A great question from "MFA Dropout." I'd appreciate everyone's two cents on this. As for me, I can't say either way, but I can say that after a semester at UMass, I was ready to jump ship. By the end of three years, I was really glad that I'd stayed. I just had the beginning jitters. -- Tom
Q: Is it always a bad idea to drop out of and/or transfer to another MFA program? I am deeply dissatisfied with the one in which I enrolled. First, the faculty with whom I was most enthusiastic to work resigned just after I arrived, leaving our department with one full and one visiting professor. As such, I have received feedback on my work from only these two faculty and have learned that no third will be hired before I finish the program. The professor who became my thesis adviser has a history of being largely unavailable and providing little critique of student thesis work. I have discussed the situation with the department director, who sympathizes but claims nothing can be done; my adviser is known to be inflexible, and for a host of reasons the other faculty is unable to accept an additional advisee.
Further, though I do have funding here, the cost of living is surprisingly expensive. To survive financially in the coming year, I will have to accept roughly $12,000 in federal loans. Also, the means by which I earn funding was presented somewhat deceptively. I was told I would be teaching one class per semester, and while that has been technically true, the required pedagogy program lasts a full school year and consists of intensive coursework, essentially the equivalent of teaching a second class.
I am waiting to hear whether or not the director can offer me any appealing alternatives, of course, but I am seriously considering leaving the program and re-applying elsewhere. Friends in the program tell me not to do it, noting that I am half finished and settled here. Still, I pursued my MFA not for the degree alone, but to seek mentorship and become a better writer. I've long since given up on mentorship, but with no new faculty I am on my way to completing an MFA having only received feedback from one inaccessible professor and one overworked guest. And to do so, I will have to teach, spend substantial time keeping up with another mandatory pedagogy course, and take out thousands of dollars in loans. Being that the MFA is a terminal degree, I want to make sure I don't spend mine in a program that has fallen so far beneath my expectations. So, what's your take? Bite the bullet and finish up, or withdraw, re-assess, and re-apply?