A New Minimum Standard?

This month, I was interviewed by The Writer Mag about Affording the MFA and its offerings for its May/June issue. But it got me thinking about the minimum stipend, which was set at $9K in 2012 to include a broader listing of schools. Since 2012, more programs have cropped up, and stipends have increased, even if only slightly. This meager $9K stipend no longer seems livable by the average standard of living. What do you think the minimum stipend should be in order to be listed on Affording the MFA? Or should our list simply set a low stipend ($10K, which all the schools on the list now meet) so that a broader list can be accessed?

(This post originally included a table of stipends listed from greatest to least. The stipend has been revised with additional information.)


(Art by Annette Kim)



10 thoughts on “A New Minimum Standard?”

  1. I’d vote for the more inclusive list. I applied to schools from all three sectors of your list, and your site was helpful as a foundation for researching programs.

  2. I know that some of these schools have lower stipends the first year. For instance, Illinois offers around 13,000 for the first year, but then nearly doubles that to 20,000 for the second and third year each. And Brown is almost 12,000 the first year, but then bumps that up to almost 24,000 the second year. So, it might be worth noting that these are first year numbers only, or note that some stipends increase later on in the program.

  3. Hi Robin, and thanks for all the lovely info on this site! The University of Maryland is fully funded and offers a first year teaching assistantship plus fellowship of about $20,800 the first year and a teaching assistantship of $19,700 the second (from the official acceptance letter I received). Four fiction writers and four poets are accepted every year.

  4. A few thoughts on these numbers–

    Pure stipend numbers without a current cost of living comparison can end up making programs seem more or less affordable than they actually are. Some places with equivalent stipends can be almost twice as expensive to live as others. $12k is far more liveable in Fayetteville, AR than in Boston (a cost of living comparison shows you’d need 20k in Boston to maintain the same standard of living that $12k provides in AR); $15k in Tucson goes a lot farther than the same in Seattle; etc.

    And pure stiped numbers give no indication of teaching loads. A program with a higher dollar amount may require a 2/2 teaching load each semester, while another program with only slightly less funding requires little or no teaching. In the second case, the student has additional opportunities to find other paid work to make up more than the difference during that time they are not required to teach.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Mac. It’s important for each applicant to research the cost of living in each area, and while a more nuanced table would be wonderful– I agree– the site is run without any funding on marginal free time . Volunteers to research this are welcome. Teaching and other training are provided in individual school pages.

      1. I was going to make a similar comment and understand your reasoning for not doing something as labor/research-intensive for ALL the programs. But perhaps you could narrow the list a bit by just removing those programs where the cost of living is obviously out of sync with the stipend amount? The school on the list that jumps out by that standard for me is Boston. There is no way most people could achieve an acceptable standard of living on that amount in that city while studying full-time.

  5. It is a good idea to include cost of living for each city though it’s somewhat tricky because of the range of this cost of living can vary so widely for an applicant. An applicant may be willing to live in a studio for the entirety of the program, but if the applicant has a partner (or even a child) they are also relocating, the amount rises. My idea then is to include a link to much more detailed information on the cost of living, and include an average rent price for a 1 BR.

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