Fully Funded MFA Programs

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Education is expensive, and a degree in art is no exception. Between the tough choices of paying back massive student loans from an undergrad degree and the financial doom of more loans from graduate school, it’s easy to say no to more schools. An MFA can be an expensive degree, and it's almost never a good idea to go into a lot of debt for this degree. 

Suppose an alternative path existed? Picture attending university sans the burden of tuition fees. Imagine acquiring money as you pursue an MFA degree. Albeit it might seem somewhat fantastical, this scenario genuinely transpires. 

The thing is, there are fully funded programs available out there for a wide variety of subjects—even those that fall under the “arts.”  Some of the best schools in the country offer full funding as a recruitment tactic to make it easier to attract top talent and students. Many MFA programs fully fund their students, while others will fund based solely on merit. 

Of course, it’s not like they’re just handing out free money. For the school to pay for education, students have to meet stringent admission requirements. But hey, if you’re willing to work hard and go the extra step to prove that you’re hungry, there are big prizes out there.

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What is Full Funding? 

The School's Side of the Deal

Getting into a fully funded MFA program is an awesome way to get an education, but its also a deal where both the school and the student have an obligation to fulfill. On the school's side, that usually means waiving the cost of tuition for the student. The definition of full funding varies from school to school when it comes to MFA programs. Generally, though, schools define it as covering the cost of tuition in addition to any combination of the following: 

  • A modest stipend for living expenses (based on the average cost of living in the area) 
  • Health insurance coverage
  • Waives certain fees that the program may have (registration costs, health fees, student activity fees, etc. )

The amount a school can award depends mainly on how much “budget” it has for the program. The number of qualified applicants and the needs of individual students also play a big factor in how much is available to go around.

In truth, certain learners face rejection not due to a lack of qualifications, but rather because insufficient financial resources preclude their acceptance. The other reality is that some students are accepted into programs because of the student's own deep pockets - the school wouldn't have to pay for the student.  Because of all this, program sizes are sometimes kept quite small - 10-12 students in total.

The phrase that schools like to use when it comes to full funding is “enough to live on.” This is the amount that they think is enough to live on as a student per year and is what determines the amount they award students as a stipend.  An academic stipend is designed to replace the potential income you could be earning as an employee instead of being a student. 

Examine the implications of the following scenario:

Suppose an MFA program grants a yearly stipend of $12,000 while concurrently absorbing tuition fees. Consequently, students are relieved from concerns regarding educational expenses (excluding textbooks and supplementary resources) but must still contend with housing, sustenance, and additional outlays. The stipend's intent is to alleviate these financial burdens.

Put another way, you’re not going to be rich off of a fully funded program, and you won’t be able to live like royalty. You’ll still have to be smart with your money, find affordable housing, and maybe eat instant ramen when the funds get low, but at least you won’t be going into MASSIVE debt. 

The Student Side of the Deal

If we look at the relationship here as Cost of tuition + Stipend = Employee salary, then it makes sense that a student in a fully funded MFA program is essentially being "paid" to go to school. What, then, must a postgraduate scholar undertake to satisfy their part of the agreement?

  • Teach undergraduate classes
  • Attend conferences
  • Deliver lectures
  • Serve as a teacher's assistant
  • Assist with various tasks and research projects
  • ....? (They can come up with some really unique/fun/crazy assignments)

And while juggling all this work, most important of all, a student has to have strong grades and be a good student.

Contemplate the following perspective: The educational institution effectively bestows upon you a bursary (covering tuition fees) whilst concurrently remunerating your attendance (the stipend designated for living expenditures). Admittedly, the monetary value of certain stipends may be modest for subsistence; nonetheless, their cumulative worth equates to a minimum of $30,000 or more.

Fully Funded MFA Programs

Numerous MFA programs exist nationwide; however, a mere handful boast full funding. To facilitate your search, we have endeavored to compile an assortment of the most exemplary programs across the nation.

John Hopkins University

Stipend amount offered: $30,500
Benefits Offered: Tuition, Health Insurance

John Hopkins University tops off our list as the school with the most generous teaching fellowship. With a substantial allocation of $30,500, this program ranks among the nation's most generously financed initiatives, transcending various fields, particularly within the realm of artistic disciplines. The two-year Master of Fine Arts in fiction and poetry offers intensive seminars focused on diverse readings, small workshops, one-on-one advising, and frequent interaction with published writers. Naturally, given its status as one of the nation's premier institutions, gaining admittance to the program proves highly challenging. Each year only four poets and four fiction writers are admitted.  These lucky students are fully funded and they teach one class a semester for three semesters - giving them lots of time to refine their craft.

University of Texas - Michener Center for Writers

Stipend amount offered: $27,500
Benefits Offered: Tuition

The MFA in writing program at the University of Texas Michener is a three-year full-time program. Students are admitted based on their main field of concentration - fiction, poetry, playwriting or screenwriting. Each admitted student receives a fellowship of $27,500 from the Michener fellowship. The late author James Michener and his wife Mari Subasawa Michener put together this fellowship to support students as they progress in their studies. Students may also apply for professional development funds to attend writing conferences, residencies fund research or travel, or to use as a summer stipend while writing a project. The money comes with a story:  with each year's incoming student class, Michener would admonish, "Don't waste your time or my money." Great advice even 21 years after his death.

Cornell University

Stipend amount offered: $26,426
Benefits Offered: Tuition, health insurance

The Creative Writing Program at Cornell University offers concentrations in poetry or fiction. As a competitive program, only eight students are admitted each year, four in each concentration. This small size allows the school to offer generous financial support packages that fully funds each student. A notable advantage of this program entails each participant selecting a dedicated committee comprising two faculty members. These mentors collaborate with the student to tailor a curriculum aligned with the individual's pursuits. Furthermore, the program guarantees two years of financial support for all enrolled students. During the first year, students are assigned a graduate assistantship with EPOCH magazine, Cornell's publication of fiction, poetry, and more. In the second year, students are then assigned a teaching assistantship.

Rutgers University - Newark

Stipend amount offered: $26,000
Benefits Offered: Tuition, health insurance

The Rutgers University - Newark MFA program is a studio/research program that allows writers to study literature as they work to create it. This program differs from other MFA programs in that it gives students a chance to fulfill the credit requirements by choosing unique Electives Concentrations, enabling students to work in a wide range of genres. For example, those that choose Literature/Book Arts will work with photographer Nick Kline to create and design a chapbook of their own work. Performance/Media Studies gives students the chance to study writing for the stage or television with playwright Michele Rittenhouse, and urban and narrative journalism with Rob Snyder, or jazz influences with Lewis Porter. This unique approach ensures that students will have an educational experience unlike anything else in the country.  Students are typically offered a Teaching Assistantship and will be required to teach composition classes.

Vanderbilt University

Stipend amount offered: $26,000
Benefits Offered: Tuition, health insurance

"Creative Writing has been a vital part of the Vanderbilt English Department for nearly a century," reads the first sentence on Vanderbilt's website. Unquestionably, Vanderbilt's MFA in creative writing stands among the nation's most esteemed and munificent programs, devised to cultivate gifted authors and poets. Nestled in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt epitomizes a harmonious fusion of avant-garde Southern culture and artistic vigor. The program extends comprehensive financial support to new enrollees; however, in their second year, students acquire the prospect of instructing an introductory creative writing workshop for a single term.

Washington University in St. Louis

Stipend amount offered: $22,830
Benefits Offered: Tuition, Health insurance

This school is located where St. Louis City meets St. Louis County, right across one of the largest urban parks in the country. Washington University in St. Louis is known throughout the region as an academic powerhouse. A distinguishing feature of this program is its status as one of the rare MFA initiatives that forego the GRE requirement for admission. Spanning a two-year duration with a group of 20 to 25 students, attendees are encouraged to delve into fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction as their primary focus. Annually, the institution welcomes an eclectic assembly of poets, fiction authors, and nonfiction writers to the department, enriching students' exposure to a wide spectrum of literary creators. The school is able to offer all new students full and equal financial aid in the form of a University Fellowship, which allows students to live somewhat comfortably in a relatively inexpensive city. Additionally, there are two university wide fellowships available that graduate students can apply for that carry a stipend of $31,296.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Stipend amount offered: $22,000
Benefits Offered: Tuition, Health insurance

The University of Michigan has a well proven reputation in academics and in the college sports world.  The creative writing MFA is no different. The Helen Zell Writer's program is a two-year, fully funded MFA in creative writing where students focus on fiction or poetry. This program's faculty is what makes it stand out from other programs. They have collectively written, translated, and edited more than fifty books and won numerous awards. But beyond accomplishments and accolades, the program really seeks to get at the heart of why writing is important - "to push back against the darkness of intolerance and injustice, to give voice to perspectives that might otherwise be silenced." At the end of two years of courses, students must submit an MFA thesis. Following a successful defense of it, students are granted a third-year residency in Ann Arbor, writing and engaging in community service work of their choice, $25000 per fellow.

University of Illinois, Urbana - Champaign

Stipend amount offered: $21,493 (scaled)
Benefits Offered: Tuition, Health insurance, Partial fee waiver

The University of Illinois, a renowned global research and educational establishment, houses the nation's third most extensive library, boasting in excess of eight million volumes—an impressive literary collection. The MFA program here provides students an opportunity to take classes and study with distinguished faculty. The program's paramount objective is to afford writers the opportunity and environment to refine their craft. Financial assistance is granted to all admitted students for the duration of the three year curriculum. Predominantly, this support is delivered via teaching assistantships, with a select number of fellowships accessible However, the funding is scaled. The first year of support is set at 33%, where students earn $10,586 and teach one class a semester.  In the second and third years, students receive 67% appointments that take them to around $21,493. There are supplemental fellowship funds that are awarded to beef up the stipend.

University of California Irvine

Stipend amount offered: $20,050
Benefits Offered: Tuition, Health insurance (medical, dental, vision)

The University of California, Irvine, ranks among the most favored institutions for inhabitants of Southern California. The MFA program here is designed for students that are committed to perfecting their craft. The programs primary aspiration is to guide its students in crafting enduring works of fiction or poetry. Each year more than 500 applicants apply to the program, and only twelve are selected. The program's intimate scale guarantees ample opportunities for students to engage with faculty members and obtain the requisite, individualized guidance for their endeavors. Within this three year initiative, participants are granted financial aid through teaching assistantships, including tuition fellowships for those residing out of state. These students are required to teach one undergraduate composition or creative writing class per quarter for a total of three courses per academic year.

University of Cincinnati

Stipend amount offered: $20,000
Benefits Offered: Tuition

The University of Cincinnati is home to a thriving creative writing program that features the talents of distinguished award winning writers. Established in 1819 the University of Cincinnati's English graduate program has held a significant position within the institution for over a century, as one of the earliest to provide an advanced graduate curriculum. Students have the option to concentrate their pursuits within four primary domains: creative writing, literary and cultural studies, professional writing, and rhetoric and composition. Funding is based on academic credit, and the school offers a University Graduate Scholarship that awards financial aid based on academic merit. The graduate assistantship award provides a stipend in addition to a UGS award. Students will be required to teach one section of English Composition per term, with three office hours each week (in total, working for approximately 20 hours per week).

University of Virginia

Stipend amount offered: $20,000
Benefits Offered: Tuition, Enrollment fees, Health insurance

In addition to its esteemed reputation, the University of Virginia acknowledges the myriad challenges faced by students during their inaugural year in a novel program. As they acclimate to graduate life, forge new connections, keep abreast of coursework, and foster creativity, the initial year can prove taxing. Consequently, the University of Virginia distinguishes itself as one of the select programs that relieve first-year students of teaching duties, enabling them to concentrate on their writing. During the second year, the fellowship income drops to $10,000 from $20,000, but students earn $10,000 as teaching income for teaching one class per term (usually an introductory level creative writing workshops like Introduction to Poetry Writing or Fiction Writing). Funding is simultaneously allocated to all students, eliminating the need for them to vie for financial support throughout their tenure at UVA. Following the completion of their second year, students may pursue an additional year of teaching assistance. This third year of funding will depend on performance in the MFA program, teaching evaluations, and a successfully defended thesis at the end of the second year.

University of Maryland

Stipend amount offered: $19,700
Benefits Offered: Tuition

The University of Maryland's MFA program holds a prestigious national ranking, boasting alumni who have garnered numerous accolades and fellowships. It is part of a rich literary community and shares fiction and poetry readings at nearby schools like Georgetown, Howard, John Hopkins, George Mason, George Washington, American University, the PEN/Faulkner, and a variety of local bookstores.  As a program designed to help aspiring writers perfect their ability to compose poems, stories, and novels, this program gives students a chance to study in intensive studios while doing practical work within their chosen genres. The MFA also requires students to study literature in order to broaden their perspectives. This is a highly competitive program. Each year only four fiction writers and four poets are admitted and fully funded by Teaching Assistantships. The funding arrangement generally anticipates a two year program completion, offering a stipend of $18100 in the initial year and $19700 in the subsequent year. First year students instruct a single class, whereas second year students assume responsibility for three classes during their final year.

Iowa State University

Stipend amount offered: $19,200
Benefits Offered: Tuition, Health insurance

The three year MFA program in Creative Writing and Environment is unique in the academic world because it goes beyond study in creative writing-poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama. Instead, it emphasizes the idea that writers can identify and explore their stories in the natural world and environmental imagination. Indeed, the program delves into the manner in which our surroundings mold our perspectives and subsequently influence our interpretation of narratives and visuals. This program is a combination of creative writing workshops, literature coursework, environmental fieldwork experience, interdisciplinary studies in courses outside of English, and one-on-one work with mentors. Ames is an affordable city, so the stipend offered by the program goes a long way to having a comfortable life as a student.

University of Iowa Writer's Workshop

Stipend amount offered: $19,000
Benefits Offered: Tuition, Health insurance

The Iowa Writer's workshop is an MFA program that results in the submission of a creative thesis (a book of poetry, novel, or a collection of stories). This program generally accepts up to fifty students each year - 25 in fiction and 25 in poetry. The program offers financial assistance to learners through teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. These fellowships and assistantships usually provide tuition scholarships or full tuition remission. The quantity of the stipend is subject to change based on the duration of a learners involvement in the program. (For instance, a one-quarter time student will receive a smaller sum than a full-time student.)

University of Florida, Gainesville

Stipend amount offered: $18,067
Benefits Offered: Tuition

The webpage for the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Florida, Gainesville greets you with a promise that if the program were half as warm and welcoming as the text on the website, you'd be happy here. Although it is among the most established writing programs in the country its longstanding reputation has kept it as one of the academic writing community's best kept secrets. This is a remarkable fact given the program's undeniable reputation for excellence in writing education. They are ranked highly by Poets & Writers and have a very high job placement rate. This program believes that good writing comes not just from talent and practice but also from the counseling that comes from other writers. To ensure alignment with faculty strengths and interests, the program actively recruits students who are the most suitable candidates. Students may not be the most accomplished writers, but they are accomplished in ways that the faculty can work with. Still, it's a competitive program as more than 500 people apply each year, and only six students are selected in each genre.

University of Oregon

Stipend amount offered: $18,000
Benefits Offered: Tuition, Student fee reduction, Health insurance

The creative writing program at the University of Oregon is a two-year residency with concentrations in poetry or fiction. Like many writing programs, this program emphasizes the importance of workshopping, integrating concentrated time for craft seminars and individualized reading tutorials. This is a rigorous program that is meant to challenge aspiring writers and is a program taught by faculty that went through similar rigorous apprenticeships. All incoming students are funded with a teaching appointment, meaning that they are not merely assistants to a class taught by a faculty member but instead are the ones solely responsible for the course. First-year students teach one course per 11-week term for a total of three courses in the year (usually an introduction to fiction, or poetry class). Second-year students usually teach a composition class on a similar schedule for a total of three courses in the year.  10 Graduate students are accepted by the program annually.

Purdue University

Stipend amount offered: $18,000
Benefits Offered: Tuition, Student free reduction, Merit Raises

Purdue Universitys Creative Writing Program is a place where budding artists can work on their craft and seek the mentorship of internationally renowned faculty. Ultimately it is a program that is a destination for those that are interested in careers as writers, editors, teachers, non profit administrators, arts administrators, and more. With a remarkable student faculty ratio of approximately 3.5 to 1 this three year program is fully funded and considered one of the best in the country. In the first two years students focus on completing their coursework while dedicating the third year to their thesis. Additionally students are obligated to teach one course per semester. After the first year they can opt to teach extra courses to earn supplemental payments beyond the standard base stipend of $13000 for 10 months.

Louisiana State University

Stipend amount offered: $16,500 (with a B.A) $17,000 (with an M.A.)
Benefits Offered: Tuition

Located near the vibrant city of New Orleans, the MFA program at Louisiana State University is a three-year, generously funded program that is home to writers seeking to push their writing abilities. In a program designed for students to work closely with faculty, students are encouraged to find their unique voice as they work to write in traditional, hybrid, and new media genres. This MFA program encourages students to also seek learning outside of just English and literature. It emphasizes critical discussions about arts and culture, politics and history, and a wide variety of topics. MFA students are awarded a teaching assistantship and are only required to each class per semester. One of the true benefits of attending this program is its location. Because New Orleans and Baton Rouge are considered unique American cultural and artistic hubs, students are able to participate in many celebrations of art throughout the year.

Syracuse University

Stipend amount offered: $17,220
Benefits Offered: Tuition

At Syracuse University, aspiring writers can partake in a three-year MFA program, which provides a chance to learn, refine, and express their creative writing skills alongside fellow artists. This program is known for having a close-knit community that is genuinely concerned with helping each other grow in their artistic endeavors. It is a competitive program to get into, however. Only six poets and six fiction writers are admitted each year. But these twelve students get to work closely with eight full-time faculties and at least one renowned visiting writer each year. Each student is awarded a full tuition scholarship and a stipend - though some of these scholarships are configured to include teaching classes in the Writing Program. Ultimately, the belief of Syracuse University is that students should not be laden down with massive student loan payments when they graduate. "Talen, not wealth, is the sole prerequisite for admission."

University of Arizona

Stipend amount offered: $16,120 (with master's degree) $14,808 (no master's degree)
Benefits Offered: Tuition, Health Insurance
Does not cover: Books, Course Fees

The University of Arizona prides itself on being a future thinking university with a focus on the world of tomorrow. Recognizing the importance of creative writing and humanities in society, this school offers a fully funded MFA program in Creative Writing. This three year program provides opportunities for research and travel, allowing students to focus on poetry, fiction, or nonfiction while also promoting genre crossing work. Generally, students are offered a graduate teaching assistantship position teaching one or two sections of first year writing (or creative writing) to undergraduates and are eligible to receive additional awards, funding, and research grants.

University of Miami

Stipend amount offered: $15,965
Benefits Offered: Tuition

University of Miamis MFA is a program that prides itself in being located in a metropolis of polyglot communities this program places special emphasis on multilingual craft and gives writers a unique opportunity to hone their abilities in a vibrant multicultural city. This multicultural and multilingual approach allows students to write from different linguistic modalities such as regional dialects, and slang, and technical jargon. Students are encouraged to go beyond superficial language patterns and to really delve into the unique culture and history of different linguistic backgrounds. The James Michener Fellowships and Teaching Assistantships support all graduate students in the program. MFA students are required to teach one section of Introduction to Creative Writing per semester during their second year of the program. During the optional third year students are required to teach two sections of composition per semester and will receive faculty mentorship towards professional development.

Arizona State University

Stipend amount offered: $15,000 (per year)
Benefits offered: Tuition waiver, health insurance

Renowned for its MFA program, Arizona State University boasts distinguished faculty members and accomplished alumni as evidence of its success. Through small classes, intimate workshops, and one on one mentoring, students are encouraged to push their writing abilities in a number of different genres. When students are admitted to the program and submit a teacher assistantship application, they are awarded a teaching assistantship and stipend. Each teaching assistantship carries a three course per year load. Students in Arizona State Universitys MFA program must enroll in a minimum of six credit hours each semester. Students of the program also have additional opportunities to receive creative research fellowships, attend conferences like the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference, moderate panels at conferences, and more.

University Of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

Stipend amount offered: $13,500
Benefits Offered: Tuition, Health Insurance
Does not cover: Books, Course Fees

The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa hosts a creative writing MFA program, featuring workshops, forms courses, and literature classes that encourage students to explore various writing styles. In addition to the programs academic excellence students choose UA for its distinguished reputation as one of the most esteemed schools in the state. This program guarantees up to four years of full financial support. Students that are accepted into the program automatically qualify for graduate assistantships which also include a stipend of $13140 paid over nine months. All incoming students are also automatically considered for additional financial awards, including "Graduate Council Fellowships, McNair Fellowships, and Truman Capote Scholarships.

University of Arkansas

Stipend amount offered: $12,000 (per year for students with BA) $12,600 (with MA or equivalent) 
Benefits offered: Tuition waiver

This university overlooking the Ozark mountains has been home to academics for more than 140 years. Upon acceptance into the University of Arkansas MFA program students are obliged to teach two courses per semester. However, during their fourth year in the program, they are only required to teach one course. As a well-funded program, nearly all students of the program are awarded teacher assistantships. Students also have the opportunity to compete each year for several Walton Fellowships of $14,000 and several James T. Whitehead and Lily Peter Fellowships of $1,000 or greater. On top of this, learners worth $4,000 per year for up to four years may be awarded to academically qualified candidates. In other words, do well in your classes and earn money. Translation learners that are working on Middle-Eastern languages are also eligible for non teaching fellowships of $12,000 per year.

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Score: 100.0

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