Despite frustration that much of short fiction suffers from too much control from MFA programs and graduates, there is value to having an MFA. It will improve your writing and chances of publishing.
However, not everyone has the time or money (20 to 30 hours per week and $20,000 to $30,000 by most estimates) to do this. To say the least, at a time of great financial hardship, especially among writers, it is something that simply is not open to all writers, no matter how much they love to write.
This is not to say that there aren't ways to democratize the process of earning an MFA. In particular, I would say that I have begin studying for what I would describe as something of a Homeschooling MFA. There is no shortage of books out in the world that provide the wisdom of America's best writers as well as advice and exercises to help writers who want to develop new skills or continually learn and improve on what they are doing.
There is Stephen King's "On Writing," which is pretty good, but I have found a couple that go a step better. One is titled "Writing Well" and it is by Donald Hall. I have what I believe is the initial edition published in 1972 when Hall was at the University of Michigan and is intended to be a textbook for his students (purchased for me by a special friend with a discerning eye and penchant for finding a deal). My edition is not to be confused by the 9th edition, which is done with Sven Birkerts (an equally tallented and interesting writer).
At any rate, though this edition has a bit of university pompousness, the advice, examples and exercises are still very good and provide timeless advice to writers. It is interesting to me that at a time when computers are fundamental tools, this aged edition still works and does not feel too outdated. I will pick up the later edition as I am interested to compare the two.
And as with all good homeschooling endeavors, the book provides exercises that can be "graded" and shared in collaboration with other writers. You could form your own MFA Homeschooling Cooperative.
The other book I am working with is from Tin House and is called "The Writer's Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House." Essentially, this is a collection of essays by writers on some particular piece of the craft and it is so far very good (I am about halfway through it). This does not offer exercises to writers, but there is enough advice and suggestions for it to be used as a homeschooling master's program textbook.
So, here is my idea for democratizing MFAs. I would love anyone elses thoughts or suggestions for good books.
Causes James Buchanan Supports
Expanding health care in the US, ending war as a viable tool of foreign policy, and issues related to social justice in general.