A Gender Scorecard for Business Schools

Helmerich Hall at the University of Tulsa's Collins College of Business

Helmerich Hall at the University of Tulsa’s Collins College of Business

The Best MBA Programs For Paying Off Your Student Loans –Fast!

“Education is an investment.”

That’s how many schools frame tuition. And that’s not by accident. Convincing established – and already well-paid professionals – to return to campus isn’t an easy sell. Like insurance, MBA programs are selling an intangible. They paint a picture where a degree will open doors (and checkbooks). They want you to imagine your career ten years from now. Instead of being shackled with golden handcuffs and looking over your shoulder, you see yourself using your MBA to control your destiny and climb into the c-suite or partner ranks.

And here’s the reason: The debt can be pretty scary. According to a 2014 report from the New America Foundation, MBA graduates average $42,000 in debt upon graduation. But who wants to be average? If you’re striving to make a top 10 program, expect a six figure debt. Wharton? $118K. MIT? $106K. Ross? $101K.

Alas, such programs are a safe bet. Graduates of top 10 programs earn $2,759,500 in median cash compensation over 20 years…making worries about loan debt seem ridiculous. But not everyone has hoarded cash to pay for grad school (let alone paid off their undergrad tab). Not everyone will earn a full-ride. Not everyone hopes to land a $130K gig at BCG or JP Morgan to start. And not everyone is going to find themselves at an Ivy or a flagship state school.

Academics love to say you pay some now or pay a lot more later (by not attending). But who says you can’t get end up with a manageable debt that you can quickly pay off? That’s a difficult balancing act being pulled off at the University of Tulsa’s College of Business. U.S. News & World Report data shows that Collins, ranked 83rd by U.S. News, offers the best salary-to-debt ratio coming off graduation. At Collins, which already boasted an impressive 100 percent placement rate within three months of graduation, students earn $61,065 to start against an average debt of $10,522 for a 5.803 ratio. In fact, only 21 percent of Collins MBAs even carry debt at graduation.

So what’s Collins’ secret? For starters, it maintains a low enrollment, with just 27 full-time MBAs entering in 2014. The cost is a modest $1,120 per credit for 37 credits, making tuition just $41,440 (excluding fees and cost of living). The school offers 25 teaching assistantships and 20 research assistantships, which include full scholarship and stipend, to help students shoulder the loan. Ashley Chapa, Collins’ marketing manager, also credits the school’s “very generous alumni,” who help the school provide a range of academic, merit, and need-based scholarships.

Louisiana State University’s E.J. Ourso College of Business closely trails Collins with a salary-to-debt ratio of 5.673. Although 56 percent of students leave Ourso with debt, the average is just $9,987. However, newly Ourso MBAs earn an average base of just $56,656, with the highest reported base being $85,000.

The University of Washington was the highest-ranked school on the list at 23rd. Long benefitting from its proximity to tech magnates like Amazon and Microsoft, Foster MBAs enjoyed the largest salary increases of any MBA program. From 2010-2014, entry level compensation has jumped from $91,593 to $125,367 (up 36.9 percent). At the same time, only 52 percent of students leave the program with debt – which averaged $29,720.


Business School Average Starting Salary Average MBA Student Debt Salary-to-Debt Ratio U.S. News Rank
 University of Tulsa (Collins)  $61,055  $10,522  5.803  83
 Louisiana State University (Ourso)  $56,656  $9,987  5.673  77
 College of Charleston  $62,000  $14,200  4.366  RNP
 University of Washington (Foster)  $105,680  $29,720  3.556  23
 University of Connecticut  $101,562  $29,727  3.416  48 (Tie)
 Brigham Young University (Marriott)  $96,673  $28,386  3.406  33 (Tie)
 Baylor University (Hankamer)  $71,840  $21,480  3.345  58 (Tie)
 Texas Tech Univesity (Rawls)  $57,107  $17,575  3.249  91 (Tie)
 University of Massachusetts-Amherst (Isenberg)  $81,583  $28,240  2.889  74 (Tie)
 University of Missouri (Trulaske)  $57,219  $21,383  2.676  79 (Tie)

Source: U.S. News & World Report

So how do the top 20 MBA programs fare when it comes to salary-to-debt ratio? Actually, they are remarkably consistent, with Stanford and Harvard (1.84 and 1.83 respectively) at the high end and New York University (Stern) and Duke University (Fuqua) at the low end (1.17 and 1.19) respectively. Among top 20 schools, MBAs from Washington University Olin Business School came away with the lowest debt ($64,524). Conversely, New York University (Stern) grads carried the highest debts after graduation ($116,533).

Business School Average Starting Salary Average MBA Student Debt Salary-to-Debt Ratio U.S. News Rank
 Stanford Graduate School of Business  $142,834  $77,559  1.84  1
 Harvard Business School  $144,750  $78,991  1.83  2
 Wharton School  $142,574  $118,100*  1.21  3
 University of Chicago (Booth)  $137,615  $76,700*  1.79  4
 MIT (Sloan)  $142,936  $106,602  1.34  5
 Northwestern University (Kellogg)  $136,357  $91,834  1.48  6
 University of California-Berkeley (Haas)  $140,935  $77,628  1.82  7
 Columbia Business School  $139,006  $115,200*  1.21  8
 Dartmouth College (Tuck)  $142,489  $96,170*  1.48  9
 University of Virginia (Darden)  $136,474  $102,122  1.34  10
 New York University (Stern)  $135,933  $116,533  1.17  11
 University of Michigan (Ross)  $140,497  $101,107  1.39  11
 Duke University (Fuqua)  $137,154  $115,201  1.19  13
 Yale University  $126,871  $96,341*  1.32  13
 UCLA (Anderson)  $127,535  $86,928  1.47  15
 Cornell University (Johnson)  $132,316  $106,200  1.24  16
 University of Texas (McCombs)  $126,160  $69,409  1.82  17
 University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)  $124,641  $87,533  1.42  18
 Washington University (Olin)  $111,974  $64,524  1.74  19
 Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)  $131,865  $86,443  1.53  20

Source: U.S. News & World Report

Keep in mind, these numbers don’t factor in lost opportunity costs, let alone taxes, cost of living, and debt interest. However, they do identify which schools enable you to get a quick start out of the gate…without heavy debt dragging you down. Education truly is an investment just as educators say. Like any investment, the biggest returns come from finding ventures that fit your values, recognizing your risk tolerance, and staying patient as the long-term strategy plays out.


Source: U.S. News & World Report

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