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Main Index » Writing and Publishing » MFA Programs Re: Funding & Professors: Edit Log


Jun 22, 2008, 2:29 PM

Views: 25717
Re: Funding & Professors

Hi all,

Just wanted to put my two cents in on two issues being discussed in this thread: "fully"-funded programs and choosing a program based on the faculty. While both of these issues are addressed more fully in the research I did for the second edition of Tom Kealey's Creative Writing MFA Handbook (which, when it comes out later this year, will have a Top 50 ranking of programs based on their funding, taking into account more than a dozen cost-related factors for each program), a few things are worth noting now:

1. I'd caution against lumping schools broadly into the category of "well-funded," as, if one isn't careful, one can end up leaving no distinction between a program which costs nothing and pays you tens of thousands of dollars to attend (e.g., Texas), and one which is likely full-cost, without stipend for around 50% of its class, and fully-funded (teaching assistantship with tuition remission, plus stipend) for the other half. And, of course, somewhere in there is the dramatic difference between a low stipend ($8,000 or below) at a fully-funded program in a high-cost area, and a high stipend ($13,000+) at a fully-funded program in a low-cost area. Just between two such programs--both regarded as "fully-funded"--one can see an effective difference of around $7,000 per year, and that's not to mention differences between health-care plans and degree of tuition remission (50% and 100% ain't the same thing, by any means), among other things. There are only twenty programs in the U.S. considered truly "fully-funded"--i.e., all students get full tuition remission and a liveable stipend (either with or without a teaching requirement). Of the list already provided in this thread, I'd say, IMHO, that several programs should be removed as being in a totally different [and "worse," for lack of a better term] class than the others, funding-wise (and only funding-wise; I'm not referring to anything else):

Bowling Green State University
University of California at Davis
George Mason University
University of Georgia
Iowa State University (not University of Iowa)
University of North Carolina at Wilmington
University of New Mexico
Texas State University
University of Utah
University of Washington

These schools are somewhere closer to "50% fully-funded" programs--and the difference matters. Others on the list, like Florida State University, McNeese State, University of Iowa, and University of Houston, are what I call "75% fully-funded programs" (again, an important distinction, which can translate into differences of thousands and thousands of dollars). I do--I really do--understand the impetus to create a single list which contains every school that offers any kind of legitimate funding package, but one has to realize that, for 50% of the admitees to a 50% fully-funded program, that program will end up being as horrid funding-wise as the big bad pack of almost-entirely unfunded programs: Columbia, NYU, The New School, Sarah Lawrence, Pittsburgh, SAIC, SFSU, USF, and several others less well-known (largely in California, Chicago, and New York City, but there are some elsewhere).

2. My personal opinion--which no one asked for, I know :-)--is that you ought not pick a program largely (and perhaps not even at all) for its faculty, based on one single premise: there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever between the quality of an artist's work, or your own feelings of fellowship with an artist's aesthetic project, and whether you will have any interest whatsoever in that artist as a teacher, or as a person, once you get to your program. And then there's a separate corollary to that one: it is equally likely that the best teacher for you is someone you've never heard of, and/or whose work you don't like, and/or whose aesthetics you aren't interested in, than that the best teacher will reside in the opposite of any one or all of those three categories. Not merely because artistic talent and teaching talent are wholly different skill-sets, but because often the best teacher for you is the one who will challenge what you believe to be true, not merely reinforce what you're already doing because it looks like and reads like something similar to what they're presently doing (i.e., three years of "Atta' boy!" is not helpful to anyone). So, when I see folks choosing schools based on faculty, I tend to think they're choosing a "wash" category--a category in which no predictions can realistically be made (not with any sort of precision whatsoever, at least)--instead of a definitive one, like funding, or class-size, or location.

Just my two cents.

Be well, all,

P.S. Much more information is available (as many of you already know) on my website, which exists only to help folks out as they go through this process:


(see the right-hand frame, at this site, for links)

(This post was edited by umass76 on Jun 22, 2008, 2:33 PM)

Edit Log:
Post edited by umass76 (User) on Jun 22, 2008, 2:32 PM
Post edited by umass76 (User) on Jun 22, 2008, 2:33 PM

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