Stanford Breaks Record On MBA Cost

by John A. Byrne on

Graduate School of Business Knight Management Center

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business has leapfrogged the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Columbia Business School to become the most expensive two-year MBA program in the world, according to an analysis by Poets&Quants. This year Stanford is telling applicants that the estimated cost of its two-year, full-time MBA program is a whopping $185,054, a new record.

That is some $18,242 more than Stanford said it would cost an MBA student only two years ago when Columbia was the school with the most expensive MBA program in the world. At that time, Columbia estimated that the cost to attend its MBA program was $168,307, while third-place Stanford’s price tag was $166,812. In just two years, Stanford’s estimated cost of the degree has risen by 10.9%, though the estimate includes a $4,000 global study trip.


Harvard Business School, Stanford’s number one rival, now costs over $10,000 less in estimated charges, even though it is in pricey Boston. The Stanford program is also $25,860 more than the cost of an MBA for a non-resident student at nearby UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. The actual difference between Harvard and Stanford is even greater because Harvard hands out an average $26,745 in annual fellowship money for its MBA students, far more than any other business school.

Stanford, however, is not far behind in discounting the sticker price of its MBA program. The school says its average fellowship grant this year to MBA candidates was $24,708, up from $23,683 in 2011. This academic year some 427 MBA students at Stanford are receiving some form of scholarship money from the $12.8 million in institutional funding the school has set aside for MBA candidates.

The total cost of the Stanford program includes two years worth of tuition, fees, books and supplies, mandatory medical insurance, the estimated costs to live and eat in Silicon Valley, and the $4,000 cost for a global study trip. Stanford says that its $23,391 estimate for rent, food and personal expenses is for a “moderate lifestyle.”

But as often is the case, these estimated numbers by the business schools tend to be conservative. They rarely include the inevitable 3% to 5% increase in tuition during a student’s second year. And they tend to underestimate the “personal costs” of attending an elite MBA program, from expensive dinners our with friends to traveling to ski resorts over long weekends with new student friends.


The actual annual MBA tuition at Stanford is just $57,300, but all the additional costs quickly mount. According to Stanford they include $2,184 a year in books and supplies, $1,710 a year in “instructional materials,” $963 for “transportation,” $3,600 for medical insurance, and an annual $537 “health fee.”

If a single student decides to live off-campus, Stanford says the cost of the MBA program will likely be $195,580–another $10,500 more. For a married student living off-campus, the school says the cost will be a breathtaking $220,822.. “Depending on marital status and other factors,” says Stanford, “you should budget an additional $30,000 to $47,000 per year for living costs, books, and other expenses.”

(See following page for a table of the some of the most expensive MBAs in the world)

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  • Alex Chu

    Agreed – regardless of b-school, applicants should count on their real expenses to be 10-20% higher than what the school estimates.

  • TA


    How would you value return on investment for international students going to the top 10 schools in USA versus going to a london business school or rotman school of management solely based on ease of getting work permits and green cards (once you havea job ) and not getting kicked out of the country based on a silly visa lottery system

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