What It Costs To Attend A Top MBA Program

The coronavirus pandemic may have slowed, but it could not stop, the increasing costliness of getting a full-time, residential MBA at a top business school.

An MBA at one of the top 26 business schools in the United States now exceeds $200,000 at 15 schools, with three more B-schools knocking on the door. That’s up from 14 schools in 2021, 13 in 2020, 12 in 2019, and nine in 2018. At 17 of those B-schools, the annual price tag — including tuition, estimated living expenses, insurance, and fees — exceeds $100K. See all the data on the next pages, which show how rising prices at the top schools briefly paused last year before resuming their upward trajectory.

The biggest chunk of any MBA program’s cost is always tuition, and there, too, the cost has gone up nearly everywhere — with some notable exceptions discussed below. Among the 26 top U.S. B-schools, the number with tuition over $80K is four, when there were none last year; the number with tuition over $75K is 12 — double the number in 2021.

STANFORD LEADS ALL SCHOOLS WITH ESTIMATED 2-YEAR COST OF $244,353

Most B-schools do not calculate two-year cost themselves, leaving open the possibility of charging more — or even, in very rare cases, less. Poets&Quants estimates the total two-year cost of an MBA by adding the last two years of annual total costs (MBA1 + MBA2), and we find that Stanford Graduate School of Business is the most expensive MBA program in 2022 — even if you're a single student without dependents (more on that issue on the next page). An MBA from Stanford carries a price tag of $244,353; the rest of the top five most expensive MBA programs are NYU Stern School of Business ($243,066), Columbia Business School ($241,237), MIT Sloan School of Management ($237,993), and Dartmouth Tuck School of Business ($236,390).

Stanford's total cost represents a 3.7% increase from one year ago. Across the top 10 schools as ranked by P&Q, the average two-year cost is $231,420, up from $228,284 in 2021 and $223,750 in 2020. For the entire 26 schools we examined this year, the average cost is $210,724, up from $199,544.

Across the top 10 schools, the average cost increase is 3% from year tp year, and 9.3% over the last five years. Across the top 26, the average increase is 3.4% (at 23 schools) from 2021 to 2022 and 9.4% over five years.

NINE SCHOOLS SEE DOUBLE-DIGIT % COST INCREASES SINCE 2018

So MBAs only cost more and more every year? Pretty much, but the rule is not universal. Three B-schools actually saw year-to-year drops in annual cost: NYU Stern's fell by 16 bucks from 2021 to 2022, and No. 26 Emory Goizueta Business School in Atlanta also dropped nominally. Dartmouth Tuck, meanwhile, reduced its total cost by $1,240, or 1%, in part by keeping tuition flat for the third straight year.

Nor are all cost increases equal. The smallest in the top 10 over 5 years has been Harvard Business School's, around 3.3%, in large part because HBS has not increased tuition since the 2018-2019 school year. Rice Jones Graduate School of Business in Houston has increased its cost by just 2.4% since 2018. Over the last two cycles, as mentioned, Dartmouth Tuck actually reduced year-to-year cost by more than a grand, while among schools that actually increased cost from 2021 to 2022, Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business only bumped up its price by about $800, or 1.0%, to $81,128 annually.

There have been some big jumps, however. (See page 5 of this story for all the total cost data for the top 26 U.S. B-schools.) Nine schools have seen double-digit-percentage cost increases since 2018, including an 18.9% increase at UCLA Anderson School of Management and a 16.7% jump at Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management. But the biggest increase in both the top 10 and the top 25 has occurred at UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, where the cost of an MBA has risen by nearly $20K, or 20%. That's something largely outside the Haas School's control, says Eric Askins, Haas' executive director of full-time MBA admissions. "The Board of Regents meets in July and they hold the final say on any adjustments to tuition costs across the UC campuses," Askins tells P&Q. "We don't have any expectation of a change this cycle but external factors like state budgets and economic conditions of the various colleges play a factor in their decision making."

If you're worried about the cost of a two-year MBA, read more about the ROI of an elite MBA here, or explore another option — an online MBA, which is considerably cheaper in almost all cases — here. And don't forget about scholarships, which abound at every program listed in this story.

AVERAGE MBA TUITION GROWTH AT TOP 26 U.S. B-SCHOOLS OVER 4 YEARS: 4%

Tuition, of course, is the biggest chunk of an MBA's total cost, and tuition is on the rise in most places. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania raised its tuition by around $9K, or 11.7%, this year, to $84,874 — highest of any school in our ranking. Rounding out the top five schools with the highest tuition are NYU Stern ($82,326), Columbia ($80,542), MIT Sloan ($80,400), and Yale School of Management ($79,000). The lowest tuition in the top 26 is at Indiana Kelley School of Business ($53,533), with Washington Foster School of Business ($56,127) and Texas-Austin McCombs ($58,720) in the same ballpark.

Notably, Harvard has not raised tuition ($73,440) for five years now, while Dartmouth Tuck's tuition ($77,520) has remained flat for three years running. Emory Goizueta actually reduced its tuition this year to $70,200, a minor drop of $541 (0.8%) — but a singular move among all schools. See all the tuition data on page 3.

Over the last four years, UC-Berkeley Haas has seen the largest tuition increase, of $11,535 (17.8%) to $76,187; in total, five schools have had double-digit percentage increases in that span. The average growth for eight schools in the top 10 since 2019 is just shy of 5%, while across the top 25 it is 4%.

Public and private universities and colleges operate by different rules, and that obviously impacts the business schools attached to them. This can have significant effects on the cost of attendance, specifically tuition. For example, at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, North Carolina residents pay $51,150 annually, while nonresidents pay $68,112, a difference of nearly $17K; at UC-Berkeley Haas, California residents pay $67,178, or about $9,000 less than nonresidents ($76,187). At Michigan Ross School of Business, state residents pay $68,196, while nonresidents pay exactly $5K more: $73,196.

But the biggest gap between what residents and nonresidents pay for tuition is at the Kelley School, where Indiana residents pay $28,425 annually and nonresidents pay $53,533 — an 88% markup. For anyone not living in Indiana before attending the Kelley School, total annual expenses are $80,275; for those fortunate enough to have state residency, the annual cost is just $55,167.

See the next page for a look at living expenses estimates and costs at the top European B-schools.

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