It’s no secret that business school is big business. Academia has historically been a feeder system for the business world, connecting would-be marketers, managers, and executives with corporations that cherry-pick top students from graduating classes.
As options to find a foothold even on the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder dwindle, some might consider this lucrative association between the academy and the boardroom a 'pay-to-play' arrangement.
In other words: the only people who can take advantage of the opportunities business school has to offer are people who can afford the (steep) price of entry—including the initial cost to apply. The average b-school prospie can expect to drop upwards of $1,000 on application fees alone and all signs point to admissions offices ramping up fees in the coming years.
Application fees are a major source of revenue for any and all universities but let’s stop to consider top MBA programs like Harvard and Stanford, which receive between 8 and 10,000 MBA applications each year for roughly 1,800 slots. Stanford, which at $275 currently has the highest application fee of US News and World Report’s top 20 business schools, made over $2.2 million from the 8,116 applications that arrived in 2016.
Stacy Blackman, a leading MBA admissions consultant based in Los Angeles, believes application fees are fair when you consider the average overhead of an academic institution. She put the MBA application fee in perspective:
“The fee actually seems quite minimal compared to all of the costs of having a team to run admissions, review apps, do interviews, court applicants, travel and do info sessions and all the marketing costs. I think the fees are more about making sure people are serious about applying.”
There’s always chatter about the true value of business school. But is the MBA application fee a marker of how little interest elite business schools have in reaching out to communities outside of the usual suspects?
Despite rising fees all across the board, tides seem to be turning in the traditionally rarefied business school landscape. Many top MBA programs have begun to offer slightly discounted application fees, like Yale School of Management, whose standard fee is $225, charges $175 for applicants who earn less than $20,000 per year and $125 for those who earn less than $10,000 per year.
Many waive the fee altogether for applicants who might otherwise have been discouraged from applying, namely: veterans and active military personnel; Teach for America, AmeriCorps, and PeaceCorps members; and Forté MBALaunch participants.
Most top US business schools are partnered with Prodigy Finance, an MBA-founded company which provides international students with the loans they need to study abroad.
Here's 20 US MBA programs making the most from MBA application fees:
*These figures are estimates based on most recent available data sourced from schools, school websites, and external sources like beatthegmat.com. The top 20 schools are ranked in accordance with the US News & World Report ranking.
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