How to Pay for Your MBA
“I got in! I got in!”
Congratulations! You accomplished what 70% of your fellow applicants couldn’t. But you’re not home free yet. There’s still one more person you need to impress: Your banker (so to speaker).
That’s right: Business school isn’t cheap. You’re looking at $20K a year at the low end…and $60K at the high end. And that doesn’t count your cost of living (and those class trips to India aren’t free, either). In short, you could be looking at a $150K-$200K once you graduate…and likely more if finance isn’t one of your strengths (yet). In other words, financing your MBA could be one of the biggest decisions of your life.
So where do you start? Begin by figuring out what you don’t know. In a recent column on Top MBA, Prodigy Finance outlined seven questions to ask before seeking a student loan. For example, students should weigh the benefits and drawbacks of fixed and variable loans. A loan’s rate and length also carry financial consequences. Plus, payment terms, including grace periods and penalties, can eventually become issues.
And tuition isn’t the only factor to consider according to Top MBA. “Borrowers must look at more than tuition. Will you still work? Where will you live? Take a look at the cost of living where your MBA program is based. It’s a sad reality that many renowned MBA programs are in pricy cities, but there are alternatives. Residing in an area with a lower cost of living may reduce your future loan payments but it could also affect your networking opportunities.” In other words, you’re bound to make some financially-driven tradeoffs that require projecting a future return.
Once you’ve identified your costs and risks, you have five options according to Stacey Blackman, founder and managing director of Stacy Blackman Consulting.
For starters, schools make scholarships and fellowships available to top students (along with aid targeted to specific academic interests and gender). Alas, these scholarships often come with strings attached, including undergrad teaching loads. And they require additional work like essays and interviews. Fellowships follow a similar pattern, with Blackman suggesting that students look into the Forte Foundation or the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management
Increasingly rare, company sponsorship is another option to factor in. However, as Blackman warns, this alternative makes you beholden to your employer after you graduate. And breaking this commitment can lead to not only strained relationships with former colleagues, but also a mountain of unforeseen debt” (from penalties to getting a new loan).
Dipping into retirement savings is an even riskier move in Blackman’s view. However, she notes that MBAs are “exempt from the 10 percent penalty for early withdrawals when you put the funds toward qualified higher education expenses, of which attending business school is one.” That said, your withdrawal will still be taxed like income.
And that brings us to student loans. According to Kaplan Test Prep, there are four types of loan options, which they rank in the following way:
- Federal Perkins loan
- Federal Unsubsidized Stafford loan
- Fixed-rate federal PLUS loans
- Private student loan
In fact, Duke’s Law School created a handy table, so you can evaluate each option side-by-side based on interest rates, grace periods, and repayment terms. Although the Perkins loan maintains the best terms, it would only cover a fraction of the cost. Blackman touts Stafford and Grad PLUS loans. According to Blackman, the “Stafford is limited to $20,500 for a year, while the Grad PLUS is available up to your school’s cost of attendance.” To apply for those loans, go to this website.
Last – but not least – Blackman cites private loans, writing that lenders “can provide customized options to help you save, sometimes at rates even lower than the federal government’s.”
To see how much you’ll need for a loan – and what loan might be right for you, check out the student loan calculator.
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