Saturday, April 01, 2006

Any Disgruntled Columbia Grads?

Hungry in Harlem asks the first of many questions about Columbia this week. By the way, I want to say that just about everyone who wrote about Columbia said that they’d received at $5000 stipend. I’m thinking this has become standard practice.

Anyways, HiH writes: “I was just accepted to the Columbia nonfiction program and offered a small fellowship i.e. $5000 of the $60,000 I will need a year for tuition and living expenses. I went there undergraduate - so I am all too familiar with the [financial hardship] that is their tuition policy.” HiH continues on and basically asks: Are there any Columbia grads out there who really didn’t like the experience? Any Columbia grads or prospects are welcome to post in the comments section. Below is the entire email from Hungry in Harlem:


It is so nice of you to take on a somewhat thankless task of soothing frazzled MFA candidates. It is deeply appreciated.

I was just accepted to the Columbia nonfiction program and offered a small fellowship i.e. $5000 of the $60,000 I will need a year for tuition and living expenses. (I went there undergraduate - so I am all too familiar with the royal ass rape that is their tuition policy). Even so, I refuse to believe that everyone who goes there falls into the rich or foolish category (I am certainly not rich - foolish is up for debate). I also wonder if funding is as important for poets/fiction writers as it is for nonfiction writers, considering nonfiction generally sells better and more frequently, and it is easier to get freelance or journalism positions which allow for creative nonfiction (Although I'm not so stupid to think that even a great nonfiction writer wouldn't choke on $120,000 of debt)

My question: Are there any statistics about what Columbia grads - who often take on 5 to 6 figures of MFA debt - are doing 5, 10, 15 years down the line? How do their jobs/incomes/experiences compare with the graduates of other MFA programs? How much they've published? What their teaching prospects are?

This question is dumb - because I know there aren't any such statistics. But I would love to use the power and popularity of your blog to see if people could offer some anecdotal evidence - for example - its very easy to find the shining stars of the Columbia nonfiction MFA program because they're obviously all over the Internet - Meghan Daum, '96 who just became an op-ed columnist for the LA Times (ironically - one of Daum's breakthrough essays "My Misspent Youth" describes her $60,000 debt to Columbia - but in a recent interview she said it was "worth it") and Philip Gourevitch, a New Yorker staff writer who recently became editor of the Paris Review.

But after extensive googling I haven't found anyone who is like- "I have $120,000 in debt, I have no job prospects, it was a big mistake, fuck Columbia etc." Whether it is hard to find them because they don't exist or hard to find them because they haven't posted their plight on the Internet, is something I hope your blog can answer, basically - does anyone who spent big bucks for a Columbia MFA regret it?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everyone I've known whose gone to Columbia has been glad about it. As TK said in another blog post, Clumbia is one of the few schools agents supposdily buzz around, and their alumni success is outstanding.

That said, surely given the few number of people who succeed in writing and the number of people who get into Columbia, there must be many who regret the decision.

But you could probably say the same for any college.

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