can't Post


Sorry! Didn't mean to offend. Borderline absurd in my world is not necessarily anywhere near absurd in other people's estimation. Personally I'd have trouble ranking it above Cornell or Virginia, but that's just me.

Do you really love Indiana? I decided not to apply at the last minute for two reasons-- first, because I *really* don't want to teach more than 1 class a semester, and I thought I gleaned from their website that sometimes this happens. And also, there was some weird negative energy surrounding Indiana on this board, uh, last year maybe, that I probably shouldn't have taken seriously, but you know, it adds up. Plus I'm not in love with the midwest, no matter how neato bloomington is. But if you're having a totally different experience--maybe you can elaborate on the teaching load?--I'd love to hear it, even though it's too late now for me.


Jan 3, 2007, 7:14 AM

Post #138 of 764 (22762 views)
Re: [renapoo] Re: Can't Post

Well, I'm a first-year and living in the cushy land of fellowships that keep me from teaching more than one course a semester, but I've heard enough second-years complain about teaching comp that I am anticipating it to be sort of a drag. (First-years teach an introductory creative writing course.) But I honestly love teaching, and I don't think teaching comp will change that too much. Right now I spend 100 minutes a week actually teaching and maybe three hours a week grading and coming up with lesson plans, etc. Teaching is really natural to me, so I don't stress about it too much. I know other students in the program spend hours and hours with grading, but I've been told that you put as much as you want into teaching and that it's going to work out no matter what. This makes me sound like a complete flake, but I find it to be true.

In the spring, second-years teach two sections of comp--I'm not sure about third years. I do know that there are several ways to lighten your teaching load, namely working on the Indiana Review. But if you plan everything right, your entire third year can just be thesis hours, so I imagine that teaching would be easier when you're taking no real classes.

And the negative stuff that appeared on here about Indiana is bull. The race thing--I don't even know. The entire incoming poetry class was white. There is one non-white poet. Fiction's got some more diversity. I was accepted and I'm a young, white female from the northeast. My writing focuses on young white girls. I don't know what any of that means, and I don't really want to get into the race discussion at all, whatsoever, but in my opinion, the huge discussion that happened last year was complete, hypersensitive bull.

And Bloomington is wonderful. It is not overpriced! I have no idea why anyone would come to that conclusion. I've got a roomy one-bedroom right downtown, within easy walking distance to campus, and I'm paying around $450 a month. Now I think that's pretty good.

Plus, Bloomington is just pretty and has lots of stuff going on, the campus is gorgeous and I really am having a good time. Some things drive me crazy, and sometimes I mutter under my breath, "I should have gone to Bowling Green" but I'm getting to go to school for free, getting paid to teach (as though I know what I'm talking about at all...), and I'm being given time to get my stuff written.

Bloomington is not your typical midwest town, btw. Not that I know a whole lot about the midwest, but Bloomington reminds me of Portland, Maine. Bottom line: Indiana gives you a great stipend, yeah for a semester or two you have to teach two classes, but it's really not that big of a deal. < / trying to sell IU to applicants >


Jan 3, 2007, 4:38 PM

Post #139 of 764 (22689 views)
Re: Can't Post

I'm guessing many may have seen this already, but I've created a "quick-link" for the new 2006 Creative Writing MFA rankings. Hope this makes navigation of the rankings easier (there's still a link to the "Long Post" at the top of the page this link takes you to):

Also, there's now a permanent link to The Kealey Scale rankings on the right-hand frame of my blog:

I don't want folks who've already read through the "Long Post" to have to scroll all the way down to the rankings each time.


P.S. Tom Kealey has also been nice enough to note my efforts on his outstanding blog:


Jan 4, 2007, 12:56 AM

Post #140 of 764 (22624 views)
My Fiction Rankings Can't Post

Wasn't the USNWR's 1997 rankings a measure of reputation, based upon a survey of creative writing faculties across the country? Don't those people tend to know a lot about each other's programs? I've always thought that those rankings were fabulous, and I only wish they'd done another survey every five years. It was using that list that I knew where to begin my search, looking at funding, location, and faculty until I found the right fit for me.

Thanks to Umass76 for providing a modern-day reconfiguration. However, I've surprised myself by drawing the conclusion that the '97 rankings are more reliable. I loved Kealey's book, but I've come to disagree with an awful lot of what he said. For instance, when he mentioned UC Irvine as "one of the top five programs in the country, and possibly the best," he must have been talking about the handful of programs that hadn't assembled a fiction faculty yet (which also includes Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Oregon). Maryland he'd said had "An outstanding faculty. I mean, really outstanding"; you can imagine my disappointment when I found only one fiction member.

I believe that the people (faculty and students) make the program, not the money. Plenty of applicants, I'm sure, would pay to be an Iowa Writers' Workshop alum rather than go to Purdue for free. Funding, like location, should be a factor that each person takes into consideration based upon how far he's willing to go. The great programs that insult us with crappy funding--Iowa, Columbia, Arizona--should nevertheless be acknowledged as expensive great programs.

Here's how I ranked the fiction programs I researched:

1. Michigan
2. Iowa
3. Virginia
4. Houston
5. Texas
6. Johns Hopkins
7. Massachusetts
8. Washington in St. Louis
9. Minnesota
10. Columbia
11. Florida
12. Cornell
13. Brown
14. Arizona
15. Syracuse
16. Indiana
17. Illinois
18. Arizona State
19. NYU
20. Colorado State
21. Washington
22. Bowling Green State
23. Montana
24. Mississippi
25. Wisconsin
26. Oregon
27. UC Irvine
28. Emerson
29. Pittsburgh
30. Hollins
31. Southern Illinois
32. UNC Wilmington
33. Arkansas
34. George Mason
35. UNLV
36. Notre Dame
37. Utah
38. Sarah Lawrence
39. Ohio State
40. Warren Wilson
41. Alabama
42. Florida State
43. Eastern Washington
44. Iowa State
45. UNC Greensboro
46. Brooklyn College
47. Louisiana State
48. Western Michigan
49. Penn State
50. Maryland

Honorable Mention: Wichita State, Colorado, Miami, South Carolina, Cleveland State, American U, Bennington, Georgia State, New Hampshire, San Francisco State, Purdue, Mills, New Mexico State, Cal State Fresno, The New School, Vermont College, Kansas, Goddard, Texas State, West Virginia, Minnesota State Mankato, Georgia, New Mexico


Jan 4, 2007, 1:16 AM

Post #141 of 764 (22619 views)
Re: [jargreen] My Fiction Rankings Can't Post

I'm pretty sure Ron Carlson is replacing Geoffrey Woolf as the head of the program at Irvine. Why they aren't advertising that fact on their site, though, remains a mystery.


Jan 4, 2007, 2:11 AM

Post #142 of 764 (22611 views)
Post deleted by hamholio



Jan 4, 2007, 2:12 AM

Post #143 of 764 (22610 views)
Re: [jargreen] My Fiction Rankings Can't Post


Have to admit I'm a little confused. I mean that seriously. Take a look at this comparison of your rankings, the U.S. News rankings, and The Kealey Scale, and I think you'll find that you are much closer to Kealey than U.S. News:


Your Top 20 vs. The Kealey Scale Top 20 --> Schools in common (16/20): Michigan, Iowa, Virginia, Houston, Texas, Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts, Washington in St. Louis, Minnesota, Columbia, Florida, Cornell, Brown, Syracuse, Indiana, NYU.

Your Top 20 vs. The Kealey Scale Top 20 --> Schools NOT in common (4/20): Illinois, Arizona State, Colorado State, Arizona.

If we assume--as Kealey would, I do, and U.S. News does/do, that rankings are not exact, and that you look at "tiers" as much as specific numerical orderings--we'd have to say that, as to the Top 20 programs, you must be saying you feel the 1997 rankings are "more reliable" than the 2006 rankings because Kealey did not give Illinois, Arizona State, Colorado State, and Arizona the "Top 20 props" that you did.

Problem there: Kealey would rank Illinois somewhere between 51 and 53 (as it's one of the five non-low residency programs in the Honorable Mention section); U.S. News ranked it 72; and you ranked it 17. So Kealey is more than 20 ranking spots closer to your ranking than U.S. News was.

Arizona State: Kealey 34, You 18, U.S. News 20-29 (as U.S. News had Arizona State in a ten-way tie for 20th place in the rankings, we can't know whether ASU was the worst of those ten #20s, the best, or somewhere in between). Advantage: U.S. News, but potentially by as few as 5 spots.

Arizona: Kealey 27, You 14, U.S. News 9. Advantage: U.S. News, by 8 spots.
Colorado State: Kealey 47, You 20, U.S. News 50. Advantage: Kealey, by 3 spots.


Your Top 21-40 vs. The Kealey Scale Top 21-40 --> Schools in common (11/20): Washington, Montana, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Hollins, Arkansas, George Mason, Notre Dame, Utah, Sarah Lawrence.

Your Top 21-40 vs. The Kealey Scale Top 21-40 --> Schools NOT in common (8/20): Bowling Green, Oregon, UC-Irvine, Emerson, SIU, UNC-Wilmington, UNLV, Ohio State.

Not counted: Warren Wilson (The Kealey Scale doesn't address low-res programs).

Bowling Green State: You 22, Kealey NR, U.S. News 72-81. Advantage: unknown.
Oregon: You 26, Kealey 18, U.S. News 33-36. Advantage: tie.
UC Irvine: You 27, Kealey 1, U.S. News 6-7. Advantage: U.S. News, by 5 or 6 spots.
Emerson: You 28, Kealey 45, U.S. News 20-29. Advantage: U.S. News, by 9 to 16 spots.
Southern Illinois: You 31, Kealey 51-53, U.S. News 50-61. Advantage: tie.
UNC Wilmington: You 32, Kealey 48, U.S. News NR. Advantage: Kealey, by unknown amount.
UNLV: You 35, Kealey 17, U.S. News NR. Advantage: Kealey, by unknown amount.
Ohio State: You 39, Kealey NR, U.S. News 37-45. Advantage: U.S. News, by unknown amount.


Your Top 41-50 vs. The Kealey Scale Top 41-50 --> Schools in common (5/10): Eastern Washington, Iowa State, Brooklyn, LSU, Maryland

Your Top 41-50 vs. The Kealey Scale Top 41-50 --> Schools NOT in common (5/10): Alabama, Florida State, UNC-Greensboro, Penn State, Western Michigan.

Alabama: You 41, Kealey 33, U.S. News 37-45. Advantage: U.S. News, by 4 spots.
Florida State: You 42, Kealey 19, U.S. News 37-45. Advantage: U.S. News, by 19 spots.
UNC Greensboro: You 45, Kealey 38, U.S. News 37-45. Advantage: unknown.
Western Michigan: You 48, Kealey NR, U.S. News 46. Advantage: U.S. News, by unknown amount.
Penn State: You 49, Kealey 29, U.S. News 37-45. Advantage: U.S. News, by 4-8 spots.


For the Top 40 rankings at least (though the last ten rankings, too, are deceptively close), it would seem to be a draw--your rankings align roughly equally with Kealey and U.S. News, making neither one (presumably, "in your view") more accurate or reliable than the other.

Except for the one fact you're missing: where Kealey and you have listed the same schools in a tier, U.S. News often is nowhere close to your (and Kealey's) rankings. For instance, here are some notable discrepancies between your rankings for schools in each tier and U.S. News's rankings:

You (Top 20): Minnesota (U.S. News 62-71); Syracuse (20-29); Texas (30-32).

You (21-40): Mississippi (U.S. News unranked); Wisconsin (U.S. News unranked); Notre Dame (U.S. News 83-94); Montana (U.S. News 10); Washington (U.S. News 10).

You (41-50): Brooklyn (U.S. News 62-71), LSU (U.S. News unranked); Maryland (U.S. News 20-29).

Consider, that just in terms of Minnesota, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and LSU--five schools which are in your top 50--U.S. News didn't even rank three of them in the top 94 schools, and two schools were ranked by U.S. News approximately 50 spots away from your own ranking. Then there are these additional striking discrepancies: UNC Wilmington (63+ [i.e. unknown] spots of difference between your rankings and U.S. News); UNLV (59+ [i.e. unknown] spots of difference); Bowling Green (50-59 spots); Texas (25-27); Maryland (21); SIU (19-30); Brooklyn (16-25); Montana (8-13); Washington (6-11); Syracuse (5-14).

Where you and Kealey disagree (i.e., where you put schools in different "tiers"), it's often not by much. Only five schools saw discrepancies of more than 20 spots: Illinois (34 spots, the largest measureable disagreement); Bowling Green (33); Colorado State (27); UC-Irvine (26); and Florida State (23). Eleven schools saw 20-spot or less disparities: SIU (20); Penn State (20); UNLV (18); Emerson (17); UNC-Wilmington (16); Arizona State (16); Ohio State (16); Arizona (13); Oregon (8); Alabama (8); UNC Greensboro (7). Average disagreement: 18 spots, with Western Michigan being the only indeterminate discrepancy (you have WMU at 48, and Kealey goes up to about 55, so it might be as little as an 8 spot difference, depending upon whether WMU is ranked #56 by Kealey [theoretically speaking] or higher).

It seems to me that your own rankings prove that The Kealey Scale is closer to what you believe than U.S. News is, and even then the difference is exaggerated by just a few schools you disagree vehemently with Kealey on: i.e., only five schools total were more than 20 spots from where you thought they should be, and remember that 20 spots could well be "in-tier"; for U.S. News, it's twelve schools total who are beyond that margin of error. So only 10% of The Kealey Scale Top 50 rankings (5 of 50) were outside a reasonable margin of error, whereas 24% of U.S. News rankings (12 of 50) were outside that margin.

U.S. News therefore was 2.4 times more likely than The Kealey Scale to result in an "out of MoE [21-spot+]" difference with your own rankings. How does that make them more accurate or reliable, as opposed to what I think you're really saying, which is that they're more comfort(able/ing) to you, because you hate that UC-Irvine pick?


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 4, 2007, 2:30 AM)


Jan 4, 2007, 2:25 AM

Post #144 of 764 (22605 views)
Re: [hamholio] My Fiction Rankings Can't Post

P.S. Ham and Jar, I obviously don't mind you guys knocking The Kealey Scale if you've got your facts straight. The problem is, I know Jar's understandably a bit jarred by the UC-Irvine ranking, which I think is what caused him/her to not run the numbers and instead state, erroneously, that The Kealey Scale was somehow further from his/her own private rankings than was USNWR.

Ham, in contrast, still needs to read the Introduction to The Kealey Scale (Long Post), as it addresses and puts to bed, I think, the concern that somehow USNWR is a "reputation" ranking but The Kealey Scale doesn't adequately address reputation at all:


While The Kealey Scale is cognizant of, and takes into consideration, the U.S. News rankings in terms of their narrowly-focused "reputation" analyses, it also a) acknowledges what should have been obvious to everyone back in 1997, that the ranking system employed by U.S. News & World Report had no means (or intentions) whatsoever to make fine distinctions between programs, and b) augments the U.S. News analysis by more than a dozen additional criteria to be employed for the consideration and weighing of MFA programs....The Kealey Scale actually encompasses the 1997 U.S. News rankings, if those rankings are viewed "on their own terms": that is, Kealey believes the U.S. News rankings fairly accurately represent a single measure of the schools ranked, that is, their general "reputation." Consequently, the 1997 U.S. News rankings do have some bearing on the rankings below, in the sense that The Kealey Scale (so far as the "reputation" element is concerned) is roughly the same as, and synonymous with, the U.S. News rankings....The sixteen categories utilized in The Kealey Scale, listed in approximate order of weighting (heaviest to lightest), are:

In-State Tuition
Reputation/A (cf. 2006 approx.)
Teaching Opportunities
One-on-One Tutorials
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
Reputation/B (cf. 1997 ranking)....


(NB: I omitted "Location" from the list above because it's not in the top ten factors for weighting, it's only the "top" factor, says Kealey, for individual decision-making about MFAs, which is quite apart from his weighting it heavily in his quasi-mathematical analysis).

So, this whole "give me a reputation ranking over a funding ranking any day" is simply hogwash.

Look, the USNWR ranking is a "reputation-only" ranking, The Kealey Scale is a "reputation-plus-fifteen-factors" ranking, and the greatest part of the "reputation" rating in The Kealey Scale is the very same USNWR ranking you guys are so excited about.

Who knew a poll from a decade ago, which was discontinued after its editors conceded its methodology was useless, would be so hard to let go of!



Jan 4, 2007, 4:12 AM

Post #145 of 764 (22599 views)
Re: [umass76] My Fiction Rankings Can't Post


You'll have to forgive me for thinking your response a little deranged. As a fellow Scorpio, I know what it is to commit yourself to an idea and defend it mercilessly. But as you go through the tiers, you demonstrate that my rankings are much more often closer to USNWR's than to Kealey's, which makes sense as mine are based largely on faculty and reputation.

I must point out that 16 of my top twenty programs are in USNWR's top twenty too, as you've acknowledged there is a ten-way tie at #20. Some of the major points at which USNWR and I divert from Kealey is with Iowa (USNWR ranks it #1 and I rank it #2, while Kealey's book seems to indicate that it is barely a top twenty program), Indiana (USNWR and I agree that it is a mid-teen program, while Kealey has it competing for the top spot), Arizona (USNWR calls it a top ten program, I have it in my top fifteen, and you have it barely in the top thirty), and Arizona State (USNWR and I agree it's a solid top twenty program, while it is #34 on Kealey), just for starters.

Great writing programs such as Bowling Green State's and Southern Illinois's were ranked by USNWR, while Kealey apparently was unaware of them. Quite a few graduates of BGSU that are on creative writing faculties around the country would be scratching their heads at Kealey's oversight.

Kealey points out that the only explanation for Minnesota's low ranking by USNWR was that it was a very new program. Three years of full funding, a great publishing city, and Charles Baxter are good enough reasons to rank it as high as you and I did. Illinois's program did not exist until five years ago, which is why it did not make the '97 list (UIC's MA program was ranked at #72). But it's full funding, massive faculty, and association with a top-notch English department are good enough indicators of a top thirty debut, rather than honorable mention.

But, yes, as I've exhibited in several of my posts, the major question I have reading the Kealey list is, how could UC Irvine possibly be ranked #1? Surely #6 is high enough, as it is ranked on USNWR's list. Brushing this very urgent question aside, ranking Iowa and Columbia at #12 and #16 because of poor funding is misguided. That a Lexus costs far more than a Saturn does not make the Lexus a lesser car. Basing the quality of a program on funding (which would seem to more accurately estimate the value of the program) seems absurd to me, as one tends to have to pay a greater sum for the better things in life. If I would rack up $60K in debt pursuing any other graduate degree, then I'd rack up that kind of debt studying under great writers.

When I say that the USNWR rankings seem more reliable to me, it can be for several reasons: (1) They are the opinions of creative writing faculties nationwide as opposed to one man; (2) they do not factor in funding or location, which can be terribly subjective criteria; (3) they evidently factor in one very broad question rather than an assortment of questions that can be answered for some programs and are left unanswered for others; and (4) I simply have a longer history with them.

Don't get me wrong: Kealey's book is a wonderful tool, as are the nine-year-old USNWR rankings. But what I'm trying to unearth is a consensus opinion in my field as to which programs have a stronger reputation for excellence, and that makes the USNWR list a slightly sharper tool. The Kealey list fleshes out the story a bit, alerting me to those programs who have superior funding, have a universally appealing location, and just may have shot up in the rankings over the last decade.



Jan 4, 2007, 4:27 AM

Post #146 of 764 (22597 views)
Re: [umass76] My Fiction Rankings Can't Post

I think you'll see in the reply I just posted that there are some errors in your assessment of my assessment of your assessment of Kealey's assessment of graduate writing programs. In summary, I would like to point out two very substantial problems that may occur with your rankings. First, the USNWR rankings are based upon a survey of creative writing faculties nationwide; yours are based on the opinon of one man. Second, the USNWR rankings are based upon one very broad question that is applied to all programs, while yours are based upon a list of sixteen items that may be measured accurately for some schools and are likely left incomplete for lesser known programs. Thus, my little Bowling Green State gets left off.

Now, perhaps I was being oafish in posting my own rankings, but trust that it is based upon 2-3 years of obsessive research in which my opinions of most schools danced all over the map; and, if anything, I think that it demonstrated that one student's opinions can only stack up so highly to the wisdom of a panel of professors. I would expect others to believe the USNWR rankings to be more reliable than mine!

Readers, I beseech you: Can we not use both lists?


(This post was edited by jargreen on Jan 4, 2007, 6:18 AM)

Jessie Carty

Jan 4, 2007, 8:58 AM

Post #147 of 764 (22572 views)
Re: [jargreen] My Fiction Rankings Can't Post

I used both Kealy and US News in the briefest of senses.
I think all of this just comes down to personal preference. Sure you can use it as a guide to tell you where the schools are, who pays the most, who has the best reputation but we each are going to have our own guideline on what makes a good school for us.

For me, I had to have a low-res program and while I would have liked funding I wasn't going to be able to go to long residencies (ie 10 or more days twice a year) so I had to go for shorter residencies and throw out funding b/c I wanted to do this now.

Of course, I went through this whole debate when I did my undergrad. I had a personal preference for UNC-Greensboro when I could have gone anywhere in the state but everyone asked me after I got in "what you couldn't get into chapel hill?". No, I could get into Chapel Hill I just chose to go to a different school.

Anyway, I am babbling and just wanted to add this note because the debate has been interesting, but ultimately we all have our reasons why we pick a particular school to apply to.

**tosses out her two cents, now darn i don't have enough money for lunch**


Jan 4, 2007, 11:46 AM

Post #148 of 764 (22547 views)
Re: [jacarty] My Fiction Rankings Can't Post

The funny thing is, once a ranking like U.S. News comes out, or a non-ranking but opinionated book/blog like kealey's, that information/opinion changes people's opinions. UT Austin was a bit lost in the old U.S. News ranking, but Kealey brought attention to it and, if we go by the "Kealey Scale" we see that it's the number two program in the country. That means more people will hear about it, more people will apply, the pool will get more competitive, their reputation will improve, and voila! They BECOME the program that the ranking says they are. Meanwhile a good program languishing at the bottom of the list will get overlooked by people (myself included) obsessed with going to one of the best schools in the nation, and will therefore lose out on applicants and most likely become a weaker program overall.

In other words, these rankings matter more than we think they do, which is probably why Kealey decided to avoid publishing a numerical list in the first place.


Jan 4, 2007, 12:51 PM

Post #149 of 764 (22527 views)
Post deleted by hamholio



Jan 4, 2007, 1:31 PM

Post #150 of 764 (22510 views)
Re: [hamholio] My Fiction Rankings Can't Post

Posts on this thread need to be shorter. I'm losing all the facts in this mass of rhetoric. (Of course, I'm here, so obviously there's something worth reading.) Channel Hemingway or Twain for a moment, if you will. ;)

Can someone adequately explain to me in 100 words or less what is wrong with Iowa's funding?

It's been mentioned numerous times with minimal factual data or context. It's not that I don't believe people's assessment's thereof, but rather that I want to understand exactly what it is that is so bad about it.

(Naturally, I spent yesterday in a chaotic rush to get my Iowa application in on time, having blown off Michigan & Virginia just days earlier. Now y'all are giving me buyer's -- or idiot's -- remorse! ;p Funding's a major concern for me.)

(This post was edited by ApollosQ on Jan 4, 2007, 1:33 PM)

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