PAYBACKS ON TWO-YEAR MBA PROGRAMS ARE OBVIOUSLY LONGER
Students from European schools with two-year MBAs obviously take longer, on average, to pay back their loans. HEC’s MBAs take 3.3 years, LBS students report an average of 3.4 years, IESE’s number is 3.5 years, and at ESADE, the magic number is 4 years. However, those schools’ three-year salaries are relatively high: LBS’s was $167,897, IESE’s was $148,480, ESADE’s $143,542, while HEC’s was $135,858. That might look attractive, but the high cost could in some senses restrict graduates, who need to go into high-paying jobs to pay off their loans whether they want to or not. It is arguable that a cheaper MBA leaves you with more options.
Obviously, our list has its limitations. You might argue the three-year time-period is too small to measure the real value of an MBA. That is possibly true, especially for schools that churn out a lot of entrepreneurs, who will tend to have small earnings for the first few years out of B-school while they establish their businesses. For example, 17% of students from Imperial’s most recent cohort founded their own businesses straight after their MBA, capitalizing on the school’s proximity to cutting-edge scientific know-how and London’s capital markets. Those people’s wealth might not be best measured in salary, but in shares or the future value of their business once it is sold. The low salaries at start-ups could also explain why Imperial students, for example, took the longest to pay back their loans of the schools we looked at, at 3.1 years.
Copenhagen’s low ratio has other causes. The school is famous for concentrating on sustainability, so its students are presumably not chasing top-dollar in their post-MBA careers. Its other focus is entrepreneurship, which must also depress the salary figure. The low ratio certainly doesn’t mean students are not getting what they want.
MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING — BUT IT IS SOMETHING
This all begs the question: What does ROI really mean? As in all such lists, we have measured only the measurable, but other things matter, too. EDHEC boasts that “many of our alumni point to non-tangibles when reflecting on the return on investment” — for example, an extremely diverse MBA cohort which students “gain both experience dealing with diverse cultures and backgrounds and build a vibrant global network of friends and professionals for life.” In EDHEC’s last MBA class, 33% made the triple jump, and 52% found work outside their home country on graduation. All of these things are common non-monetary aims.
At Mannheim, they talk about “ROI in a wider sense” and point out that their learning is based on “multi-competence teams,” meaning students see greater development of their interpersonal and team-working skills. The ability to spend three months overseas at a partner school is also a potentially life-changing and enriching experience that goes beyond crass monetary considerations. At Lancaster they aim to produce “mindful managers” who are thoughtful — another aim that might not necessarily translate into great riches.
“Often people do an MBA because they are looking for change,” says Matt Symonds, co-founder of Fortuna Admissions. “That is a very nebulous thing and almost impossible to quantify. Unlike other post-graduate programs, the idea of doing an MBA is to fundamentally explore and try new things.” Symonds adds that many young people now have “a sense of purpose” and value that above cash.
When choosing your MBA, there are lots of things to consider. Money isn’t everything. But it is something.