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Stanford GSB | Mr. MBA Class of 2023
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Cornell Johnson | Mr. Government Consultant
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Stanford To Funnel MBAs To Heartland

Stanford Graduate School of Business is the most difficult business school to get into, accepting only 6.1% of applicants. It is also the most expensive, costing students $210,838 over two years. Given these facts, it’s not surprising that newly minted Stanford MBAs generally prefer to flex their degree muscles in more diverse and competitive job markets, particularly those on the coasts, especially New York and Silicon Valley.

Now the business school that both Poets&Quants and U.S. News rank second in the U.S. is offering to cover up to $160,000 of MBAs’ tuition costs over two years if they’ll agree to just one condition: After graduating, they have to work in the Midwest.

Study at Stanford. Work in Wabash. Play in Peoria.

In its inaugural year, the Stanford USA MBA Fellowship will send three students who apply for the 2016-2017 MBA program to go to work in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, or Wisconsin, within two years of graduation. Applicants must apply in Round 2, or by January 10, 2017. Fellows will be announced in May.

For Stanford, the offer is something of a marketing ploy to attract more applicants from the midwest and hope that they go back there after graduation. Last year, only 1% of Stanford’s graduating MBAs took jobs in the midwest, reinforcing a long-term trend that has meant that business school’s alumni base in the region is among its weakest. In comparison, 68% of the grads stayed in the west. Last year, 5% of Harvard MBAs landed jobs in the midwest.

A ‘STRONG CONNECTION’ TO THE REGION IS A MUST

“When we look at our country, and we think about different places where there’s still a lot of room for growth and development, the Midwest was a big part of that,” Simone Hill, an assistant director for MBA admissions at Stanford, tells Bloomberg. That’s why Stanford increased its own recruiting in the region this year.

Fellowship applicants must have U.S. citizenship and demonstrate both financial need and a “strong connection” to the Midwest — current residency there, for example, or having graduated from a Midwestern high school. According to the fellowship’s web page, “Stanford MBA students pursue a wide variety of careers after graduation. Competitive applicants will demonstrate a commitment to pursue professional opportunities that foster the development of the region. As such, we require Stanford USA MBA Fellows to work for, invest in, or create organizations with significant operations and impact in the region.”

As Hill tells Bloomberg, the fellowship is for “people who are interested in bringing everything that they learned back to their region to develop it.” Stanford is looking for those who want to make an impact, she says. “When we look at our country, and we think about different places where there’s still a lot of room for growth and development, the Midwest was a big part of that,” Hill says. She says the school hopes to expand to eight students next year and add other regions; it’s considering the Southwester 2017-2018.

A LOT OF MONEY, BUT NOT QUITE ENOUGH

Because $160,000 is not enough to fully cover two years of tuition at the GSB, low-income students considering the fellowship may have trouble making the numbers add up. One mitigating factor is that it’s cheaper to live in the Midwest, and many companies offer competitive salaries and benefits. Another is that Stanford isn’t requiring new grads to head to the Great Plains immediately upon graduation; they’ll have two years to start the clock on their Midwestern adventure, during which time they may be able to shore up their savings with temporary gigs at the major employers on the coasts.

Moreover, for those interested in tech jobs, the Midwest may even be a preferred destination. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Michigan and Illinois added the second- and fourth-greatest percentage of tech jobs in the U.S., respectively, in the first six months of 2016. States bordering along Interstate 29 in the Upper Midwest — specifically Nebraska, Iowa, North and South Dakota, Kansas, Minnesota, and Missouri — are known as the “Silicon Prairie” because of the number of startups and the amount of VC and entrepreneurial activity there.

SEE ALSO FULL COST OF THE MBA KEEPS RISING: FOUR SCHOOLS ABOVE $200K and HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL TOPS 2015 POETS&QUANTS RANKING and ACCEPTANCE RATES AT TOP 50 MBA PROGRAMS