Stanford Breaks Record On MBA Cost

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)

  • 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

  • Alex Chu

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

  • Reader

    I thought Harvard was $87,200 per year from its website at Doesn’t that add to $174,400 instead of $164,400?

  • GSBClassof`14

    The cost on the websites is an underestimate – I am at the GSB, and almost everyone I know at the GSB, and also other schools like HBS and Wharton has budgeted $200 k plus. And none of us are particularly wealthy – this is a pretty standard assessment. Net of any summer savings this is more than $ 300 per day.

  • JDMBA33

    Alex, will your consulting fee also go up as a result?

  • Rick

    I agree. Each application costs on average 250 dollars. Then you have the flight costs to visit the campus and then interview. Nowadays most use consultants, so that’s another added expense. The GMAT exams, books, quality classes from a provider like Manhattan or Kaplan. You are absolutely right; it’s a very capital and time intensive process. Even a HBS or GSB MBA needs to be carefully examined and the upsides and downsides closely considered.

    Unfortunately, the schools are not going to reduce tuition fees anytime soon! Any b-school professor will tell you that proactive price cuts don’t make you different, nor do they make you better off. They only make you poorer, unless you have the evidence that consumers are not willing to pay for this. Of course there are plenty of folks that are more than willing to do so an MBA from a top school. But I think demand for hybrid MBA programs and shorter programs with more flexibility can put pressure on the traditional 2 yr MBA model.

  • SaintsFan224

    Great post Alex! I think for many people like myself – those already in finance field and looking for an edge and upward mobility, the MBA is something that needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Many of us are not willing to give up two years of income and take on such an enormous debt in the hopes of garnering a “relatively small” improvement. We need to ask serious questions about the value proposition of the MBA. Moreover, this discourages a lot of good candidates from applying because of the capital intensive nature of the process.

  • Alex Chu

    To be honest, this escalation is getting ridiculous.

    I have found over the years, the cost has become a far greater consideration whether to apply or not.

    Here’s a bit of perspective:

    I went to Wharton over 10 years ago (1999-2001). It was a while ago, but not *that* long ago.

    I spent a total of $120K which included tuition, living expenses, etc. And I lived quite lavishly in a high rise apartment w/ doorman, ski trips, frequent cross country trips to the west coast, weekend vacations, and I dined out 3 meals a day (never bought groceries). Most people at that time probably spent closer to $100 – 110K.

    Anyhow, tuition/fees back then was around $50,000 *total* for both years. And yet, it seemed super expensive already back then!

    So in 10 years, tuition has essentially doubled (or more than doubled in some cases).

    Pre-MBA salaries have likely doubled (back then, virtually no one was making six figures coming into b-schools; the only ones that came close were the IB/PE analysts who made around $90K including bonus, whereas most people were in the $40-65K range). Now, it’s pretty common for pre-MBA folks from any industry to be close to or surpassing six figures coming into b-school.

    Post-MBA salaries have remained stagnant. 10 years ago, post-MBA comp was around $90-$120K. Today, that hasn’t changed all that much – maybe a bump of $10-20K.

  • JohnAByrne

    That statement refers to the conservative nature of these estimates overall. It’s a rare business school that does not put through a 3% to 5% increase in tuition each year and often more when all the fees are added up including mandatory health insurance for students. Indeed, as far as I know, Stanford is the only top school that essentially guarantees that the annual tuition will remain the same for the two years a student is in the MBA program.

  • GSBforLife

    “They don’t include, for example, an inevitable increase in tuition during a student’s second year” is inaccurate since the tuition at Stanford is the same for both years.

  • ta

    if there is one MBA in this world on this planet that is worth it…its stanford….id add harvard to that list…..maybe just maybe wharton….maybe…every other school needs to have its advantages and disadvantanges measures

  • Chari

    Wow 190k! I wish I could afford that.