I'm a writer based in New York who hopes to establish a career in Speculative Fiction (magical realism, science fiction, horror, fantasy). At thirty-three years of age, I've decided to apply for an MFA; I was an English major at Fordham University. How seriously do the writing committees at universities respond to this particular genre? What MFA programs would help a writer achieve their goals in this area? I plan on applying to three schools, one being Columbia University. It is hard to follow professors and see which ones are teaching at any given semester, because they often go away on sabbaticals or other business related to their writing. I know well how competitive these programs are and I feel I'm prepared to attend one. However, if schools are interested in only focusing on students who want to write "traditional literature", then where should the post-modernist go?
I'm sorry I've taken such a long time to put this question up--the reason is that it's very difficult to answer. I've looked through my blog for such programs as fit your taste; if you're looking for programs that specifically cater to science fiction, horror, fantasy--or, as they put it, "genre" fiction--I know not a one. This coming from someone who's sized up the basic facts for 130-ish of the 160-something MFA programs in the country, and if you were to look through the other 30 I doubt that you'd find what you needed.
There are some programs that cater to children's literature, which of course has such elements, but I doubt that's what you're looking for. You might also want to try a creative MPW (Master's in Professional Writing) program; I had one or two in my database but I deleted them because they didn't strike me as being very art-oriented; all they seemed to do was to teach you plot/character gimmicks that would help you sell. I doubt that's what you're looking for, either, since you strike me as someone who wants to study craft in more depth than just that.
Sadly, magical realism, science fiction, horror, and fantasy are genres that have been taken over by hacks and pulp writers to such an extent that colleges and universities are generally suspicious of a writer who professes to write such material; in fact they may expect the work to be bad before they even look at it. This is, of course, unfair and unfortunate, and if you can show them that you can produce something ORIGINAL that demonstrates a high standard of imagination, skill, and intellectual/emotional depth--I don't think they'll count it against you. There is a lot of literary fiction floating around that incorporates magical, fantastical, or science-fiction elements that MFA instructors would applaud, and even include in their workshops (in 3 or 4 of my undergrad fiction workshops we've read a mix of realist and fantastical stuff).
In short, although I think MFA programs in general don't like genre fiction, if they come across the rare writer who can pull it off excellently and appeal to a wide and general audience (not just the professed fans of a particular genre) you've got your fighting chance. Good luck. And please proofread everything you send: though I made corrections to your question before posting it, I've noticed, without meaning to be a bitch, that you misspelled "fiction," "university," "committees," "genre," both words in "Columbia University," "competitive," and both words in "traditional literature."