P&Q Editor John A. Byrne Answers Reader Questions About The MBA


Who do top business schools offer full rides to?

Mainly full rides are offered to the following:

  1. The very best candidates who would otherwise go to another more highly ranked school. The only way to get the person is to offer a full ride.
  2. High GMAT applicants who have other highly desirable characteristics: They are well rounded, work in prestige companies and already have professional presence that makes it certain they will stand out.
  3. Someone who has a wealth of demonstrated leadership experiences and is likely to make a very big difference once on campus to the school’s culture and extracurricular components.

Check out our scholarship series, including this story:

What Kinds Of Students Win The Scholarship Game?


What are the best ways to fund a JD/MBA program?

Just be prepared that this is going to cost you a great deal of money. You really should ask yourself if you need both degrees. All that said, the best way to fund any degree is by cobbling together a number of sources for the cash, from savings and scholarships to federal and private loans.

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.

Increasingly rare, company sponsorship is another option to factor in. However, 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. MBAs are “exempt from the 10 percent penalty for early withdrawals when you put the funds toward qualified higher education expenses. Still, your withdrawal will still be taxed like income.

And that brings us to student loans. There are basically four types of loan options, which they rank in the following way:

Federal Perkins loans

Federal Unsubsidized Stafford loan

Fixed-rate federal PLUS loans

Private student loans

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. The Stafford is limited to $20,500 for a year, while the Grad PLUS is available up to your school’s cost of attendance.

Last – but not least – you have a number of options for private loans which can provide customized options to help you save, sometimes at rates even lower than what the federal government charges. Check out SoFi, CommonBond, and Prodigy, three of the biggest privates in the MBA and elite school market.

To see how much you’ll need for a loan – and what loan might be right for you, check out this student loan calculator at Commonbond.

But before you apply to any dual degree programs, you might want to read our take on what’s it like to go for a law and MBA degree at the same time. It might convince you that one degree is enough:

JD/MBAs: Who’s Crazy Enough To Get Both Degrees?


Which universities have no fees for MBA?

By fees, I’m assuming that you mean where can you get an MBA without having to pay tuition. To my knowledge, there are only two U.S. universities that offer this option to every student: Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business and the University of Massachusetts’ Isenberg School of Management at Amherst. But just about every top business school has full-ride scholarships available to exceptional students. Harvard and Stanford do this on a need basis, while most other schools award their scholarships on the basis of merit.

Here’s a video I did with the dean of Isenberg that gets into the fact that no one pays for their full-time MBA at the school:

One-On-One With Isenberg School Of Management

And here’s our analysis of the first MBA class to enter under the free tuition deal at Arizona State last year:

ASU’s New MBA Class Breaks All Records


What’s a college similar to Harvard and Stanford, but not as expensive, for MBA?

You’re asking the wrong question. Here’s why: Harvard and Stanford MBA programs are both heavily subsidized by their business schools. The sticker price that may shock you into asking this question is just that, the sticker price. As many as half of the students do not pay the sticker price. Last year, for example, Harvard Business School discounted tuition to its MBA students to the tune of $34 million. Put another way, that is $34 million spread over only 920 or so students because roughly half of the 1,850 MBAs get scholarship aid.

The average annual fellowship per MBA student at Harvard is $35,571, up 8% from $32,919 in 2015. Stanford’s Graduate School of Business provides similar support per student. What’s more, virtually all the money is going to students who need it because both Harvard and Stanford only give scholarship support on a need basis, not on merit.

So if you could get into either of these highly selective MBA programs and you are in a position where you have little money, the chances are high that you would receive scholarship support. Alas, it is very hard to get into Harvard or Stanford which reject 89% and 94%, respectively, of their annual applicant pools.

In any case, let me answer your question more directly. The truth is you can get an MBA education that is just as good at many other business schools. Outside the top ten or 12 schools, what you lose to some degree is the quality of the students, faculty and alumni network. But there are hundreds of other business schools all over the world that offer as good, and perhaps even better in some cases, an MBA experience.

There are, in fact, at least three high quality institutions that offer the MBA for free: Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Mass. in Amherst, and the Asia School of Business, the new business school in Malaysia that is a partnership between MIT Sloan and Malaysia’s central bank.

My advice to you is not to get caught up in the cost of the degree and, instead, to get focused on what you will get out of it. The return on investment for the MBA is high. That investment is pretty much a no-brainer, particularly if you go to a very good school (which I will define as a top 100 institution). In general, the payback is about 3.5 years, with the best paybacks typically at public universities or those who offer accelerated one-year programs. So don’t let the sticker price of an MBA scare you away. There is a lot of scholarship money out there. There are a lot of very reasonably priced programs and even a few totally free options.

For what it’s worth, however, here’s our latest story on the full sticker price of MBA degrees at leading business schools:


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