Are creative writing degrees worth the crippling debt?

An unprecedented donation to an MFA program raises the question of the value of creative writing degrees. Plus, debate rages over whether to pay writers in the digital age, the death of puns, and the importance of bizarre bylines.

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You’ve likely considered it; maybe you have one—an MFA in creative writing. Sure sounds nice to nestle yourself away and write that novel, doesn’t it? The reality is those programs will cost you, a lot. A recent donation highlighted that reality.

Plus, a concise wrap-up of the debate over paying writers that bedeviled The Atlantic all week, the death of puns, and more.

What’s the value of an MFA? Helen Zell, wife of former Tribune Company chairman Sam Zell, donated $50 million to the University of Michigan’s MFA program in creative writing this week. The gift is unprecedented for a humanities program. It also highlights the question: How valuable is an MFA program today? As this Associated Press story says, “Nationally, MFA students are among the most indebted, often borrowing six figures to pay for school then struggling to repay their loans.” Creative writers at Michigan will be better off thanks to this and previous gifts from Zell, but the same likely can’t be said for MFAs at other programs, who will continue to struggle to pay back loans. In an era where large gifts tend to go to math and science, would a decline in MFA graduates hurt the writing profession?

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