How To Pay For Your Online MBA

Unless you are taking advantage of the relatively inexpensive online MBA options at Gies College of Business or Boston University, getting your degree online can easily run into the six figures. That’s especially true at many of the business schools that offer online programs with highly ranked full-time MBAs.

The sticker prices for the online MBA programs at the University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon University, UNC at Chapel Hill, University of Southern California, Rice University, the University of California at Davis, and George Washington University are all in six figures, with Carnegie’s blended program priced at a hefty $141,000 (see the Most & Least Expensive Online MBA Programs). Even though you don’t have to give up your job to attend an online program, paying more than $100,000 for the degree can be daunting for many.

So how do you pay for an online MBA without draining all of your savings or taking out a second mortgage on your home? Because you will still keep your job while getting an online degree, you may be able to tap into your employer as a source of tuition cash. And because you have the flexibility to extend your studies in most online options, you can arrange your educational schedule to best take advantage of corporate sponsorship plans with annual limits on the financial aid they provide.

Many online MBA programs now offer significant scholarship money, evidence of how competitive the market has become even while growth in online offerings has been significant. Typically, awards are more likely at business schools that price their online options in the higher ranges. The $22,000 online MBA at Gies or the $24,000 online MBA at Boston University, for example, offer no scholarship money at all.

MBA@UNC, the online program at the Kenan-Flager Business School at the University of North Carolna,  awards a limited number of partial-tuition fellowships to admitted applicants who have demonstrated excellence in many areas of their applications. No additional application is required for fellowship consideration; every applicant is automatically considered for fellowships. The number of fellowships granted and the monetary award amounts may vary each year.


Most schools are less than transparent with how much scholarship cash they have in the online space and what is the most important determining factors used to dole out the discounts. An exception is Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Four of every ten Kelley Direct students receive scholarship awards, with the average coming in at $12,500 for a program with a price tag of $74,520. That’s a 17% discount on the stated cost of the degree. And yet, the starting price is highly reasonable for a school that routinely places its on-campus MBA on top 20 lists and whose online MBA experience is ranked first by Poets&Quants.

Kelley’s scholarship awards, moreover, amount to anywhere between $100 to $600 per hour credit and don’t require a separate application as some other schools do. The most important criteria to land an award? Your GMAT or GRE score. The school says it looks for applicants who score in the mid-600s, though a score above 700 would likely get you the most financial support. Kelley also considers undergraduate and master’s GPAs, demonstrated leadership experience, and quantitative know-how demonstrated either from a standardized test score or the kinds of number crunching you might do in your job.

And if, like most students, you need to borrow some money to pay for the tuition, there is a vast number of sources to tap. Kelley recently published an excellent video of a webinar on how to finance a degree. In it, Eric Spoonmore, in charge of enrollment management at the school, goes through all those options, along with their pros and cons. Whether you are applying to Kelley or any other program, it’s a valuable resource for applicants.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.