Education

MFA Programs: Are They Worth It?

A student writing in a library

So you want to be an author. You’ve graduated, survived a few writing workshops, and produced pieces you’re proud of. But you still need to learn a few things. You need to find your voice. You think, if I could find the time or had people to read my work, I could do this. Your mind drifts toward thoughts of MFA programs and wine-fueled discussions of literature. Of the day you’ll move to New York City and walk the same streets so many of the greats have.

You’ve even had your doubts—is being a writer something you are serious about? Could you be happy doing something else? Because if you can, then you should do it. Being a writer isn’t for the weak of heart. But you’ve pushed past those doubts, sort of (we all have those days), and came through better for it.

You may very well be the voice of your generation, but there’s more than one way to go from writer to published author. So before you enroll, take a step back and consider your options.

via GIPHY

The Cost

According to CostHelper, the average cost of an MFA program at a public university is $30,000. But if you’re attending an out-of-state university, you’re looking at closer to $50,000 or $60,000. In fact, one term alone at a private university can be roughly $18,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s May 2016 report, writers and authors earn a median annual wage of $61,240. But this number is flawed for several reasons. Certain authors, like James Patterson for instance, earn millions, while less-established writers’ income varies drastically. The lowest ten percent earned less than $29,380. Some have compared the cost of an MFA program in relation to what graduates can expect to earn to highway robbery.

Student Feedback: Going Digital

I have terrible handwriting, to be frank. And I know I’m not the only one with this problem. When I was a teenager, I went to the doctor’s for an ear infection, and he had me memorize the illegible prescription he had written for me. He jokingly said that “the smarter you are, the worse your handwriting is.” He more seriously said he wanted to be sure I got the right medication from the pharmacy. Looking back on that as an adult, less enchanted with the humor, I can see the danger is a misunderstood prescription. Now, there’s no imminent danger when it comes to the student feedback teacher’s leave on papers, but there is another kind of danger: frustrated students, illegible critiques and suggestions, and a classroom where writing feedback is never followed for the simple reason that the feedback can’t be read by students.