This month, Poets & Writers released their MFA rankings. These rankings are always controversial, so I won’t get into the details about how rankings are determined. What I will say that Arizona State University is ranked #21 (#20 in poetry, #23 in fiction). I’m happy with that rank.
What I find odd is that University of Arizona at Tucson is ranked #41 (#43 in poetry and #40 in fiction). What happened to U of A in the past 10 years? When I applied to MFA programs 10 years ago, U of A was ranked higher than ASU. It was a tougher program to get into, unlike ASU “who let anyone in.” I would even cry foul when another U of A grad was awarded another Stegner. If there was a reason to leave ASU for U of A, it would be for that. One would think U of A would’ve increased in rankings, having good teachers there.
I guess it only takes 10 years to turn the tables. For what it’s worth, I always see books out by Arizona State University MFA graduates. And good ones too. Bonnie Nadzam’s LAMB and Caitlin Horrocks’ THIS IN NOT YOUR CITY come to mind. I hardly see books by U of A grads, not to say they don’t publish. I just haven’t seen U of A in the jacket credits.
Otherwise, I’m ambivalent about such rankings. I guess it gives a little assurance to those students going to a particular program and it gives MFA programs publicity. But if Iowa is ranked #1, it has very little affect on those who don’t get in. Being ranked #1 is a privilege given to few. I guess in a way it reflects real life. Overall, competition is really stiff for getting into an MFA program nowadays. One should be happy, perhaps lucky, to get into one at all.