Aug 23, 2009, 12:36 PM
Post #451 of 1018
Re: [FreakingOutInBd] Choosing an MFA Program 2010
[In reply to]
Funding at Oregon is indeed imperiled, according to at least one current student. There has even been a question about whether Oregon can or will continue to be a fully-funded program. Even before this downturn, the funding package wasn't quite as good as many thought (ranked outside the top 25 nationally, at #27) because of the low base stipend amount and the slightly elevated cost of living in Eugene (+3% off national average; most MFAs are located in well-below-average cost-of-living locales). Plus, it's two years rather than three, so it's a briefer duration of funding as well. The main issue with the poetry program at Oregon, however, have been consistent reports, for years, that it is poorly run--that a single individual with a personality that is extremely difficult to work with has made being a poet at UO hell for many. That reality has caused Oregon to tumble out of the top tier of programs in the genre (down to #15 nationally in poetry; the trend-lines suggest it will continue to fall, and I'm expecting it could go as far as #20 or so in next year's rankings, which may be enough to drop the whole program out of the top tier). If Colorado State and Montana's poetry programs are known for their high student satisfaction, Oregon is known (in poetry) for being in the opposite situation.
I have nothing but good things to say about Virginia Tech in poetry: strong faculty, strong funding, strong duration of funding, exactly the sort of generally-East-Coast location many are looking for. The only issue is that because of the program's recent good press and XS size (XS being the category in which a program accepts only 1-4 students per genre per year), its selectivity is going to go through the roof this year (i.e. its acceptance rate is going to drop precipitously) well before the program has really earned that drop reputation-wise (right now the program is ranked #50 overall, #34 in poetry, and outside the top 50 in fiction). I often advise applicants to avoid programs whose selectivity outstrips their reputation, unless/until they have an application list which can accommodate that kind of program because of some balance elsewhere on the list (e.g., a program in the opposite situation, like George Mason or Arizona; oddly, Iowa fits into this category as well). This year may be a particularly good year for fiction applicants to apply to VT, as Tech has the second most poetry-correlated applicant pool in the States, according to the data; that is, in the average two-genre MFA program the applicant pool is 66% fiction and 33% poetry, whereas at Virginia Tech the projected and extrapolated internals suggest the school's non-pejorative poetry bias my be 73% or higher--meaning, only 27% of the pool is fiction, as compared to that 66% figure nationally. If that doesn't send fiction-writers running to a fully-funded three-year program on the East Coast, I don't know what will. Granted, like I always say, no one should ever drop one of their dream schools from their application list; the above comments are simply for those looking for an additional (say) dozen options to add to the one or two programs they're going to apply to no matter what.
If anyone thinks they could benefit from individualized consulting regarding application lists, I can be reached via the link below.