How will you fund your MBA degree? An MBA is a major investment. The most expensive MBA programs can cost over $200k all-in. The way you pay for business school can affect the options available to you in your career down the line.
But there’s good news. Business schools are working to make themselves more affordable with innovative payment methods on offer. Financing your MBA degree doesn’t have to be so difficult.
Here’s six different ways to finance your MBA:
1. Merit and need-based scholarships
There are literally hundreds of scholarships (full or partial) available across MBA programs. The war for talent has seen business schools offer large scholarships to attract the best candidates. Some business schools, like Harvard Business School, are known for having huge war chests to attract the best talent.
There are also country-specific scholarships like the Chevening Scholarship to study in the UK, and external scholarships based on specific requirements or demographics.
One Asian school particularly generous with its scholarship offering is CUHK Business School in Hong Kong.
Alongside scholarships for high-potential finance professionals, entrepreneurs, and women, CUHK offers a unique One Belt One Road Scholarship—for MBA candidates who have worked or studied in one of the countries under the Chinese infrastructure development plan—and a 50%-tuition scholarship for professionals from Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
UK-based Cranfield School of Management offers a full-tuition scholarship each year for outstanding applicants from both Australia and New Zealand.
The school also offers a unique scholarship, of up to $51,000, to give British farmers, or someone closely associated with farming, the opportunity to study the Cranfield MBA, and a fintech fellowship worth over $10,000.
Cranfield’s Sino-British Leadership Scholarship—worth up to $13,000—is awarded annually to an outstanding British or Chinese student, above 33 years of age, who’s looking to do business between the two countries.
2. Scholarships for All
Some business schools are looking at innovative ways to attract top talent, and to make the MBA more inclusive. One US business school, WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University has taken this all the way by offering scholarships to all candidates.
Pam Delany, director of graduate admission and recruitment at WP Carey explains, “At ASU, we measure our success based on inclusivity rather than exclusivity. The greatest learning and innovation occurs when multiple perspectives are present. Our ‘Scholarships for All’ mindset allows us to build a diverse, and highly talented, class of MBA students.”
This, according to Pam, results in “a multi-cultural learning experience that prepares our students to become future innovators and leaders.”
3. Loan forgiveness programs
Other business schools have loan forgiveness programs that allow students who work for non-profits and the public sector after their MBAs to write off loan payments.
Yale School of Management’s loan forgiveness program began in 1986 and was the first of its kind at a business school. The program helps graduates follow their passions for policy, social justice, and community activism by pursuing career opportunities in the public and non-profit sectors without the burden of student loan payments.
Yale SOM MBA alum Hope Taylor Norman says: “I was able to follow a career dream due to the Yale SOM Loan Forgiveness Program. The Yale SOM Loan Forgiveness Program gave us the extra cushion we needed to take the financial risk and follow my dream.”
Rebekah Melville, director of financial aid and MBA admissions committee member at Yale SOM says the loan forgiveness program is critical to attracting top students. “Since inception, the Loan Forgiveness Program has awarded over $9 million to more than 400 graduates.”
4. MBA student loans
There are different options available for student loans, depending on your region. For international students (particularly from regions where funding options are scarce) Prodigy Finance is one great option. There are many parts of the world where international student loans are not common, or countries in Asia and Latin America with banks who may lend to students to study abroad, but at extremely high rates and only with collateral. Prodigy Finance has partnered with 328 schools to offer loans to accepted candidates.
Prodigy Finance was dreamed up by MBAs (of course!), who saw their international classmates struggling to get study loans. With Prodigy Finance, you only need to start paying back loans six months after the course. Importantly, there is no collateral or co-signer necessary.
Whitney Morgan, head of global partnerships at Prodigy Finance, says: ‘We help unlock access to education by breaking down the barrier of funding that is often disproportionately placed on international students. Similarly, our borrowers are free to live and work where they choose post-study, as there are no requirements to return to their home country or stay in the country of study.”
5. Savings and crowdfunding
Personal savings are an often-overlooked source of funding. Many MBAs are also able to draw on a spouse, family and friends to supplement their savings. While some rely on these networks, others turn to crowdfunding on sites like GoFundMe or Crowdfunder. For two-year programs in particular, earnings from fellowships and internships can also help cover expenses
6. Company sponsorship
Several companies offer tuition reimbursement programs as part of their customary benefit structure. There may even be funds set aside for this purpose. Consulting companies and financial services companies are typically more likely to offer sponsorship to employees. Candidates from companies that have not sponsored MBAs in the past, will have to work harder to motivate the idea and justify the investment.
Your decision to pursue an MBA, and your choice of school and location, may be affected by the funding options available and the return on investment. Make sure you consider all your options to make the best decisions.
This article was originally published in August 2018 and updated in October 2020.