Seth's excellent Poets and Writers article was accurate in noting that Purdue's $13,000 stipend is especially generous given the low cost of living in West Lafayette. Hopefully, I can shed some light on Purdue's teaching and service opportunities. One of the reasons that Purdue's program has been a well kept secret until recent years is that we are not as explicit as we could be in advertising that all of our students are guaranteed to teach at least two sections of Introduction to Creative Writing.
The program does indeed offer four funded editorial and administrative positions: Editor and Chief of Sycamore Review, Managing Editor of Sycamore Review, Visiting Writers Series Coordinator, and Assistant Director of Creative Writing. These are not in lieu of teaching responsibilities, but are rather opportunities for students to earn more money while also earning valuable professional development experience.
Our website could certainly be clearer, and we are in the process of an update and redesign, with the goal of providing more transparent information about our teaching and funding, while also working within the boundaries of our department at large. At present, The English Department's Graduate Studies Committee requires that all graduate programs advertise their funding as a flat $13,000 annual stipend (plus full tuition waiver). The committee's reasoning is that they want TAs to leave as much time as possible for their academic and creative work, and therefore don't necessarily encourage teaching more than one class per semester. While the MFA program's teaching opportunities are an exception, and the opportunity for earning up to $19,000 does exist, our program still has to follow the guidelines of the department, and advertise the minimum stipend.
Lastly, Purdue does offer a variety of $18,000 fellowships through the College of Liberal Arts, but these fellowships are distributed among several departments throughout the College. They can either be a substitute for or a supplement to a Teaching Assistantship. The MFA admissions committee automatically applies on behalf of admitted students for any fellowships they might qualify for.
As always, many thanks to Seth for navigating hundreds of labyrinthine program websites to uncover those programs that offer their students what they are looking for: Funded time to write, and the opportunity to teach creative writing. Thanks to his hard work, applicants have become better consumers and programs are now more aware of how vital it is to provide as much information possible.
If you have any other questions about the Purdue MFA, don't hesitate to reach me via the blog, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assistant Director of Creative Writing
Second year MFA fiction writer