Tuesday, June 02, 2009

MFA Funding is Not Dead

Hello everyone. This is my first post as a contributor to the MFA blog. Thank you for having me.

Yesterday I sat down to have a coffee discussion with a number of curious college seniors, mostly English majors or members of the liberal arts college at Oregon State University. The topic of discussion was the future of MFA programs in the United States with the current funding crisis in higher education. I noticed that many of these MFA hopefuls were asking some of the same questions that I see on this blog. Where is the funding? Does it still exist? Who in their right mind would provide financial support for a workshop degree? etc, etc.

My response then was the same as it is now: financial support exists for those who are willing to spend the time and make the effort to find it. This is not to say that I advocate seeing funding as the highest priority to consider when selecting programs, but it certainly should be toward the top. The truth is (and the numbers are out there...see the NEA's figures for higher education budget crises) many students are finding themselves as candidates in an MFA program at an institution not renowned for its dedication to the arts, but rather to sciences, mathematics, engineering etc (OSU, for example).

Yet, the funding still exists! What applicants should recognize is that certain MFA programs can ride the popularity of their institution's other programs to be able to afford tuition assistance and other forms of funding for incoming MFA students.

Things to consider could include the following: Is a program located at an institution that is well-known, but not necessarily for arts? Does the program website provide examples of tuition assistance? What is required to apply for things such as assistantships, fellowships, etc?

You may find that certain universities with enrollment figures that are increasing are more willing to provide teaching fellowships to arts programs such as an MFA program simply because more new freshman means the institution needs more graduate teaching assistants to be composition instructors.

There is STILL hope for being funded, after all. Just keep up the search.



Seth Abramson said...


Comprehensive MFA funding rankings, with dollar figures, can be found here.


Kathryn said...

I want to add that just because the program doesn't offer you funding doesn't mean there is no funding to be had. When I was accepted to my #1 school but without funding, I went looking for money. I looked into the university Writing Center, I talked to my professors about the other skills I had as a writer (such as technical writing), and I ended up with a position that offered the same funding package as the students who had gotten TA positions--a half tuition waiver and stipend the first year, a full tuition waiver and stipend the second year. But I wouldn't have gotten anything had I not actively searched for something. So I guess I'm just saying to not necessarily give up on a program because of money.

Unknown said...

Tufts University (much like Princeton) will never have a budget crisis.

Kristina said...

I'd agree with Kathryn--don't give up on a program because you don't get funding from it right away. I found a full funding package(full tuition waiver for both semesters plus the summer, health insurance, and $14,500 stipend) through an office GAship at my university. I got this position my first year, and as long as I do my job well and stay a full-time graduate student, I can keep it as long as I'd like. I work 20 hours a week, supplement it with a few hours of work at the Writing Center, and I am able to live on my stipend just fine. And I get to maintain full-time status the same way as TAs--as in, I only have to take two classes a semester instead of the typical three. You might need to look beyond the English Department or Writing Center to find funding, but it's worth it. I started by e-mailing all the offices around campus, and found an open position at the conduct office. MY GAship entails running a the peer mediation program at my university. It's actually fun and rewarding, too. But I know my university also has positions at the Graduate Office, the Honors Program, the recreation center, and a few others, too.

There's always the idea of being an RA or a hall director if that's up your alley. Most of those jobs have good benefits, stipends, and tuition waivers if you can stomach the type of work you'd be doing.