Monday, April 03, 2006

Columbia or Boston University?

Carbon writes in, and he get's a D+ for that codename. But we'll address his question anyways...

Here's my question (relevant concerns and details will follow) : I've been accepted to Columbia and Boston University. Which school should I go to?

Relevant concerns:

- Columbia's tuition is 35,000 a year
- I was offered 5,000 for my first year, and possibly a bit more for my second. Theres a chance of getting a teaching or research assistantship (which would only cut tuition in half), but these are very competative.
- Columbia has Lucie Brock-Broido, Richard Howard, Marie Howe, Eamon Grennan.
- Probably a class size of 14 or so.

- BU's tuition is 25,000.
- I was offered a fellowship for 25,000
- BU has Derek Walcott, Rosana Warren, and Louise Gluck.
- **Robert Pinsky is on the faculty there, but he will be on leave next year.
- Probably a class size of 9
-**BU is only a 1 year program. I've heard that it's intensive, but I feel I may come out of it undercooked as it were.

I've lived in Seattle all my life and I'd like to move to the east coast. That's about all I'm sure of. I would love to go to Columbia, but 60,000 is a lot of debt, especially for someone who plans on a career in poetry. I would choose BU in a heartbeat if Pinsky was actually going to be there next year, but alas... I hope you can see why I'm so torn. Any advice?


Well Carbon, it's your life. Do what you think it best. That said, I think you already know what I'm going to say:

Go where the funding is. And I wouldn't let the 1 year thing at BU be an issue. Look, you can always apply to MFA programs next year, with BU on your resume. If you're worried about being undercooked, consider 1 year at BU and 2 years in an MFA program afterwards. I had colleagues who did the same thing, and they really liked that route: It bought them more time to write.

Plus, wouldn't you rather root for the Sox rather than the Yankees? I know I would.

Take my advice with a grain of salt, Carbon. I think you won't go wrong with BU, but you've got to do what you think is best. Rock on.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a current Columbia student, I'd tell you to run in the other direction and choose BU, especially considering that you're concentrating in poetry. I'm almost out the door here, and I can't tell you how much I wish I'd had a forum like this when I was applying to writing programs in 2001. I went to Columbia because I got rejected from the three other programs I applied to, and they gave me a Dean's fellowship, which took care of $14, 000 of my tution for the two years I was doing my coursework. Plus, I'm a native New Yorker, so I didn't need to worry about housing costs. But I think the advice to go to the one-year program and then sign up for another seems wise (although I must disagree with the terrible advice to root for Boston over the Yankees!). Really though, it's hard to justify paying that much for a writing degree. And the city is ridiculously expensive now. Hope this has helped some. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

According the stuff I've been sent, the RA and TAs fully pay for tuition plus a stipend, not cut it in half...

Anonymous said...

I got into Columbia, too, for this upcoming fall -- but without any funding. I have a full ride and teaching fellowship at another school. As depressing as it is, because I'd love to live in New York, I just don't see how it's humanly possible to pay tuition and living expenses at Columbia without a trust fund.

Anonymous said...

I hear these "trust fund" "no one could possibly afford" yada yada comments every day, now that I'm trying to decide between MFAs, and yet they don't make much sense to me.

Did none of you go to college?

Most private colleges for undergrad cost about what Columbia costs. Thousands and thousands of people go to these colleges for undergrad and figure out how to pay for them. They aren't all trust fund babies either.

I agree with what Kealey has been saying. The writing world is hard, funding is important and etc. I'm not saying funding is bad, but the funding situation at all these NYC schools should remind people of their undergrad situation.

Anonymous said...

I'm 30 years old, and I'm still paying off the 45K I borrowed for my undergrad. To add another 60K on top of that debt while simultaneously reducing my earning potential is plain stupid.

Anonymous said...

No one is saying you as an individual with debt should go to a school that won't fully fund you. No one is saying anyone should go.

I was merely pointing out that Columbia is not unique in its costs for an MFA program. It isn't unique for a grad program in general and it is standard for undergrad.

Pretending like they are some crazy aberration that only Richie Rich could go to seems silly.

Anonymous said...

Hello? admit that Columbia is the most expensive program. Can you name any other program more expensive than Columbia?

Anonymous said...

NYU is as expensive I think (thye offer big fellowships to a handful of people, but most get little to nothing)

Sarah Lawrence and the New School don't fund well, maybe even worse, and probably have similar tuition.

And that's just in NYC.

Anonymous said...

Okay, since you asked, a program more expensive than Columbia:

Sarah Lawrence. Tuition is ~35,000 (~2K less than Columbia).

From what I can tell, Columbia offers every first year 5,000 off and a handfull 12,500 off.

From what I've hard, SLC basically offers no money to its first years.

For second years, Columbia has some TA and RAships that wave your tuition and give you a stipent. SLC does not have any.

So Columbia funds much beter than SLC, to name one other well regarded program.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to include the living expenses!

Anonymous said...

I heard about the tension between funded students and non-funded ones at Columbia, which is really bad. At least students are treated equally at Sarah Lawrence even if it costs a lot...

Anonymous said...

I didn't include living expenses becasue both are NYC schools so they are both presumably the same.

As for tension:
I dunno. Maybe.

But again, Columbia is hardly unique there. NYU has tiered funding, Iowa has tiered funding, I think Umass does. Basically any of the large programs do.

TK talked about tension before (though in regards to Iowa, where the difference is bigger) but people wrote it saying there really wasn't much tension. So, I dunno.

Anonymous said...

Remember that the difference is 60K or more at Columbia!

Anonymous said...

Uh? For first years the difference seems to be 12,500 versus 5,000.

Not that much.

For second year, the difference is no tuition but a TA/RAship versus 30,000 tuition.


As far as competition/tension goes, I'd imagine Iowa's situation would be much worse, where one person gets full funding just for merit and another gets nothing. The fully funded second years at Columbia are just getting paid to work.

Anonymous said...

Imagine how you'd feel if you sit next to your classmate a TA in the classroom at Columbia. You're paying more than 35K a year and this guy pays no tuition and receives a stipend.

Anonymous said...

Um, I'd feel a lot better than sitting next to a kid at Iowa who is paying nothing while I'm paying full tuition.

At Columbia you can rationalize easily: "I wasn't lucky enough to be one of the few people to get a TA"

At Iowa all you can think is: "Well... the faculty at Iowa think I'm the worst writer here."

Remember, TK said they post a list ranking every person in the program by how much they get. You literally would know if they thought you were the worst writer of the class or not.

Could anything be more depressing than that?

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about Iowa, but people say that the tution there is cheap, less than 6K a year.

Anonymous said...

Its a state school so it is going to be cheaper than any private university.

Their page says tuition and fees are 9,000 a semester. So 18,000. Certainly a lot less than Columbia, no doubt.

Anonymous said...

They insist that most of them pay instate tuition, so a lot cheaper than that, close to $6000 a year.

A Starving Child said...

I'm currently doing the Columbia MFA and I haven't noticed any "tension between funded students and non-funded ones at Columbia."

That's because we killed all the funded students and wear their flayed skins when it gets chilly.

Ha ha just kidding maybe.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I really like the program but really hate the funding situation. Is it worth it? I have no undergraduate debt but I don't know how good or bad off I'll be after I graduate.

As far as imagining how I'd feel if I sat next to a classmate with full funding in a Columbia classroom--I've got other things to imagine. Like how to write my novel. Or short story. Or what books to read. Or whether I should buy an XBox 360 or just stick with a used XBox because all I really play is Halo and Ninja Gaiden.

Whether so-and-so has funding or not really doesn't interest me.

But whether BU or Columbia? I'd choose BU. The Columbia program is actually too big right now for my taste.

Benny Profane said...

Good god. You could simply solve this problem by applying to a university that more or less offers funding to a majority of their students. The result...less insular of a community, less jealousy, and no tuition bills when you graduate. Plus, if you get funding via teaching, you can build a teaching CV in case your novel doesn't hit the bestseller list right after you leave school. UMass is a great program for stuff like this.... If you don't get the teaching position your first year, you probably will for the next two years (it's a 3 yr program). I'd also choose a program that isn't so cutthroat. Go to one with funding, a good rep, a friendly student population and near big cities (again UMass).

There are others too. I'd also look into UNC - Wilmington. They have some teaching positions there and they are trying to compete with bigger programs right now. Chances are if you got into a big school they'll try and give you funding so you'll go there. And why not? Tom is right. Funding is the way to go. Debt is not. Not for a writer.

Anonymous said...

One point of clarification that I am sure both the letter writer and Tom are aware of, but which was not clear to me when I read the post: BU's full tuition is $33,000. Students can tranfer up to 8 graduate level credits into the program, thus cutting the cost to $25,000.

I did surprise the program director a great deal when I mentioned to him that I thought his program cost $25,000 while we were discussing my aid package...:)

UofTgirl said...

Wow, I realize I'm incredibly late for this dialogue but I'm a third year student at UofT but I'm looking into MFA programs (in the States) now just so I can be prepared. Columbia is my top choice and I'd like to hear more about the program from a student's prospective since the few Columbia students who have contributed to this forum are saying not to go there ...

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