How You Can Pay for an MBA
An MBA is an investment. A costly investment. According to Investopedia, “MBAs, especially those who go to private business schools, can accumulate between $100,000 – $200,000 in debt and expenses in just over a two-year period.”
Rising MBA tuition costs has, in effect, caused student loan debt to skyrocket. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “fewer candidates say they expect to take out loans to cover their education and are instead relying on financial aid in the form of grants, fellowships, and scholarships, as well as parental support.”
With such high costs and debt, how can you afford an MBA today? Farran Powell, an education reporter at US News, recently published a US News article on 10 ways to find money to pay for an MBA.
1.) B-school Fellowships
Many schools offer fellowships, which are similar to scholarships. At Harvard Business School, need-based fellowships are awarded to nearly 50% of each class, US News reports. According to the school’s website, the average fellowship at Harvard is around “$37,000 a year – or $74,000 in total.”
2.) Graduate Scholarships
It’s smart to study well before attending an MBA program. Many schools offer graduate scholarships, which are often based on “previous educational achievements, GMAT or GRE scores and also what the student is likely to contribute to the incoming class,” Powell says.
Schools like Bentley University, for example, often offer graduate merit scholarships that are based on past achievements.
“Most schools, including Bentley, offer a number of merit MBA scholarships that don’t involve a work component,” says Gordon Berridge, associate director of admissions at the McCallum Graduate School of Business at Bentley University in Massachusetts
3.) Graduate Assistantships
Graduate assistantships allow students to work while being enrolled in an MBA program. According to Powell, assistants “typically work alongside faculty or administrators in either research roles or in educational or administrative activities.”
“These positions are generally only offered to full-time graduate students with limited work experience and are awarded for merit,” Berridge says.
4.) Industry Scholarships
Aside from in-school scholarships, MBA students can also look at external scholarships. Specifically, Powell says, students should look for “niche awards.”
“If you’re interested in taxation, research what types of scholarship are available for people looking to pursue a taxation degree,” Berridge says.
5.) Employer Sponsorship
A number of companies offer sponsorship for employees to earn an MBA. Usually, sponsorship requires employees to return the company once they complete their MBA program.
The Graduate Management Admission Council says around 8% of prospective MBA students plan to “use either employer reimbursement or sponsorship to pay for b-school.”
Dennis Yim is the director of academics at Kapan Test Prep. Yim tells US News that employer sponsorship generally includes tuition reimbursement with a maximum allowable amount per year.
“Read your employee handbook or talk to human resources to find out if your company has a standard tuition assistance or sponsorship program in place,” Yim says.
6.) Federal Student Loans
There are two student loan options that are available each year for US students: the Stafford loan and the Grad PLUS loan. The Stafford Loan is limited to $25,500 a year. The Grad Plus can cover the school’s cost of attendance.
Powell says the interest rates differ for graduates when compared to undergraduates, however.
“Typically, the interest on these loans are higher than the rates offered to undergraduates,” she says. “Currently, the loan interest rate for a graduate Stafford is 6% and 7% for Grad PLUS.”
7.) Private Student Loans
If you’re looking for more customizable finance options, a private student loan might be right for you. Powell says private lenders provide more customizable options, such as loans offered at a variable or fixed rate.
“Oftentimes these loans are at rates even lower than the federal government,” she says.
8.) Retirement Savings
Retirement savings, such as an IRA Roth or 401(k) accounts, can also be used towards tuition costs. According to the IRS, people who make an early withdrawal from a retirement account are exempt from the 10% penalty as long as the funds are put towards higher education.
9.) 529 College Savings Funds
529 accounts are generally used towards undergraduate education. Powell says, however, that these funds can also be used for grad school.
“A family, for example, can decide against tapping these funds for undergraduate expenses and save the money to cover an advanced degree,” she says.
10.) Special Government Grants
The government also provides grants for degrees overseas. Programs, such as the Fulbright Business Grant, helps students pay for an advanced business degree overseas.
“One of the awards under Fulbright for business grad students provides funding to recipients to study a one-year MBA program in Spain,” Powell says.
MBAs are expensive and while there are generally more grants and resources available to undergraduates, there are still a number of ways MBA prospective students can ensure their business education doesn’t leave their wallets completely empty.