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Most Affordable US Cities To Study Your MBA

Considering an MBA to boost your career but concerned about the cost? Here are the most affordable cities in the US to get the best value out of business school

Tue Mar 12 2024

While the return on investment of top-ranking MBA programs is undeniable, the associated costs can be significant. 

According to a 2023 survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 41% of first-generation candidates report cost as a barrier that may prevent them from pursuing GME compared to 29% of non-first generation candidates. 

While many schools offer a series of scholarship and fellowship opportunities, living expenses in many major US cities can be costly.

Luckily, for MBA hopefuls in search of more manageable living costs without compromising on the career benefits and personal growth that the degree can offer, there are several cities to consider.

Here are seven affordable US cities to do an MBA:

1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

For a significantly lower cost of living than nearing East Coast cities such as New York City, Cambridge, or Boston, Philadelphia stands out as a prime location to study for an MBA.

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania boasts the top MBA program in the world according to the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking 2024.

With a population of over 1.6 million people and proximity to many major cities, the location does not compromise entrepreneurial and networking opportunities.

2023/2024 First-Year MBA Fees: $87,370


2. St. Louis, Missouri

Consistently among the top 50 business schools in the world, Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri is a cost-effective location for MBA hopefuls with entrepreneurial aspirations. 

For a much smaller cost of living than tech hubs like Silicon Valley, the city boasts a surprising number of incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, and entrepreneur support organization—offering ample networking opportunities for aspiring startup founders.

2024/25 Full-Time MBA Fees: $136,400


3. Houston, Texas

In the heart of the largest city in Texas, Rice University holds the top Graduate Entrepreneurship Program according to the Princeton Review 2024. 

The city has one of the lowest costs of living among US metropolitan areas but maintains strong career prospects. 23 Fortune 500 company headquarters are located in Houston, ranking second only to New York City.

2024/25 Full-Time First-Year MBA Fees: $73,500


4. Raleigh, North Carolina

The capital of North Carolina, Raleigh offers access to a growing tech hub at an affordable price point.

North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management offers particularly affordable tuition costs for its MBA programs, especially for in-state students. 

In addition to a lower cost of living than many other metropolitan areas, the city is also part of North Carolina’s Research Triangle. This is one of the country’s largest and most successful research parks, and a major center for high-tech and biotech research in the US. 

Full-Time MBA Fees: $55,732 (in-state), $95,680 (out-of-state)


5. Phoenix, Arizona

Compared to other West Coast cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, Phoenix is a much more affordable option.

The city is a short drive from the top business school WP Carey School of Business Arizona State University (ASU). With relatively low in-state tuition fees, ASU has been the leading school in the country for innovation every year since 2016 according to the US News and World Report.

As the fifth largest city in the country, Phoenix has a prominent business scene, featuring four Fortune 500 companies and 13 Fortune 1000 companies.

Estimated Total MBA Fees: $61,354 (in-state), $102,580 (out-of-state)


6. Atlanta, Georgia

The state capital is home to two highly regarded business schools in the 2024 Financial Times Global MBA ranking, for a lower cost of living than other metropolitan areas.

Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, who came 42nd ,  provides flexibility in the form of a more affordable one-year MBA alternative to the standard two-year program, additionally reducing your time investment by one year. 

Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, 49th in the ranking, offers a similarly ranked MBA program at a particularly low price point for a two-year course.

Emory University Full-Time One-Year MBA Fees: $113,982

Georgia Tech Estimated Fees: $31,014 (in-state), $42,258 (out-of-state)


7. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, located in Pittsburgh, features the number one Online MBA in the US according to the 2023 Online MBA Financial Times Ranking. 

Beyond its strong academic record, the cost of living in Pittsburgh falls at the national average, making this a relatively affordable option for students pursuing a top MBA in a growing tech hub.

Two-Year Full-Time MBA Program Fees: $37,856 per semester


While MBA degrees can come at a significant cost, choosing to study in one of these seven cities can make the process substantially more affordable.