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FaceMcdougal


Mar 9, 2008, 8:34 AM

Post #51 of 104 (5860 views)
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Re: Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Does anyone have any advice on negotiation and leveraging offers to enhance stipend packages? I have a friend who went to UH for poetry and she claims 1) she was able to use a pair of other acceptances to negotiate a higher stipend and 2) this is not an uncommon practice. Does anyone know how much validity there is to this? And if so, any advice on how to go about getting your way in negotiation?


green sneakers

e-mail user

Mar 9, 2008, 5:10 PM

Post #52 of 104 (5773 views)
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Re: [FaceMcdougal] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think this is uncommon. Be a bulldog. Fight for whatever you think you deserve. If a program can't give you that, then they can't. But most places won't offer you a bigger slice of their probably-already-strained resources if they think you'd be just as happy to attend without. I'm not saying you have to be mean or belligerent about it, but being firm and professional in standing up for yourself and what you need can often yield a better deal than being all sunshine and agreeable can.


lesliep


Mar 15, 2008, 4:10 PM

Post #53 of 104 (5644 views)
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Re: [green sneakers] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I was wondering if this time of recession will hurt MFA programs and the amount of financial aid that they're able to provide? Has anyone currently in a MFA program heard anything or have you lost any funding due to the current economy?

I'm going to be applying for fall 09 programs, but the current economical situation has me a little worried that I won't be able to get funding or even loans (if it came to that, although I'll probably not attend if I have to go into debt to do it).

If there are any moonlighting economists on the board, maybe you could give some advice.


jaywalke


Mar 15, 2008, 8:33 PM

Post #54 of 104 (5574 views)
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Re: [lesliep] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I was wondering if this time of recession will hurt MFA programs and the amount of financial aid that they're able to provide? Has anyone currently in a MFA program heard anything or have you lost any funding due to the current economy?


(I'm not an economist, but I did write about a Holiday Inn Express last night, and I've sat in a lot of Board of Trustee meetings.)

Most (not all) scholarship/fellowship money is endowed, which means it isn't going anywhere. It's invested in bonds and perhaps some boring blue-chip stocks to fight inflation. The usual assumed return is 5% per year, which is so conservative (the stock market has averaged 10% for its entire existence) that the whole economy would likely have to implode before it would need to change. We aren't talking recession, more like a second Great Depression.

The things that will shrink are yearly budgets. They're affected by state appropriations and inflation. Schools have to pay bills and buy things just like the rest of us, and if food and electricity cost more it sucks all around. Departments will have less money for staff, supplies, travel, adjuncts, those shiny guest artists, etc. Vacant spots may be left vacant for another year. Maintenance may be done only as necessary.

Even the well-funded and famous get pinched. I work now in a research institute that averages $16-20 million per year in grant money, and we are cutting corners.


lesliep


Mar 16, 2008, 12:29 AM

Post #55 of 104 (5528 views)
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Re: [jaywalke] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, jaywalke. That's good to know that at least tuition funding won't be cut. Maybe by the time I start in fall 09 (here's hopin'), the economy will start coming back again.


SaraBellum


Mar 16, 2008, 1:39 PM

Post #56 of 104 (5469 views)
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Re: [lesliep] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi all,

I've got a question and this seemed like the best thread for it. I was accepted to a program this year with full funding and a large stipend. However, the school is in a pretty expensive area, and I don't really know about what opportunities for supplementary income I'll have once school starts this fall. (If I go to this program...I'm still waiting on several other, very silent programs!)

Anyhow, my question is, do most people who get full funding and stipends STILL take out student loans as a safety net for their two or three year program? I'm curious about the ups and downs of this...it seems like taking a student loan on top of full funding couldn't really *hurt* you, especially a good loan with a low interest rate, etc. But of course, I'm clueless about that sort of thing.


ALSO! (I know I said "a question" but I just thought of another one!) I'm a freelance writer, and while the paperwork to sign for my $$ offer didn't mention anything about work, I know that some fellowships prohibit a student from working, outside of their TAship or whatever is required in the agreement. My program only requires teaching in the last two semesters. The first two semesters require tutoring and a teaching practicum course. It seems I'll have time to still freelance some, but I don't know how that effects the TAship or the fellowship.


Sorry for being longwinded. An answer at any part of this post will be helpful :)


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ejdifili
Emily

Mar 16, 2008, 2:25 PM

Post #57 of 104 (5450 views)
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Re: [SaraBellum] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To


ALSO! (I know I said "a question" but I just thought of another one!) I'm a freelance writer, and while the paperwork to sign for my $$ offer didn't mention anything about work, I know that some fellowships prohibit a student from working, outside of their TAship or whatever is required in the agreement. My program only requires teaching in the last two semesters. The first two semesters require tutoring and a teaching practicum course. It seems I'll have time to still freelance some, but I don't know how that effects the TAship or the fellowship.


I was wondering about this too, and would be interested in hearing about other people's experiences.

When I did my MA in Spanish lit at Wash U St. Louis, they strictly prohibited students from having outside jobs. Like, if they found out you had part-time work somewhere, they could take away your fellowship. I never heard of this actually happening, but we were prohibited and warned very explicitly by the dean. To be honest, I never had any time for outside work anyway, because we would take a full-time course load in addition to teaching multiple days a week. There were some people who would just secretly work someplace far from the university, though.


writerteacher


Mar 16, 2008, 4:22 PM

Post #58 of 104 (5414 views)
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Re: [SaraBellum] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey there --

Congratulations on your offer! I can tell you a little of my own experience, and what some of the other students in my program have done... all anecdotal, of course.

I'm in my second semester of a three-year MFA program. I filled out the FAFSA (in order to be considered for funding) but when I was offered a TA-ship, I went cold turkey and did not accept the financial aid. My offer included a modest stipend ($11k) and full tuition waiver in return for 20 hours per week (give or take) tutoring and assisting in a large undergrad gen-ed English class. (TAs are offered teaching and/or editing assignments in years two and three.) I have to be registered for at least nine hours per semester to be considered full-time and retain my assistantship; I pay for fees, books, etc., which comes to about $900 per semester.

I'd saved a few thousand dollars before starting, thinking it would get me over the hump (not to mention utter shock) of a precipitous decline in income. Silly me!

The fact is that my stipend puts me squarely under the poverty line, as do, I believe, stipends offered by most MFA programs. If I hadn't had my several-thousand-dollar pad and a credit card (ugh), I'd be hosed.

Neither I nor any other TA in my program, to my knowledge, works another job, in part because it's prohibited, but also because there's just no time. We're all screaming busy with teaching, tutoring, editing, reading for awards, going to readings, doing readings, planning visiting writer events, and God knows, class work. Oh! And there's that other thing... the reason we're busting our asses like this to begin with... When we're not in class or working or meeting or reading, we're writing.

I seriously underestimated how much time writing would take. Isn't that absurd? But the more I learn in workshop and lit classes (and by tutoring and teaching), the more careful I become with what I put out there. Maybe careful isn't the right word. Thoughtful, or maybe attentive. (Clenched? Ack!) Anyway, whereas I used to grind out a 15 page fiction in a week or two, I'm finding the first draft coming faster now but the revision process taking much longer, and before I know it a month has gone by and I'm still working it.

So. Yeah. Starving artist and all. But writing is why I'm in school to begin with, and if I work every spare minute, I'll never write (much less pull together a reasonable thesis and actually graduate).

My plan is to charge the hell out of freelance clients this summer (I'm lucky to have that option) and save double what I did last year going into next year. I'll also apply for second and third year fellowships, which pay a bit more than a stipend and may require fewer TA hours, if any.

There are one or two fellow first-years whose parents are helping them (they're fresh out of undergrad). There are others who are married, as I am, and so not entirely dependent on the stipend, although, geez, you don't want your whole family on the dole because you're following your artist's heart, right? (I have a preschooler, too.) The great majority of students in my program simply scrimped and saved and scrambled to make it work... and are actively looking for paying residencies if not lucrative "real jobs" for the summer. I'm not aware of anyone who took out loans, or plans to, though maybe I should and give my credit card a rest.

I don't know anyone who isn't loving it. It's hard, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Long response, sorry. (Not so thoughtful or attentive as I hope my fiction is becoming.) Hope it helps.

Good luck!

WT


(This post was edited by writerteacher on Mar 16, 2008, 4:25 PM)


annie0


Mar 16, 2008, 4:43 PM

Post #59 of 104 (5394 views)
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Re: [writerteacher] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for your input, writerteacher! It was in fact very thoughtful. And helpful!


ejdifili
Emily

Mar 16, 2008, 8:55 PM

Post #60 of 104 (5319 views)
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Re: [writerteacher] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Neither I nor any other TA in my program, to my knowledge, works another job, in part because it's prohibited, but also because there's just no time. We're all screaming busy with teaching, tutoring, editing, reading for awards, going to readings, doing readings, planning visiting writer events, and God knows, class work. Oh! And there's that other thing... the reason we're busting our asses like this to begin with... When we're not in class or working or meeting or reading, we're writing.

So. Yeah. Starving artist and all. But writing is why I'm in school to begin with, and if I work every spare minute, I'll never write (much less pull together a reasonable thesis and actually graduate).

I definitely see your point, Writerteacher. Last year, I elected not to take a part-time job while studying at the Iowa Summer Writers' Workshop. I'm glad I didn't, because I was able to devote ALL my time to reading, writing and enjoying the literary community in Iowa City. It was only a summer though, so it wasn't too much of a financial hardship for me. Personally, I will be unable to attend any graduate program that doesn't offer me at least a $10K teaching stipend. I know that's still poverty level, but I have been saving up for years in preparation for this experience. I feel like, as long as I work in the summers and make a few bucks then, I should be able to pull this off without incurring too much serious debt. I also agree, though, that it's not the greatest idea to try to take on some b.s. part-time job while in graduate school. Those I knew who did that while we were working on our Spanish lit MA ended up spreading themselves too thin and ultimately dropping the ball in matters of classwork and teaching. Still, I guess it just depends on how heavy your workload is. Wash U was pretty demanding, and also everything was in Spanish (not my first language) so all the work took me twice as long as it did native speakers.


calumnia


Mar 17, 2008, 2:56 AM

Post #61 of 104 (5261 views)
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Re: [writerteacher] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd like to post the opposing opinion to writerteacher: it is quite possible to work during the term.

I am in my last year of a 4 year B.FA in Creative Writing. It is workshop intensive and of my own volition I am focusing on two genres instead of one which means twice as much writing/workshopping. Aside from my five classes: I am the poetry editor of my program's literary journal, I have a gradership in a first year class, I work part time as a librarian and I write content for the department's website.

I'm partially funded by scholarships, and my summer savings covers the rest of my tuition but I need to make enough working part time to cover my monthly expenses and rent. It makes for a very busy school term but for those of you with tuition waivers and stipends who are worried about living on the stipend (and whose fellowships allow for part time work), working part time a few hours a week is definitely doable. I schedule my library hours at the time of day when I am too exhausted to write and the diversity in my day helps me focus when I sit down to work.

Granted, this is an undergrad program but the workshops are a mixture of fourth year students and grad students and I put just as much work into my writing as I will when I'm in my M.FA Workshops are what you put into them. A lot of the non-writing workload depends on the size of the workshop. A larger workshop means more editing of classmates' work, which can be time consuming.


SaraBellum


Mar 17, 2008, 9:22 AM

Post #62 of 104 (5232 views)
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Re: [calumnia] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey,

Thanks all for your input on this! I guess I'm in the same boat... I'm looking at a very good stipend.. >15k, but also in an expensive area. I doubt I'll be able to hold a separate job during the semesters, unless it's very light freelance work for the company I already write for. I'm probably looking at working my tail off all summer and saving for the semesters.

I guess since there is no stipulation about outside work noted in the paperwork, I should probably just come right out and ask. Does anyone else feel hesitant to call their program or email with questions? It seems as soon as I shoot off the email, I suddenly have six more questions.

:-)

Thanks everyone!!


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SaraBellum


Mar 17, 2008, 9:27 AM

Post #63 of 104 (5225 views)
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Re: [writerteacher] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

Writerteacher:

Also, a personal thanks for the time you took to answer my question with your personal experience. Wow! I have so many questions. I guess that one of the first questions I'll ask to students at my offer-program is..."How much time do you have to write?" I know that's often the #1 complaint about an MFA program.

I'm interested in what you said about needing more time to write, in that you felt the increasing need to be extremely careful about what you put out there. Can you elaborate on that? Do you mean that you were surrounded by excellent writers and therefore were concerned with the quality of your ever word? Or...that you were afraid to experiment within the workshop? At first read, I gathered that you were treating the change in your writing "habits" as a positive thing...is that correct?
I guess the reason I'm asking is that I specifically applied to programs this year where I felt I would be encouraged to experiment a little...The last thing I want is to be streamlined in a workshop, or forced into a severely rigid writing style. (I'm definitely not implying that that's what happened to you...I'd just love to hear more about the change your writing endured because of the MFA)

Whew. Long-winded, scatterbrained, and it's only Monday.


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writerteacher


Mar 17, 2008, 10:50 AM

Post #64 of 104 (5181 views)
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Re: [SaraBellum] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm interested in what you said about needing more time to write, in that you felt the increasing need to be extremely careful about what you put out there. Can you elaborate on that? Do you mean that you were surrounded by excellent writers and therefore were concerned with the quality of your ever word? Or...that you were afraid to experiment within the workshop? At first read, I gathered that you were treating the change in your writing "habits" as a positive thing...is that correct?

I guess the reason I'm asking is that I specifically applied to programs this year where I felt I would be encouraged to experiment a little...The last thing I want is to be streamlined in a workshop, or forced into a severely rigid writing style.


Hey, SaraBellum!

Good questions. I don't feel *at all* self-conscious about turning in crap (I do it often!). I attribute this in large part to the full funding scene. We don't feel competitive against each other, except artistically, I suppose, meaning we challenge each other to do more, do better, but we *definitely* don't compete with each other for instructors' attention, approval, or funding.

I don't intentionally turn in crap, by the way; I just realize it's crap well after the fact, after I've workshopped it and revised it and sat on it a while.

Yes, I do feel encouraged and free to experiment in Workshop, absolutely. Part of it is that there are several writers whose styles/voices are so distinct (in the best way)... I am going through the classic "struggle to find my voice" (yik) and having them as a resource for feedback and ideas as I develop this evolving piece is really inspiring. The result is that I flail more than I used to, because I know more about what's possible.

The opposite works, too; I learn as much, if not more, from writers in the program whose stuff I don't like, or don't think works. Finding out what I don't want to do is just as enlightening, and helps me be more deliberate when I start a new piece.

The other part of it is that studying craft -- the nuts and bolts -- has given me more freedom 'cause suddenly I have more crayons in my toybox. I'm gaining control of the subtleties that I used to blow right by. It's kind of like studying grammar; I have an ear for language and so never really bothered to study mechanics, since I was doing just fine. When I did study grammar, finally, it slowed me down temporarily because I had this new dynamic, a new voice in my head as I wrote that I consciously listened to. With practice, though, and in pretty short order, I internalized the rules of grammar and my writing became that much stronger.

Lord, it *is* Monday morning, isn't it?

So, my evolving writing process is actually a result of having more options; the more I study, the more I know, the more I can apply and the more control I ultimately have. Certainly a good thing, I think.

And what this has to do with financing is this: I'm already working more than fulltime, between course load and TAship. It's a vastly different kind of busy from undergrad (I have a BFA); it calls for intense, sustained focus. Maybe some superheroes with lots of room in their big brains can manage to hold outside jobs, but I can't imagine doing it *and getting out of the program what I came here for*. At this moment in my writing life, I need blocks of time to ruminate, write, and rewrite. I can't do it on the fly; I don't want to do it on the fly, that's what I've been doing for years. I see my pittance as the cost of "buying" that kind of focus time. (If I can string a couple of hours together on a Thursday morning, for example, I'm flying.)

Let me say, too, that it's taken a great deal of self-control, which isn't typically part of my repertoire, to turn down freelance clients. My God, it's tempting! Especially when we're struggling to pay the (gulp) heating bill. But I know myself; if I take an assignment I'll resent the hell out of the hours I put in, and get prickly and generally unpleasant, and it'll take me that much longer to write what I have to write for Workshop, never mind all the other stuff I want to write. I don't want to hate work, hate clients, hate school, and misbehave toward my family, and that's what would happen if I tried to work more than I am already.

MFA grads often talk about the exponential development they made as writers while in their programs. That's what I was looking for, and that's what I'm getting -- but for me, it takes sustained focus, which is pricey, but really feels luxurious.

Man, I'm lucky to be able to do this!

Ramble ramble, gotta split, hope this helps, thanks for the kind words, I'll answer more questions if you have them, good luck, peace!

WT


writerteacher


Mar 17, 2008, 7:53 PM

Post #65 of 104 (5088 views)
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Re: [calumnia] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It makes for a very busy school term but for those of you with tuition waivers and stipends who are worried about living on the stipend (and whose fellowships allow for part time work), working part time a few hours a week is definitely doable.

<snip>

A lot of the non-writing workload depends on the size of the workshop. A larger workshop means more editing of classmates' work, which can be time consuming.


Hi, Calumnia --

Wow, I admire your energy! It's interesting to hear how people cobble together sufficient resources.

Just to be clear for others who're reading (and trying to make sense of) this thread, a TA-ship is different from a stipend, which is different from a scholarship, which is different from a fellowship, which is different from a tuition waiver.

Which boggles, but affords myriad opportunities.

For instance, some programs offer Teaching Assistantships with stipends (a small salary, perhaps health insurance). Some programs offer Teaching Assistantships with a tuition waiver but no stipend. Some offer no TA-ship but either partial or full tuition remission. Etc.

Some TA-ships are indeed for teaching, but some assignments have to do with literary publishing, working as a tutor in a writing center, or other responsibilities.

In my program, all TA-ships come with a stipend; it's also possible to get a merit-based fellowship through the CW program in addition to a TA-ship that affords additional perks; to confuse the matter further, the Graduate School awards some merit-based fellowships that require no teaching or editing responsibilities.

All that to say, when I applied to the program I used the words stipend, TA-ship, and fellowship interchangeably, but learned they are, at least in the program I attend, separate entities.

And I hear you about the size of workshops. I think the larger ones, even at "big" programs, tend to max out at 12 or 15 students. I've never been in a class with more than 12, and most of them are about 9, so manageable. This year's novel workshop has six participants; I hope those low numbers hold next year, 'cause novel workshop, here I come!

Cheers and good luck,
WT


reality writes


Mar 26, 2008, 1:44 PM

Post #66 of 104 (4966 views)
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grants & scholarships [In reply to] Can't Post

A lot on this thread is about applying to schools with full funding and working for schools/TAships to get some tuition reduced. All great ideas, but my question is, are there any national organizations that offer grants or scholarships for MFA students? Are there any support lines off campus, and ones that don't necessarily involve being committed to a post-graduate career or travel?


aiyamei

e-mail user

Mar 26, 2008, 3:47 PM

Post #67 of 104 (4912 views)
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Re: [reality writes] grants & scholarships [In reply to] Can't Post

Check out your undergraduate institution. I know that mine offers fellowships for graduate study to a select few of its alumni. You have to remember to apply for it about the same time that you're applying to the graduate program though or you won't have the money in time.


ksy79


Mar 31, 2008, 6:37 PM

Post #68 of 104 (4778 views)
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Negotiating the Financial Aid Package [In reply to] Can't Post

There's been talk here and there of package negotiations. I'm pretty sure Tom Kealey wrote about it on his blog at one point, but I can't find the post. (I just posted a similar comment on his blog, too).

Anyone thinking of trying to negotiate a better financial aid package? How would one approach the matter? Who would I contact? Am I crazy to try and do this? I'm an awful negotiator; I'm terribly, terribly awkward.

Thanks!


pareidolia


Apr 9, 2008, 8:04 PM

Post #69 of 104 (4647 views)
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Re: [darredet] Financial Assistance for MFA Programs [In reply to] Can't Post

So, does SFSU offer any funding ever? I noticed their websites mentions a couple $500 fellowships. What about TAships, etc...?


oenologist


Jun 9, 2008, 6:16 PM

Post #70 of 104 (4513 views)
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scholarships?? [In reply to] Can't Post

so I looked through this thread and some others but maybe some of you MFA veterans can help...

I was accepted to BU for playwrighting this year, but alas did not receive quite as much funding as I'd hoped. While clearly loans are an option, I was wondering if there were any independent scholarships which I could apply to?

I have searched the net and have found nothing bar the extraordinarily silly (e.g., left handers scholarship and the "take-a-pic-of-your-shoe" scholarship)

Are there any grants/scholarships etc that you know of? Where might I begin my search (that's not google)

merci!
-c


gcsumfa


Jun 16, 2008, 11:36 PM

Post #71 of 104 (4389 views)
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Re: [oenologist] scholarships?? [In reply to] Can't Post

If anyone is looking for pt work while attending an MFA or PhD program, esp. those w/ prior teaching experience or an MA, look up "Smarthinking." It's an online tutoring service that hires folks w/ teaching experience (and at least 18 graduate hours) to tutor undergrads online; the service is open 24-7 (save for a few holidays), which means shifts can be scheduled whenever you want, for the most part. You work at home, from your computer. As expected, the writing center is the busiest--meaning they're always looking to add writing teachers. It would be difficult for anyone to really find out about this job (though a lot of grad directors don't care and totally understand the need for more money), since you'd be working the shifts at home, in your PJ's, at a time that works best for you...pay is 11/hour. I made 4-5K last year, which goes a long way for someone living on a grad stipend.


(This post was edited by gcsumfa on Jun 16, 2008, 11:39 PM)


gcsumfa


Jun 16, 2008, 11:48 PM

Post #72 of 104 (4385 views)
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Re: [gcsumfa] scholarships?? [In reply to] Can't Post

Matter of fact, here's a recent ad on Chronicle of Higher Ed:

http://chronicle.com/...-01&pg=s&cc=


Vesuvia


Jun 20, 2008, 9:17 PM

Post #73 of 104 (4285 views)
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Re: [gcsumfa] scholarships?? [In reply to] Can't Post

gcsumfa, I just sent you a PM about this, but then I realized others might want to know. Can you give us an idea of how much the Smarthinking hourly wage is? Can't find that info on their website. Thanks.


gcsumfa


Jun 20, 2008, 11:10 PM

Post #74 of 104 (4274 views)
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Re: [Vesuvia] scholarships?? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
gcsumfa, I just sent you a PM about this, but then I realized others might want to know. Can you give us an idea of how much the Smarthinking hourly wage is? Can't find that info on their website. Thanks.


Sure; it's $11 per hour. I usually work 12-15 hours per week in the fall, spring, and part of the summer and end up making 4-5K a year.


Raysen


Aug 5, 2008, 8:17 PM

Post #75 of 104 (4147 views)
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Too "rich" for funding? [In reply to] Can't Post

I have a question no one has asked (for good reason). Let's say you can afford the tuition, fees, books, and cost of living to do an MFA program. Let's say you only applied to schools that offered full funding to all their students (e.g., Virginia, Texas, Cornell, Indiana) and let's say you got accepted at one of these schools.

How will these schools handle your situation? Will they NOT offer you full funding?

This is just a hypothetical, but a hypothetical I'm curious about for personal reasons I won't go into.

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