Reality Check: Getting a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing (and Beyond)

Reality Check: Getting a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing (and Beyond)

I am 26 years old. I am broke. I am in Graduate School to get a sustainable career in academia (which most likely requires tenure or a part-time job, only).

I have lived in the Midwest most of my life until I reached that point every teenager reaches: I was told to go to college. Luckily for me, I had always loved words, writing, reading, and sharing my love with others. Early on, I knew I wanted to teach. And more specifically, I wanted to teach language, and writing, and appreciation for words.
(I will momentarily side-track and say I am a firm believer in the power of words and language. The power of communication. Today, it is more important than ever to be able to communicate effectively as the world’s problems seem more complex. We need to find power in communicating, simultaneously finding power in the ways we can explore to express communication the most effective way possible. Through words, actions, and movement, we can begin to understand each other and blur the differences we pretend to see. This is what I want to teach others to see in all kinds of writings and expression.)

So I moved to Florida and obtained a Bachelor’s in English from Flager College. I knew my goal was (and still is) to become an English/Writing professor. Unfortunately, the career that is my calling, my passion, demands I continue my own education, as one would expect from a teacher--to know more than the students.

However, let's stop a moment and think about undergraduate debt, ONLY.  On average, the classes of 2016 graduate will have $37,000 of debt, up 6% from last year. 43.3 million Americans have student loan debt similar to this total--with no job to show for it.

For my undergraduate degree, I was enlisted with Wells Fargo in a private loan of $30,000,  and a federal loan gathered another $30,000. I owe around a total of $60,000 for my Bachelor's degree.

As I began to attempt applying for jobs with my Bachelor's degree, I constantly read “M.A. required” in the preferred qualifications and began to understand what this meant for my future in paying off student loans.

Immediately after graduating with my B.A., and gaining my good chunk of debt, I immediately entered an English M.A. program back in my hometown of Indiana. However, it was almost with a grain of salt, as less and less Graduate programs offer ways to provide funding for their students. So more I was sentenced to more debt. I do not regret getting my Master of Arts degree. While in this program, I grew as a writer and gained publishing experience as both editor and contributor with publications such as PacificReview and Subtropic’s October 2016 issue. Continuing my education and gaining knowledge is never a waste of college for me. I graduated May of 2015 with the Graduate Student Excellence Award in the English program. I had one of the biggest requirements of getting a university job: I had the M.A.! 

And twenty thousand more dollars added to my loan debt identity. 

With my shiny Master's degree, I began applying for introductory teaching classes around the area in Literature and Grammatical Writing…Writing as a Second Language… and I was not given one interview.

I was heart-broken to find even with a Master’s degree, I still was not qualified for even entry-level teaching jobs. Although I had personally gained so much from my M.A. program, I didn’t have what employers wanted: experience. 

Experience, the ever-dreaded conundrum. Employers always want experience, but aren’t willing to give anyone experience. How can anyone gain experience these days if no one is willing to give us a chance?

So here I am, with a Master's degree in English and Creative Writing, $80,000 worth of debt, and no promising career. My story is not unique.

My involvement, my commitment, my award, my letters of recommendation mean nothing for a career. 

While the workforce is not accepting me as qualified, yet, I find I am blessed to have these aspects mean something for another graduate program. With my enrollment into Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, I know I am finally in a program I am confident will get me to where I truly want to be. I am already experiencing connections, readings, and possibilities for my career as a teacher and as a writer in the community.

However, even with a full-time job, the academic debt is piling up, and the bills of every-day life are piling up as well. I am having a hard time trying to accumulate extra money to pay for debt and current tuition costs I owe on an urgent basis. Although I can defer my loans from previous educations, this only means I will owe more in the end when interest continues--my debt will not go away, it will sit--waiting like a horizon line lying patiently for the sun to fall, at a wink, and dip under the surface, consuming another day...




Please consider helping with any amount possible, as extra income is difficult to come by. I will continue to share my enriching experience, and you can all count on me to make a change in this crazy world with all of my tools provided! :)

Published by Kristiane Weeks-Rogers

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