Full residency mfa creative writing programs
By Kim Winternheimer
Deciding between a low-residency program and a more traditional course of study to pursue your MFA can be difficult. Low-residency programs are fairly new to the scene, offering writers who can’t commit to a program that requires living on campus the opportunity to pursue their creative writing goals. Aside from a few residencies each year (two sessions a year on the campus where the program is offered is typical) writers in low-residency programs live as they normally would. Many of them have fulltime jobs, kids, and attend to the 20-30 hours a week their MFA program demands of them when time allows.
The pros and cons associated with pursuing an MFA in creative writing vary greatly, and the dialogue about whether low-residency programs are worth their salt is a source of discussion among MFA applicants who are faced with the difficult decision as to which program is right for them. As an editor for The Masters Review, I see stories from MFA students pursuing both forms of study. While The Masters Review showcases all new and emerging writers, our flagship publication is an anthology of ten stories written by students currently pursuing their MFA, MA, or PhD in creative writing. While we do see stories from students in the latter two categories, the majority of our submissions are from students enrolled in MFA programs. Last year, The Masters Review published four stories written by students in low-residency programs. Four stories we claimed were among the best in the country. Four stories that were screened and chosen by New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Groff. While we had submissions from many highly ranked fulltime MFA programs — stories from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the Michener Center for Writers, and UC Irvine, just to name a few — it does make a strong case for those pursuing an MFA remotely: that although the programs differ in structure, there is absolutely no difference in terms of the quality of writing.
Now, this isn’t a case against the schools and programs that offer full-residency. Those programs have proven time and again to churn out writers of extremely high merit. My only point is that our publication is a very clear testament to the quality of stories being produced from writers who are able to pursue their degrees remotely. That improving your craft through a program which allows you to live a very real writer’s life is just as valuable as some of the more traditional options. In fact to me, the very definition of a low-residency program mimics the life of an aspiring writer. You write when you can, you carve out minutes, hours, and nights to tend to your craft . . . then you get up in the morning and you go to your real job. I don’t mean that to be cruel. I simply mean that most emerging authors aren’t sustaining their lives with fiction, and one of the clear pros I see to a low-residency program is the ebb and flow of developing that sort of balance to your life.
Of course there are cons to choosing a low-residency program, just as there are cons to pursing a graduate degree on campus. One such criticism is that low-residency programs don’t provide the focus on teaching necessary for graduates to land a job. While most remote programs don’t require students to teach in order to receive funding, and therefore don’t focus as tightly on aspects of teaching, there are many excellent schools that do provide this concentration. I would tell someone who really wants to teach to look into those programs. He won’t have a hard time finding one. However, this does bring to light one of the greatest differences between the two programs, which is the issue of funding.
Many fulltime courses of study provide students with funding in order to offset tuition. Usually students are required to teach undergraduate classes and engage in a certain number of work hours for the university in exchange for this reduced tuition. This is a fantastic way to reduce the cost of pursuing a graduate degree and give students a working example of what life is like for the creative-writing teacher. It’s a win-win for the universities as well as for the students.
Unfortunately for low-residency programs, logistics get in the way. Because students aren’t on campus and are generally unavailable for work study, they aren’t able to ‘earn’ a reduced tuition. There are an increasing number of low-residency programs that will allow students the opportunity to work for the university, however this isn’t a common construction and it isn’t as widely available as most students would like. The bottom line is, pursuing your MFA remotely does tend to cost more. However, total tuition costs are less than many traditional graduate programs and low-residency students have the added benefit of continuing to work for their current employer while they pursue a degree.
One can go into a lengthy discussion about what works best and what doesn’t, the fact of the matter being that both programs produce truly wonderful writers. Talented writing can and is being nurtured through remote programs and I am continually amazed at the quality, ingenuity, and sensibility behind that writing. Anyone considering a low-residency program who is nervous about the quality of their degree should look carefully at the many highly qualified low-residency schools. Take into consideration that from our perspective, in comparing the two programs, the end product – your writing – is the same.
One Comment on “The Low-Residency Question”
- Amy Lapisardi April 5th, 2013 9:57 am
One thing to bear in mind is that not all full residency programs provide funding and some only provide funding for a small number of students. I live in Chicago and although I was admitted to a couple of local full-residency programs, they either weren’t as strong as the low-residency programs that admitted me or they were substantially more expensive and didn’t offer funding. For example, School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s tuition exceeds 30k a year and they have a limited amount of funding. Even if you do get a teaching position, it doesn’t come with a tuition remission. The MFA program at Roosevelt University (also in Chicago) provides teaching experience as an internship, but not as a paid position. If you don’t have any teaching experience whatsoever I suppose those might still be good opportunities. if , like me, you’re already entering with an MA from another discipline and have a teaching background, a low-residency program may actually be better for teaching since it gives you greater flexibility to pick up adjunct spots from local colleges.
Fully Funded MFA Programs in Creative Writing
Cornell University offers a fully funded MFA program in Creative Writing.
As part of our series How to Fully Fund Your Master’s Degree, here is a list of universities that have fully funded MFA programs in creative writing. A Master’s of Fine Arts in creative writing can lead to a career as a professional writer, in academia, and more.
Fully funded MFA programs in Creative Writing offer a financial aid package for full-time students that includes full tuition remission as well as an annual stipend or salary during the entire program, which for Master’s degrees is usually 1-2 years. Funding usually comes with the expectation that students will teach or complete research in their field of study. Not all universities fully fund their Master’s students, which is why researching the financial aid offerings of many different programs, including small and lesser-known schools both in the U.S. and abroad, is essential.
In addition to listing fully funded Master’s and PhD programs, the ProFellow fellowships database also includes external funding opportunities for graduate school, including fellowships for dissertation research, fieldwork, language study, study abroad, summer work experiences, and professional development.
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Here is the list of 53 universities that offer fully-funded MFA programs (Master’s of Fine Arts) in Creative Writing.
University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL): Students admitted to the MFA Program are guaranteed full financial support for up to 4-years. Assistantships include a stipend paid over nine months (currently $14,125), and full payment of up to 15 credit hours of graduate tuition.
University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ): All accepted MFA students receive full funding through a graduate teaching assistantship for 3 years. This package includes tuition remission, health insurance, and a modest stipend (in 2018 it was about $16,100 per academic year).
Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ): 3-year program. All students admitted to the MFA program who submit a complete and approved teaching assistantship application are awarded a TA by the Department of English. Each assistantship carries a three-course per year load and includes a tuition waiver and health insurance in addition to the TA stipend ($18,564 per year). In addition, students have diverse opportunities for additional financial and professional support.
University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, AR): Four-year program. Teaching assistantships currently carry an annual stipend of $13,500 for students with a BA. TAs also receive a waiver of all tuition costs and teach two courses each semester. Nearly all of our accepted students receive TAs. Additionally, the students compete each year for several fellowships.
Boise State University (Boise, Idaho): 3-year fully funded MFA program dedicated to poetry and fiction. All students receive a tuition waiver, health insurance, and a Teaching Assistantship with a stipend of $11,450 per year.
Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, OH): 2-year program, graduate assistantships (including stipend and scholarship) are available for all eligible face-to-face students. 100% tuition scholarship. Graduate stipend (the 2020-21 stipend is $11,500).
Brown University (Providence, RI): All incoming MFA students received full funding. All graduate students receive a fellowship that pays a monthly stipend and provides tuition remission, the health fee, and health insurance. The stipend for the 2020-2021 academic year is $29,926. Also, students in good standing receive a summer stipend of $2,993.
Boston University (Boston, MA): Tuition costs will be covered for every admitted student for the MFA degree in the BU Creative Writing Program. In addition, admitted students will receive university health insurance while they are enrolled, and all admitted students will receive stipend support of roughly $16,000 for the academic year.
Cornell University (Ithaca, NY): All MFA degree candidates are guaranteed 2 years of funding (including a stipend, a full-tuition fellowship, and student health insurance).
University of California Irvine (Irvine, CA): 3-year program. The Department is committed to providing 3 full years of financial support to all domestic students in the MFA Programs in Writing. Financial support for MFA students is given in the form of Teaching Assistantships providing full tuition coverage as well as University health insurance. Students will earn an estimated $22,569 for the academic year.
University of California San Diego (La Jolla, CA): MFA in Writing students are eligible for financial support if they study full-time, maintain good academic standing and make timely progress toward the degree. All students are eligible for full funding, including international students provided they meet the English language certification requirement for teaching assistants.
University of California Riverside (Riverside, CA): All incoming students are granted a full fellowship and stipend for their first year. After the first year, students receive full tuition and a salary through teaching assistantships.
Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton, FL): 3-year program. All of the MFA students qualify for a position as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. The GTA position comes with a tuition waiver and a stipend. The standard stipend is $9,000, but some enhanced stipends are available. The Graduate College offers several fellowships for current graduate students.
Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL): The majority of students receive support in the form of a teaching assistantship and are provided with a stipend, a tuition waiver, and a health-insurance subsidy. MFA students receive a three-year assistantship. For 2022-23, MA/MFA stipends will be $16,400, and typically these amounts go up each year. Also, The FSU Graduate School offers several fellowships and awards.
University of Houston (Houston, TX): MFA students can receive a teaching assistantship for 3 years. Starting salary for MFAs is $17,935/9 months. Students in the Creative. As part of the assistantship, students are awarded either a Graduate Tuition Fellowship, which remits tuition, or a Creative Writing Program Fellowship, which covers the cost of tuition.
University of Idaho (Moscow, Idaho): All English Teaching Assistants (TA’s) are offered full tuition waivers. Teaching Assistants are given a stipend of $14,000 per year. Also offers three scholarships and three outstanding fellowships to support qualified MFA, graduate students.
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Urbana, IL): Three-year MFA program. Students accepted into the MFA program will receive full tuition waivers, guaranteed teaching assistantships.
Indiana University (Bloomington, IN): M.F.A. programs offer a generous teaching package to creative writing students. All applicants receive consideration for appropriate fellowships that will carry a stipend of about $19,000, plus tuition and fee-remission that covers roughly 90% of the cost of enrollment.
Iowa State University (Ames, IA): 3-year MFA program. Starting half-time 20 hours per week teaching assistantships for MFA students total $19,250 over 10 months and also receive a full-tuition waiver scholarship (approximate value $10,140) and health insurance coverage. The department has several resources available through which to offer fellowships and scholarships to qualifying new students.
University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA): 2-year residency program. Financial assistance is available for all students enrolled in the program, in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. Most fellowships and assistantships provide either tuition scholarships or full tuition remission.
John Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD): 2-year program. All students receive full tuition, health insurance, and a generous teaching fellowship, currently set at $30,500 per year. Some students work as assistant editors on The Hopkins Review. They often win prizes such as Stegner Fellowships or grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.
University of Maryland (College Park, MD): This 3-year program accepts 8 applicants who are fully funded by Teaching Assistantships for up to three years of graduate study. Our aid packages include a stipend of about $20,000 per academic year and 60 credit hours of tuition remission.
Miami University (Oxford, OH): All students admitted to the MFA program in Creative Writing hold generous Graduate Assistantships (which include a summer stipend). Non-teaching assistantships may also be available.
University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL): An intensive two-year study with a third year option. The James Michener Fellowships and Teaching Assistantships support all our graduate students. Awards include a full tuition waiver and annual stipend of $18,915.
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI): All MFA students accepted into the program are offered a full tuition waiver, a stipend of $23,000/yearly as well as $5,000 in summer funding, and health care benefits. Additionally, various fellowships and prizes are awarded each year to MFA students.
University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN): All admitted MFAs receive full funding, in the form of teaching assistantships or fellowships. Teaching assistantships carry a full tuition waiver, health benefits, and a stipend of about $18,600. Also, a variety of fellowships are available for graduate students.
University of Mississippi (University, MS): All of our students are fully funded. We offer two main sources of funding, the Grisham Fellowships and Teaching Assistantships.
University of Nevada Las Vegas (Las Vegas, NV): 3-year program. All MFA students admitted to the Creative Writing International program at UNLV are offered Graduate Assistantship funding of $15,000 per year (which includes in-state tuition and provisions for health insurance).
Northwestern University (Evanston, IL): Funding is provided for 3 full years, summers included. Tuition is covered by a tuition scholarship during any quarter in which you are receiving a stipend.
University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, IN): Every student admitted to the MFA receives a full-tuition scholarship, a fellowship that carries a full stipend of $16,000 per year and access to a 100% health insurance subsidy.
North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC): A two-year, fully-funded program, They accept only about a dozen students each year and offer full funding in the form of a graduate teaching assistantship to all eligible admitted applicants.
Ohio State University (Columbus, OH): All admitted students are fully funded for our 3-year MFA program in Creative Writing. In addition, all students receive either a graduate teaching associateship, a Graduate School fellowship or a combination of the two. For graduate teaching associateships, the student receives a stipend of at least $17,000 for the nine-month academic year.
University of Oregon (Eugene OR): A two-year residency MFA program. All incoming MFA students funded with a teaching appointment. Student instructors receive tuition remission, monthly stipends of approximately $18,000.
Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR): All students admitted to the MFA program will automatically receive a standard teaching Graduate Teaching Assistantship contract, which provides full tuition remission and stipend of approximately $12,800 per year to cover living expenses. In addition to tuition remission, all graduate students have the option to receive 89% coverage of health insurance costs for themselves and their dependents.
Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN): This 3-year program offers teaching assistantships that provide a base stipend of approximately $18,000 for ten months, remission of tuition and most fees, plus merit raises.
University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA): 3-year MFA program. All students admitted to the program will receive Teaching Assistantships for two or three years. All Teaching Assistantships include salary, medical benefits, and tuition remission.
Rutgers University–Newark (Newark, NJ): Each full-time incoming student receives in-state Tuition Remission and a Chancellor’s Stipend of 15K per year. Students are also eligible for Teaching Assistantships, and Part-Time Lectureships teaching Comp or Creative Writing. Teaching Assistantships are $25,969 (approximate) plus health benefits.
University of South Florida (Tampa, FL): 3-year program. MFA students receive a tuition waiver, a teaching assistantship that comes with a stipend, and enrollment in group health insurance.
Southern Illinois University (Carbondale, IL): Almost all MFA students hold graduate assistantships, which provide stipends for the academic year and full remission of tuition. The annual stipend, which comes with tuition remission, ranges from $13,000 to $14,500.
Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY): Three-Year M.F.A. in Creative Writing. All students are fully funded. Each student admitted receives a full-tuition scholarship in addition to an annual stipend of $17,500.
University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC): 3-year MFA program. The MFA at Carolina is pleased to provide fellowship and/or assistantship funding to all accepted students, earning our program the designation of “fully funded” from Poets and Writers.
University of Tennessee — Knoxville (Knoxville, TN): There is no cost to apply to the MFA program. All of our PhD candidates and MFA students are fully funded, with generous opportunities for additional financial support.
University of Texas in Austin (Austin, TX): All students in the New Writers Project receive three years of full funding through a combination of teaching assistantships (TA), assistant instructorships (AI), and fellowship support. The complete package includes full tuition remission, health insurance, and a salary.
University of Texas James Michener Center (Austin, TX): A three-year, fully funded residency MFA program that provides full and equal funding to every writer. All admitted students receive a fellowship of $29,500 per academic year, plus total coverage of tuition.
Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN): Each year a small, select class of talented writers of fiction and poetry enroll in Vanderbilt’s three-year, fully-funded MFA Program in Creative Writing. The University Fellowship provides full-tuition benefits, health insurance, and a stipend of $30,000/yearly. In 2nd year and third-year students have the opportunity to teach for one semester.
University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA): Three-year MFA program. Students will receive fellowship support and/or teaching income in the amount of $20,000 each academic year, as well as full funding of your tuition, enrollment fees, and the health insurance premium for single-person coverage through the university.
Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA): Three-year MFA degree offers tracks in Poetry and Fiction, and all students are fully and equally funded via GTA-ships of more than $20,000 per year.
Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, MO): Because of selectivity and size they are able to offer all the new students full and equal financial aid for both years in the program in the form of a University Fellowship, which provides a complete tuition waiver plus a stipend sufficient for students to live comfortably in our relatively inexpensive city. All MFA students receive health insurance through Washington University.
Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green, KY): Three-year, fully-funded, residential MFA program in creative writing offering generous assistantships, which will allow MFA students to gain valuable experience tutoring and teaching.
West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV): A three-year program. All Master of Fine Arts students receive a full tuition waiver and an assistantship, which includes a stipend valued at $16,750.
Wichita State University (Wichita, Kansas): Most of the MFA students are GTAs who teach two composition classes each semester. They pay no tuition, receive $4,250 each semester and may buy discounted health insurance. The MFA program also awards two $12,500 fellowships each year.
University of Wisconsin–Madison (Madison, WI): All accepted MFA candidates receive tuition remissions, teaching assistantships, generous health insurance, and other financial support. In addition to the approximately $14,680 paid to each MFA annually in exchange for teaching, every MFA candidate will receive another $9,320 in scholarships each year.
University of Wyoming (Laramie, WY): All of our full-time MFA students are fully funded with two-year graduate assistantships. Currently, assistantships include a stipend of $12,330 per academic year, a tuition and fees waiver, and student health insurance. Students also receive summer stipends of up to $2,000 for the summer.
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