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Jul 8, 2010, 7:44 PM

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Re: [sarahsarah] California MFA Programs

Just to piggy-back on what Sarah said... I don't think the question with either Davis or USC has ever been one of faculty or location, or even necessarily funding, but degree type -- it's not quite clear why USC thinks it's vital to offer an MPW rather than an MFA, creating significant doubts regarding terminality (not helped by the fact that the MPW isn't even the highest CW degree offered at USC, as Sarah noted), nor is it clear why Davis insists on remaining a non-terminal M.A. when it isn't that difficult to make the curricular changes necessary, and apply to the necessary agencies, to be recognized as an MFA program. I can't help but feel like someone's asleep at the switch there. In both instances the programs' rankings have suffered for the programs being non-terminal. At present the MFA remains the gold standard for CW degrees, though Sarah is absolutely right (if she was implying this) that if one intends on going on to a doctoral program, the difference between an MFA and MPW (or M.A.) suddenly becomes less significant. And USC's stellar faculty (coupled with the great writing community in L.A. that Sarah mentioned) has certainly made USC's CW Ph.D. one of the top targets of MFA graduates nationally.

If we're speaking only of MFA programs--which I suppose is what most folks here are looking at--I think we have to be clear that the West Coast is not a well funded region for MFA programs relative to its land-area size and population. There are only two undisputed fully-funded MFA programs, and both are on the low end of full funding when their already-low stipend is adjusted for cost of living (Oregon and Irvine). A host of California universities that should have MFA programs do not--USC, UCLA, Stanford, Davis, Berkeley, UC-Santa Cruz, UC-Santa Barbara--making California one of the "tardiest" areas of the country in terms of patching into the recent explosion in the popularity of the MFA degree. Several West Coast programs have unclear but possibly quite strong funding situations: Oregon State and UCSD have both been the subject of full-ranking "rumors" (i.e. some say they are, while some, such as Sarah, have experiences which suggest otherwise), and UC-Riverside and San Diego State could probably improve their rankings substantially if anyone at those universities knew sufficient HTML code to do applicants the courtesy of reciting their funding offerings online (though neither program is fully funded for all students).

Unfortunately some of the worst-funded programs in the U.S. are also on the West Coast, in fact a disproportionate number are: SFSU, USF, Mills, University of Washington, Portland State, CalArts, and California College of the Arts are among the worst offenders nationally in this regard (especially given the cost of living in their host locales). Then there are the programs no one knows anything about, which don't advertise themselves well or are new (Fresno State, UC-San Bernadino, and a few other programs in the California State system) and Saint Mary's, which is generally poorly funded but has at least tried to be creative and resourceful with its funding packages more than the programs listed above (the list starting with SFSU). So with only two undisputed fully-funded MFA programs on the entire West Coast of the United States, and both of these being among the less impressive fully-funded programs funding-wise, and with the best universities on the West Coast not even bothering to offer a creative writing MFA, I think it has to be said that--sadly--the West Coast is not the best place to look for MFA programs, even if (as with any program anywhere) there's always the chance that some infinitesimal percentage of admittees (5% to 15%) can get funding at any program one could name (but one would still have to consider the effect of the program's non-full-funding status on selectivity, i.e. cohort quality). I think UC-Davis and USC are good options for those who are going on to do a doctoral degree and/or for those who may apply to MFA programs afterward (though it's not clear whether USC's iffy terminality actually hurts students coming and going--in the sense that prospective employers might deem it non-terminal, even as MFA admissions committees deem it terminal and thus something that renders one an ineligible applicant).

Hopefully things in California will improve over the next few years and decades! UCLA in particular is just a total head-scratcher--it's amazing that they have some of the best MFA programs in areas other than creative writing, and then just no CW (fiction, poetry, or nonfiction) degree whatsoever.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jul 8, 2010, 7:49 PM)

Edit Log:
Post edited by umass76 (User) on Jul 8, 2010, 7:46 PM
Post edited by umass76 (User) on Jul 8, 2010, 7:46 PM
Post edited by umass76 (User) on Jul 8, 2010, 7:47 PM
Post edited by umass76 (User) on Jul 8, 2010, 7:47 PM
Post edited by umass76 (User) on Jul 8, 2010, 7:48 PM
Post edited by umass76 (User) on Jul 8, 2010, 7:49 PM

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