(Update: subscribers don't get this issue, evidently. So never mind about that.)
Good news is a long interview with the article's author, Edward J. Delaney, is available online. A sample:
Another factor is that with these programs there’s usually a certain lag time before it becomes clear whether its graduates are finding success. Harvard Law School can measure its success by something as simple as the percentage of its graduates who pass the bar exam. Or they can gauge how many of its graduates are getting jobs at the top law firms. But with writing programs, it’s understood that for the most part these writers are going to spend a decade or more after graduation toiling away in obscurity just continuing to work on their craft [Slight comfort in numbers here. -- Ed.] So if a student in a program has some success 10 or 15 years later, is that an adequate measure of the program as it exists now? It’s easier for a program to claim that credit if there’s been a lot of faculty stability. If a student who studied with writer X 15 years ago meets some success and writer X is still working at the same institution, then that would seem to be a more accurate measure.A snippet of what he says about Iowa specifically, and this is so true...
The people there – as at a lot of the schools that are away from the hustle and bustle of the big city—really focus on building a community. Chris Tilghman at Virginia observed that one of the most difficult things to measure is a program’s sense of community. When the workshop ends, you’ve gotten a certain amount of progress. But does everyone then go to dinner together and continue the discussion that was begun in the workshop? Schools such as Montana and the University of Pittsburgh and Virginia and Iowa really spent a lot of time talking about the community they feel they’ve built; whereas in a larger city, it’s a little more difficult. People tend to go their separate ways. Community is part of what has made Iowa work.
Another interesting factor about Iowa is that it has looser requirements than a lot of other programs. But there’s also a lot of open-ended stuff that goes on constantly. For example, while I was there, Charles Baxter spoke. He did a reading in the evening and then the next morning he did a Q&A. And those events were absolutely jam-packed. From what I gathered, that’s how it always is; the people in The Workshop never want to miss a learning opportunity, even if it’s not a formal class.