Whether you’re looking for concentrated mentorship, to advance your career in academia, to connect with the writing community, or to learn how to enhance your craft, a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing has a lot to offer. We have compiled here a list of the most affordable Master of Fine Arts in creative writing degrees. Not only are these programs some of the least expensive and most accessible, they are also some of the best. One thing to consider is that most MFAs that don’t require residency do require a week-long (or longer) visit to the campus twice a year. These programs are called low-residencies and have been noted. Our data comes from the university and colleges’ websites as well as nationally recognized U.S. News and World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.
Queens University comes with a heavier price tag, but is hands down one of the best low-residency MFA programs in the United States, consistently ranked in the top ten nationally. Though most of the low-residency programs on this list require ten or more days on campus twice a year, Queens asks for only fourteen days total, split into two one-week visits to the Charlotte, North Carolina campus. Also unique to Queens is that the student-to-teacher ratio never exceeds four-to-one, meaning you’ll receive highly concentrated guidance. And while most MFA programs offer three tracks—poetry, nonfiction, and fiction—Queens also has a screenwriting concentration.
Western New England University
Located in Springfield, Massachusetts, the Western New England University MFA program has only one emphasis, fiction, but for that reason provides intense tutorial on the craft, from sentence structure to voice and character development. And with a student-to-teacher ratio of only five-to-one, you’ll receive focused attention. Western New England University’s program is also a low-residency, requiring students to be on campus once a year in the summer. The winter residencies change locations, but one is always held in Dublin, Ireland. Admissions are rolling, but new students start during either the winter or summer residency.
Full Sail University
Full Sail University offers one of the few Master of Fine Arts degrees that you can attain fully online. Even though it’s fully online, Full Sail has created an online critique forum to foster a communal environment, which is so critical for writers. With an emphasis on creative writing in the entertainment industry, the Full Sail program has three primary areas of focus: classical writing and storytelling techniques, research, and business marketing. Additionally, classes center on leadership, management, and marketing, making this degree exceptionally suited for those interested in applying their education entrepreneurially.
Institute of American Indian Arts
Of all the low-residency MFA programs (there are more than fifty) in the United States, the Institute of American Indian Arts stands out from the others in that over 60 percent of the faculty is established Native American or First Nation authors, though their program is open to everyone. You’ll visit the Santa Fe campus twice a year for residency and to be assigned your new mentor for the semester. IAIA uniquely emphasizes a reading curriculum in addition to the creative writing work you’ll produce. After two years you’ll graduate with a full-length collection of poems or stories, a novel, a book-length nonfiction manuscript, or a screenplay, depending on your area of focus. IAIA’s program also gives you teaching experience and connects you with editors and publishers, helping establish you in the writing world.
If you’re looking for a program that doesn’t require residencies, National University is one of the few. Now ten years old, their MFA program was the first fully online program in the country, so it’s established. Providing students with four areas of concentration to choose from—fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or screenwriting—National also gives you the choice to take advanced workshops in up to two genres. Though you’ll complete a full manuscript in one genre by the end of the program, you are not locked into a specific track; you can easily switch genres. National University boasts a diverse student population, made possible by its lack of residency requirement. For example, some of the MFA students are active military serving overseas. National is both a convenient and affordable option.
Stonecoast at University of Southern Maine
The Stonecoast low-residency MFA program is located at the University of Southern Maine in beautiful Portland, Maine. With four tracks—creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and popular fiction—in addition to possible elective work in other genres such as screenwriting, translation, and cross-genre, Stonecoast offers a breadth of learning experience. The residencies are ten days twice a year, including the opportunity to travel to Ireland. The travel costs of residencies, including the one in Ireland, are not accounted for in the tuition, which may be something to consider.
Tuition: 23,952 plus travel costs
Converse College’s low-residency MFA offers several areas of focus—fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry—but stands out for two tracks none of the others on this list offer: young adult (YA) fiction and environmental writing. Furthermore, Converse stands out for its consistently low student-to-teacher ratios of three-to-one, thereby giving students the attention necessary in a working mentorship. There are five residencies on the Spartanburg, South Carolina campus, though students have five full calendar years to finish the degree.
Fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Lindenwood University offers a fully online Master of Fine Arts degree with a slew of concentrations to choose from: fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, narrative journalism, screenwriting, and literary journal editing. All classes and work are done completely online, including the thesis, but the workshop element is still available despite distance: students participate in online workshops, critiquing and receiving feedback from their cohort. Graduates usually go on to teach at the college level or advance their careers in media and journalism.
Tuition: 18,960 total
University of Texas El Paso
The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) also offers a fully online MFA degree program, no residencies required, for those who wish to focus on either fiction or poetry. While many MFA programs concentrate on the creative body of work, UTEP’s program consists of literature, theory, and technique classes, and one-third of the credit load is comprised of workshop hours. With a decent tuition rate and no added residency and travel costs, UTEP is one of the more affordable and convenient choices for advancing your teaching, journalism, or media career.
At Tiffin University, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, students can receive a Master of Humanities in Creative Writing. Similar to a traditional MFA, students can choose from a variety of genres to focus on, including novel, short story, drama, poetry, genre, and performance writing. Tiffin differentiates itself in that it combines theory with practice, so there’s a class load in addition to the creative work. Graduates of Tiffin’s fully online Master of Humanities usually find themselves prepared for a variety of career opportunities: journalism, editing, education, public relations, and more.