Harvard Business School To Cover Full Tuition & Fees For 10% Of MBA Students

Harvard Business School has announced that it will cover the costs of about 10% of its MBA students based on financial need

Harvard Business School has done more in recent years than any top B-school in the United States to make its MBA program more affordable. On Tuesday (August 16), HBS made another significant move to open doors for the most financially needy students and admits.

Harvard, which every year gives sizable, need-based scholarships to around half of its MBA students, announced it is increasing scholarship offerings to cover the total cost of tuition and course fees for those in greatest financial need, around 10% of its student body. HBS will also increase awards for those in the middle-income brackets. The moves join a series of steps over the past decade that school leadership says are designed to reduce financial barriers to enrolling in HBS’s two-year full-time MBA program.

The announcement comes at a time when MBA applications, particularly from domestic candidates, are in a steep decline and criticism abounds over the cost of higher education. MBA programs are among the most expensive graduate degree programs in the world. On the same day of Harvard’s announcement, the Wharton School launched a hybrid, mostly online, Executive MBA option with the extraordinary price tag of $214,800.

“We know that talent is much more evenly distributed than opportunity,” HBS Dean Srikant Datar says in a news release. “Harvard Business School should be a place where the most talented future leaders can come to realize their potential. We want to remove the financial barriers that stand in their way and alleviate the burden of debt so they can focus on becoming leaders who make a difference in the world.”


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Harvard’s efforts to reduce financial hurdles for its students and admits are well-publicized. HBS has frozen its tuition for five years at $73,440, which has gradually moved the school lower and lower on the list of the costliest MBA programs. A dozen schools in the top 25 now charge more in tuition than Harvard, including all of the other M7 schools; since 2018, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, for example, has increased tuition 13.9%, while Stanford Graduate School of Business is up 5.3%. Fellow Ivy Yale School of Management has hiked tuition 9.2% in that span. (See What It Costs To Attend A Top MBA Program for details.)

Harvard now sits at 11th among the Top 25 schools, with a yearly cost of $112,764 and an estimated two-year cost of $224,306. That’s up less than 4% over five years, based solely on cost-of-living increases; compare those numbers to Stanford, the overall costliest MBA program, where students pay $124,389 annually and an estimated $244,353 over two years; Columbia Business School, where students pay $122,460 per year ($241,237); MIT Sloan School of Management, at $119,995 ($237,993); and Wharton, at $118,568 ($234,032).

Even as it has frozen tuition and slowed the rise of total cost for its MBA students, Harvard set an example by refunding millions of dollars amid the Covid-19 clampdown and by exponentially increasing scholarship funding each year. Approximately 50% of HBS students now receive a need-based scholarship, with awards ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than $60,000 per year; the average amount is about $42,000 annually, or $84,000 total.


HBS Admissions Chief Chad Losee: “We aim to ensure that prospective students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, industries, and parts of the world have access to the HBS experience.”

Harvard is one of the few top MBA programs with need-based financial aid; others include Stanford, Columbia, and Virginia Darden. Because of annual gifts and more than 750 named fellowship funds, HBS’s annual MBA financial aid budget exceeds $45 million. Among its notable new fellowships are the Forward Fellowship, which offers funding to students who provide financial support to family members while attending business school. In recent years HBS has also instituted a need-based waiver of its $250 MBA application fee.

HBS also touts its efforts to expand outreach to first-generation college graduates and prospective applicants from diverse backgrounds and paths. In 2020, a student-led effort resulted in the formation of a Socioeconomic Inclusion Task Force comprising students, faculty, and staff, and the launch of a First-Generation Students Club. In 2021, HBS expanded financial wellness programming, including personal financial management events and workshops for prospective and current students.

The latest announcement signals Harvard’s ongoing commitment to affordability and socioeconomic inclusion, says Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid at HBS. It means roughly 10% of all HBS students will receive a full tuition and course fee scholarship of $76,000 for each year of the two-year program, though students will continue to be responsible for their own living expenses. Estimated living expenses for a year at HBS are around $31,000.

“We recognize that financial concerns may keep exceptional potential applicants from considering business school as an option,” Losee says. “Given the impact they are having in their companies and communities, that is a loss not only for them but also for society as a whole. By funding the full cost of tuition for students with the greatest financial need, we aim to ensure that prospective students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, industries, and parts of the world have access to the HBS experience.”


Students from the Classes of 2023 and 2024 have already submitted their financial aid applications and will benefit from the new offering immediately, Harvard announced. Nor will the efforts to increase access end there, Losee says.

“Our mission to educate leaders who make a difference in the world guides us to offer these new scholarships,” he says in a Q&A published on the HBS website. “We want talented future leaders from all socioeconomic backgrounds to consider, apply to, and enroll at HBS. Too many great potential applicants opt out of applying to business school because they are concerned about the cost of tuition or the prospect of debt. We hope these new full-tuition scholarships, together with our comprehensive financial aid program, will inspire many to apply in the future.

“HBS is committed to increasing financial accessibility to attract future students from every background. The School’s investment, along with additional support from alumni, will allow us to increase scholarships and enhance affordability for all of our students with demonstrated need into the future.”

Adds says Matthew Weinzierl, senior associate dean of the HBS MBA program: “Affordability is of paramount importance because it enables people from all backgrounds, experiences, and interests to enroll at HBS. Our case-based approach to teaching and learning relies heavily on exposing HBS students to a wide variety of perspectives because we’re preparing them to be leaders in organizations and in a world marked by vast human difference and diversity.”

See a Q&A on the scholarship announcement with Chad Losee, HBS’s managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid, here. An FAQ with more information can be found here.


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