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How To Make Your MBA More Affordable

MBA programs don’t have to cost the earth—find out how to make your MBA more affordable


Thu Jul 20 2023

Cost should never be a barrier to business education. Yet MBA programs often carry a huge price tag that’s unfortunately unattainable for some candidates.

All hope is not lost, however, since many business schools recognize the need for MBA programs to be more inclusive—especially if these programs are going to create the next generation of business leaders that are reflective of society. 

Here are some of the top ways to make your MBA more affordable:

Consider MBA graduate assistantships 

You might be thinking: if only there was a way to make your MBA more affordable all while gaining valuable experience for your future career? This is the essence of graduate assistantships.

At Old Dominion University’s (ODU) Strome College of Business—based in Norfolk, Virginia—graduate assistantships provide students the opportunity to earn a stipend or tuition waiver, or both, while undertaking on-campus work.

“This helps students have less financial burden as they prepare to launch their careers,” says Shanna Wood, program manager of the ODU Flexible MBA program.

The workload is 20 hours per week, which students can fit around their schedule.

Natalya Malenko is an international MBA student from Ukraine and works as a graduate assistant at ODU.

“As fees for international students can be high, I knew I wanted to find ways to make an MBA more affordable,” she says, “I wouldn’t have been able to pursue an MBA without this support.”

Natalya—an active member of ODU Women’s Tennis—studied for her undergraduate degree at ODU with an athletic scholarship from her time in the National Ukrainian Tennis Team. 

She first heard about graduate assistantships from her ODU teammates. 

As part of her graduate assistant role, Natalya is assigned to a specific faculty member to assist with various tasks, such as research, grading papers, data collection, and monitoring exams. 

“It can be a bit of a challenge to juggle your workload at first but once you get to know what you’re doing, it becomes a lot easier,” she says. 

Look into MBA scholarships 

MBA scholarships are a great way to make your MBA more affordable. These can range from need-based scholarships, talent-based scholarships, and academic scholarships.

“It’s important to offer financial aid services to business school students to reduce financial barriers that might prohibit participation in business school programs for qualified students,” says Kerrie Roth, director at the Office of Student Financial Aid at ODU.

At ODU, the process for applying for financial aid is straightforward, requiring students to complete one form—the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA)—that determines their eligibility for federal loans, need based grants, or scholarships. 

Some of the scholarships available to ODU MBA students include the Dr. Bruce L. Endowed MBA Scholarship and the James A. Hixon Endowed Scholarship, both of which require students to meet certain GPA or GMAT requirements.

“A more diverse student body promotes creativity by bringing people from various backgrounds with unique insights and approaches to problem-solving,” says Shanna. 

Each spring, Strome College of Business reviews current and upcoming students’ portfolios, seeking out the most competitive students to be considered for the available scholarships ahead of the academic year.   

Take advantage of benefits for military MBA students

As a military-friendly MBA program located close to the world’s largest naval base, ODU is a popular destination for active duty individuals, ex-military, and military dependents. 

Veteran MBA students can benefit from funding such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which offers financial support covering some or all education costs. 

Apply for federal and private student loans 

If you haven’t been successful for other forms of financial aid, students can consider federal and private student loans. 

“Federal loans are limited to citizens, eligible non-citizens, and students not currently in default on a federal loan, meanwhile all students can apply for private loans, scholarships, tuition waivers and assistantships,” says Kerrie.

The FAFSA form determines students’ eligibility for federal student loans.

When it comes to private loans, there are many different MBA student loan providers out there, so you’ll need to undertake individual research to find out your options. 

Don’t feel afraid to ask for help in times of emergency

There are times when uncontrollable and unforeseen situations can impact your financial circumstances at business school, which is why some business schools reserve emergency grant funding.

As Natalya’s family were impacted by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, she was able to receive funding from ODU that is helping support her MBA studies throughout this difficult period.

Seek MBA funding assistance from your employer

It’s always worthwhile speaking to your employer when you’re considering embarking upon an MBA program as they may be able to point you in the direction of employer funding schemes.

“Some students have been surprised when they have asked their employers, they have found support even if a formal tuition assistance program hadn’t yet been set up,” says Shanna.

Researching different funding options ahead of time can help you make the most informed decision when it comes to your business school journey.

“Business school is a ‘safe’ laboratory for students to practice cultural competence and growth mindset skills with diverse team members before applying inclusive managerial skills at the workplace,” says Shanna. 

“Having a business school environment that mirrors the real world helps to reinforce those much-needed collaboration skill sets that are vital for management careers,” she concludes. 

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