Thursday, May 18, 2006

Degree and Debt

American Leisure writes in...

You like to harp on not paying for degrees in something as, well, not conventionally "valuable" as a creative writing MFA, and I agree with that sentiment. However, even with TA-ships paying 10-15k during the school year, the reality of having to pay $700-$1500 a month for rent in these college towns (plus deposit and year lease), added with all other expenses, doesn't make not going into debt to get this usually-worthless degree doable. Thoughts?

Update: I've changed my response since Anxious Latecome pointed out that I'd missed the point of the question. Something about the word 'harp' distracted me. In any case, thanks AL.

It's true that 15K is not going to cover all of your living expenses, even in a small college town. Personally, I worked as a bartender and waiter for all three of my years at UMass. This was like three shifts a week. It got me free meals, a wad of cash, and limited time to spend my other money. And, I got to work with other artists and writers actually.

And, I worked part of the summers. Usually picking up a teaching gig with a summer seminar. So, you can go this route, or you can take out some loans to cover basic living expenses.

Re: "Usually worthless degree." It's an artistic degree, just like painting or sculpting. It's a craft degree, where you work among other artists. It's not an MBA. Or a Law Degree. Personally, my degree was far from worthless, either in monetary or personally fulfilling ways. Attending an MFA program has had a profoundly positive effect on my life. It changed things, when I definitely needed change.

2 comments:

Anxious Latecomer said...

OK, I'm still a bit sleepy, so this may be off, but I thought the question meant to address whether one can actually go through an MFA program without debt. Despite "good" funding, this person seemed to suggest, you can't pay your rent, deposit, moving expenses, etc., without going into debt. Wasn't this the question? Here's my two cents: in my experience and that of other grad students (not MFA yet, but other comparable grad program), moving expenses are usually covered by the student's "savings." Yes, it sucks, but if you work a little extra over the summer or something, you'll get the money to move without going into debt. As for the rent and such, grad students usually live with housemates to cut down on expenses. That way, which is just an instance of living frugally in general, you can get through grad school without going into debt (provided you have "good" funding from the start). It is certainly a sacrifice, being poor and all. But you're buying time to write and to be within a writer's community.

potatoeater said...

I will be coming out of my MFA with way more in savings than I went in (probably a five-digit figure increase)... even if I don't work over the summer (though I might very well do so). I live in a very nice apartment too. So, no, it is very possible. Where I come from, people often raised families on $15,000.