Sunday, October 12, 2008

MFAs and the Economy

CLM writes in with these discussion questions...

With global market-economies sliding, would it be fair to reassess the value of an MFA degree? Has funding been cut for MFA programs in the past when these situations arise? Furthermore, What other jobs could one procure besides academic positions with an MFA, and are these jobs available now with financial meltdown so widespread? Respectfully,


PARTISAN said...

Yeesh. I knew this post would come..

Am I scared to be quitting a good- paying, secure job in publishing come next summer in favor for a MFA? Yup, I certainly am.

These are frightening times indeed, and I think anyone would be foolish to not be scared by the prospect of funding cuts (I work for Boston University who just announced a hiring freeze two weeks ago, and the last one stretched out for two long years, so I don't hold out much hope for great funding in places like the arts.) And, sadly, I think this trend of universities cutting costs has just begun.

Yet, despite these uncertain times in the world of funding, I maintain that going for an MFA is the right thing for me. Will the economy be fixed in the next two-three years when we emerge with degrees? Probably not, and I think we'll see many universities take a steep dive. Should that deter someone from pursuing a degree that doesn't promise job security? For any reasonable person it would, but I think you'll be hard pressed to find many true blue writers deterred by a little thing called "the economy."

We're designed to embrace struggle, are we not?

Le sigh.

Mike Valente said...

During times of recession, your opportunity costs for being in an MFA program are less. In theory, you're giving up a lesser paying job to enter an MFA program, whereas during economic peaks, you'd have to give up a more lucrative position. During the late 1990's, people were dropping out of Stanford to work.

If you're going to enter a two or three-year program, now is the time to do it. Graduate schools (law, mba, medical) should see a spike in applications.

If you get into a program, and the department is offering you a stipend, that money is probably coming from a fund that's been stored up from years past, whereas hiring freezes are a result of foreseeing less donor money, essentially curbing the development of future research and future faculty.

David E. Grim said...

Economic down times are typically good times to take time off from the job market. You can go back when things are better, touting your "writing sabbatical,"--or whatever you want to call i--on your resume.

Unknown said...

Should we reassess the value of an MFA? Of course. An MFA is now worth only half of a rat's ass.

christopherleemiles said...

Dear Grumpy,

Why, whatever do you mean?

Julianna Baggott said...

Don't go into writing for the money. Period.

But to respond to a few comments.

We have seen a rise in PhD applicants when times are tougher in the academic job market. I can't speak to the MFA -- don't have that data.

And, too, some places (like here) now offer certification in Editing and Publishing. These things can help when getting back into the job market -- as well as editorial work on lit mags. (Grad work on a lit magazine can translate in the marketplace.)

Julianna Baggott, Asst. Director, CRW, FSU

e. moya said...

I do agree with Julianna. You never go into writing for the money. As I'm not leaving behind a good paying job, I'm not scared, actually looking forward to just writing.

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