MBA Value Erodes In Past Ten Years

If you want proof that the immediate rewards of the MBA degree have declined, look no further than the past ten years. From 2001 to 2010, the costs of getting the degree have significantly outpaced starting pay at every one of the top 20 U.S. business schools.

An analysis by Poets&Quants of school recommended budgets to attend a two-year program and median salaries show that large amounts of value have eroded from certain programs. The assessments were made on the basis of a school’s recommended budget for students to attend their MBA program compared against the median starting base salaries of a school’s graduates. The analysis did not take into account the fellowship grants that would reduce the costs of getting a degree.

Whether this is merely a reflection of the overall economy which has led to widespread layoffs and stalled salaries among many white collar employees or a sign that the cachet of an MBA has declined is up in the air. But there’s no question that MBA candidates working toward the degree today will take a longer time to achieve a return on their investment than their predecessors did ten years ago.

Which schools saw the greatest depletion of value in the past decade?

The costs of attending Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School rose 12.8 times faster than its MBA starting salaries–more than any other top 20 school–while the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business saw the cost of attending its MBA program jump 11.7 times its median salaries for graduates.

Which schools held the most value? The two at the top of the list: Stanford Graduate School of Business increased its budget recommendations to students by only 1.6 times its salary increases, and the costs of getting a Chicago Booth MBA rose only 2.2 times the salary of a Booth graduate. They were followed by MIT Sloan and New York University’s Stern School of Business, both of which saw costs rise 2.4 times median salary increases.

By and large, the top ten schools did significantly better than the bottom ten in the top 20. In the top ten schools, the costs of the degree rose three times the median salaries. But in the bottom ten of the top 20 schools the costs increased 6.5 times pay.

The single biggest increase in the cost of an MBA over the past ten years occurred at Texas-Austin where the recommended two-year budget for a student surged 140% to $127,444 from $53,034. Meantime, median base salaries went up only 12% to $95,000 for the Class of 2010 from $85,000 for the Class of 2001.

The smallest increase in base salary was at Emory University’s Goizueta School where pay increased by only 6% in the past ten years to $90,000 from $85,000. The cost of getting a Goizueta degree, however, jumped by 45% to $130,280 from $89,920.

Among the elite private schools, the greatest deterioration in the value equation was at Columbia Business School. The costs of getting the degree rose 8.9 times faster than the starting salaries in the past ten years. The recommended two-year budget at Columbia jumped 71% to $169,502 from $99,388, while median base pay increased by only 8% to $100,000 in 2010 from $93,000 in 2001.

 

School2010 Median Pay2001 Median Pay% 

Increase

2010 

Two-Year

Budget

2001 

Two-Year

Budget

% 

Increase

Harvard$110,000$100,00010%$158,000$109,60031%
Stanford$120,000$100,00020%$168,812$128,00032%
Wharton$110,000$95,00016%$168,000$119,45641%
Chicago$102,000$85,00020%$154,060$107,72243%
Kellogg$105,000$90,00017%$156,990$105,06649%
Columbia$100,000$93,0008%$169,502$99,38871%
Dartmouth$105,000$95,75010%$159,900$95,75067%
MIT Sloan$110,000$92,50019%$160,378$110,62045%
Berkeley$110,000$90,00022%$144,746$76,32090%
Duke$100,000$85,00018%$137,746$82,94866%
Virginia$100,000$85,00018%$142,000$84,00069%
NYU$100,000$85,00018%$157,622$109,23444%
Michigan$100,000$90,00011%$141,210$91,10055%
Yale$100,000$85,00018%$151,982NANA
Cornell$96,000$87,50010%$142,404$86,61064%
Carnegie-Mellon$95,000$88,0008%$149,400$74,000102%
UCLA$100,000$85,00018%$147,278$62,664135%
UNC$95,000$85,00012%$136,860$82,65066%
Emory$90,000$85,0006%$130,280$89,92045%
Texas$95,000$85,00012%$127,144$53,034140%

Source: School reports to BusinessWeek. For public institutions, out-of-state recommended budgets were used.

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About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.