Whether a prospective MBA student can secure a scholarship, land a job with a good wage, and pay off their student debt quickly, are now essential to their decision to apply for business school.
High tuition fees, and pressure to stay in work, mean MBA candidates are more discerning about the flagship management qualification.
“People are putting a lot of financial resources into an MBA,” says Conrad Chua, head of MBA admissions and careers at the UK’s Cambridge Judge Business School. “The opportunity cost of leaving employment is something students must also consider.”
Calculating return on investment is vital. Each year, the Financial Times releases an MBA ranking of the world’s 100 best business schools. The FT also tots up schools’ 'value for money' rank. That is compiled by using the salary of alumni today, course length, fees and other costs, including the opportunity cost of not working for the duration of the MBA.
Best value MBA programs
This year, the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business sits atop the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking 2020 for value for money, despite being ranked 34th overall. The school charges a resident tuition fee for its two-year MBA of $26,473, while non-residents pay $61,260; a fraction of the cost of some MBA programs in the US.
The ranking's metric for 'salary today' is the average salary for students three years after graduating. Warrington MBAs earn an average salary today of $132,250, a wage more than double the cost of the program’s entire tuition fee for non-residents of the state.
Behind Warrington in second place is Pennsylvania State University’s Smeal College of Business. With a similar tuition fee for in-state residents ($26,938), they charge less for out of state students ($43,296), with graduates earning on average $133,483 three years after their MBA.
Though the US takes first and second place in the value for money ranking, European and UK schools performed strongly. Eight of the top 15 schools are in Europe or the UK; four of the schools are in the US.
There are also two Chinese schools in the top 10—Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University Antai School of Economics and Management—signalling the continued rise of Chinese business schools on the global stage, and the value of an MBA in the East.
MBA ROI: European MBAs lead the way
It’s the European and UK schools that offer the highest MBA salaries post-graduation for the least upfront investment—the shorter, one-year program lengths mean students are out of work for less time and it therefore takes them less time to pay off their tuition fees.
Three years after graduating, MBAs from INSEAD earn on average $182,606; HEC Paris MBAs earn around $164,515; The University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School sees its grads take home on average $164,110; and Oxford’s Saïd Business School MBA graduates earn an average of $161,324.
It’s also striking that of the top 15 MBA programs listed in the FT’s ranking for value for money, only two of the schools—INSEAD and HEC Paris—are ranked in the top 10 overall, in fourth and ninth respectively; it’s not always the highest rank schools that necessarily offer the best value for money for MBAs.
To help candidates choose the right school for them, we’ve listed the best MBAs based on value for money, below.
Top MBAs For Value For Money
This article was first published in January 2018.