The Most Expensive MBA Programs

Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business



$42.000…that’s roughly the average debt MBA graduates carry according to the New America Foundation. Pretty reasonable, especially when you factor in that 43% of MBAs are graduating without any debt! But an average debt may also indicate something else: an average education. If you’re giving up two years to lay your career foundation, you want to attend a school that’s anything but average.

Of course, the highest tuitions don’t necessarily reflect the highest quality. Still, the best business schools are more luxuries than commodities, with branding and networks that confer prestige with its limited space (and rigorous curriculum). It’s basic supply-and-demand. To earn a school’s stamp of approval for employers, you’re going to pay…big time. Question is, where are you going to pay the most?

Recently, U.S. News and World Report helped to answer those questions, releasing its rankings of the schools where students carry the highest debt. It followed up with a ranking of the highest cost MBA programs for out-of-state students. So how do the top choices fare?

Let’s start with debt, where Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business tops this year list. Here, 66% of graduates carry debt, with the average debt coming in at $108,816. This is a $6,000 increase over the previous year, where Fuqua averaged $102,054. The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and the MIT Sloan School of Management ranked #2 and #3, averaging $102,968 and $100,512 respectively (with Sloan clocking in with the second highest percentage of students in debt among the top ten at 72%…just a point shy of Yale).

Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business and Management was the lowest-ranked program in the top 10 for debt (#76). While only 43% of graduates carried debt, Pepperdine’s average was $89,245. In addition, the unranked University of San Francisco Masagung Graduate school of Management jumped into the top 10 this year with an average debt of $93,465 for 61% of its graduates.

The biggest news, however, originates from the New York University Stern School of Business, which headlined the debt list last year at $105,782. This year, student debt at NYU Stern plummeted from $105,782 to $93,832. In addition, the Dartmouth Tuck School of Business and the Thunderbird School of Global Management dropped off this year’s top 10 list of graduates with the highest debts.

Alas, these figures don’t include Wharton and Columbia Business School, which both top Fuqua for debt. According to research from Poets&Quants conducted in March 2014, the 68% of Wharton grads who carried debt averaged $118,100. Columbia followed closely behind at 70% and $115,200. Tuck also made P&Q’s top 10 at $96,170.

Some surprises? How about these relatively modest debt loads: Harvard ($73,926 / 61%), Stanford ($79,869 / 70%), Booth ($76,700 / 68%), and Haas ($64,598 / 53%). Aside from Pepperdine, let’s give some plaudits to the following schools for keeping the number of schools in debt below 50%: Thunderbird (45%), U.C.-Irvine (46%), Fordham (48%), and Babson College (36%).

Here are the top 10 schools for highest student debt:

Schools That Result In The Most Student Debt


School Average Debt Percent of Graduates with Debt U.S. News Ranking
 Duke (Fuqua)  $108,816  66%  14
 University of Virginia (Darden)  $102,968  62%  11
 MIT (Sloan)  $100,512  72%  5
 University of Michigan (Ross)  $97,915  60%  11
 Cornell (Johnson)  $97,500  NA  17
 Yale University  $96,341  73%  13
 New York University (Stern)  $93,832  NA  10
 University of San Francisco  (Masagung)  $93,465  61%  NA
 Northwestern (Kellogg)  $91,834  66%  6
 Pepperdine (Graziadio)  $89,245  43%  76

To see the highest public (and private) school tuitions, go to the next page.

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