When last we checked, nine schools had joined the exclusive club that charges MBA students more than $200,000 for their degree. A year and a half later, that club, somewhat surprisingly, has no new members. But that will certainly change in the next year or two, as a handful of schools are standing at the threshold. By fall of 2019, expect the $200K Club to have a dozen members or more.
Meanwhile, the cost of an MBA — including tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses — has continued to rise at every top school, usually by 4% to 5% — and, in one case, by double digits.
Stanford Graduate School of Business remains the most expensive MBA experience in the land, at a two-year cost of $231,672, partly due to the high cost of living in Palo Alto, which the school estimates to be $32,712 annually. That’s also the biggest room-and-board bill among the 23 schools on our list (see the full list on page 2). After Stanford, rounding out the five costliest MBA programs are NYU’s Stern School of Business ($226,232), The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania ($223,800), MIT’s Sloan School of Management ($223,140), and Columbia Business School ($221,956).
FOUR SCHOOLS KNOCKING ON $200K CLUB DOOR
The first school to break the $200K barrier was NYU Stern, four years ago. In 2016, Stanford, Columbia, and Wharton joined Stern, and the next year, Harvard Business School made its move into the $200K ranks, along with Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, MIT Sloan, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. But in the next two cycles, including the incoming cohorts of the fall of 2017 and the fall of 2018, no new programs have ramped up to $200K.
A few are close, however. Four schools charge in excess of $190,000 for an MBA: UCLA’s Anderson School of Management ($197,398), Yale SOM ($194,330), UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business ($193,196), and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business ($190,048). All could conceivably make the leap to $200K for those entering in the fall of 2019. Moreover, another five schools cost $180K or more, led by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, at $188,770.
It goes without saying that no school saw a decrease in total cost between 2017 and 2018 — that’s just not how this works (though it is not entirely unprecedented — see Duke Fuqua from 2015 to 2016). These numbers almost always go up. But sometimes they go up more in some places than others. This year, MIT Sloan saw the biggest jump, at 11%. (Noteworthy: In 2017 MIT had the most modest cost increase of any school, just 2.6% over the year before.) UCLA Anderson saw the smallest jump in cost, just 1.6%; the average for all 23 schools was 4.3%.
LIVING LA VIDA MBA
About those living expenses. Stanford is among the schools that break down their cost of attendance in minute detail, from “living allowance” to books and supplies to “materials & program fee.” But even though Stanford is already the most expensive MBA experience, it could be even more so for non-single students: Get married and your living allowance balloons more than $20,000, to $53,001 from $32,712. Transportation costs for married versus single students are quadrupled, to $4,068. In short, if you’re in the Stanford MBA program and you have a spouse, your total cost isn’t $231,672 — it’s $278,352. That’s almost a new club entirely — a $300K Club.
This is to say nothing of whether Stanford’s estimate on the cost of living in Palo Alto is accurate. It’s not hard to make the case that it isn’t. But among the schools examined by P&Q, Stanford may be the most accurate in estimating living expenses simply by virtue of being the most expensive. Many other schools’ estimates are definitely arguable: Dartmouth Tuck, for example, suggests students can survive on just over $16,000 annually, while Northwestern Kellogg reports a room-and-board tally of $17,100. And can anyone really be expected to survive in New York City on the $21,375 that Columbia allots for its MBA students?