Why the Poets & Writers MFA rankings are a sham.
Poets & Writers has just released its 2012 rankings of creative writing MFA programs. Year after year, their ranking of Columbia University—my alma mater—has steadily fallen. I can remember when it was in the toppermost tier. Last year, it plummeted to No. 25 (tied with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). This year, it plunged down to No. 47, and is now presumed to rank behind such august institutions as Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg and Texas State University in San Marcos.
This is, of course, risible.
Columbia is one of the top MFA writing programs in the world, and its ranking should be much higher. (In my opinion, it should be at No. 2, behind only the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa.) Columbia has arguably the finest faculty in the world. Pulitzer winners like Richard Howard and Nobel winners like Orhan Pamuk—and many other authors of lofty accomplishment—call it home. It is also located at the center of the book publishing, agenting, and editing universe. The guest speakers and visitors from New York’s literary scene offer an unmatched immersion into the world of professional writing. And, perhaps most tellingly, it remains a top choice for applicants. (I should note that while the list from Poets & Writers has become the gold-standard for MFA rankings, there have been minority reports. A few years ago, U.S. News and World Report ranked MFA writing programs, and put Columbia at No. 4.)