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How to pay for business school
Getting your MBA could cost over $200K, but there are ways to cover expenses.
Business students have a wide range of options when it comes to paying for b-school. From finding a job that will pay your way to fellowships and graduate assistant positions, in some cases you might not have to go into debt at all. And when free aid doesn’t cover everything, you can look to federal and private student loans to pick up the slack.
6 ways to finance business school
You might want to take advantage of some or all of these options when applying for financial aid for business school. Be sure to get started as soon as possible to take advantage of the best deals available to you.
You might want to land a job to get financial support for your business degree — if your employer doesn’t already offer it. Many US companies will sponsor employees who attend business school graduate programs as a benefit, according to a 2019 survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council:
- 40% of US employers sponsor MBA programs
- 37% of US employers sponsor EMBA programs
- 38% of US employers sponsor other business master’s programs
Companies that pay for business school include Deloitte, Intel and Wells Fargo. Some companies like Deloitte fully sponsor tuition, on top of offering discounts for GMAT prep classes and a technology stipend — but you’re required to work there a few years.
Others only offer partial tuition reimbursement, but with fewer requirements. For example, Wells Fargo offers tuition reimbursement of up to $5,000 a year for all employees.
You can find fellowships to cover all or part of your tuition through companies, nonprofit organizations and your business school. These are often available based on academic merit, financial need or to members of underrepresented groups in the business community.
Fellowships frequently offer more than only tuition coverage. For example, Bank of America offers up to $40,000 toward the first year of your MBA program, plus a spot in a paid summer internship and opportunities to receive more funding. Wells Fargo offers up to $30,000 toward your first year, an internship and an offer for full-time employment with the bank.
A great place to start your search might be your school’s financial aid office — they should have a list of fellowships available to students at your school. But you also might want to apply for fellowships available outside of your school so you have access to other opportunities.
Many business programs offer assistantships that allow students to work in exchange for full or partial tuition. In some cases, you might even receive a living stipend. With assistantships, you’re typically assigned administrative work in your department’s office or placed with a faculty member to help with research.
Schools generally offer assistantships based on academic merit, though you might need to fill out a separate application to be considered.
Grants and scholarships
Grants are generally based on financial need, while scholarships are usually based on academic merit — though sometimes there’s overlap. There are several types of grants and scholarships you might want to consider when applying to business school:
- Institutional grants and scholarships. Your school will likely automatically consider you for grants and scholarships, though some might require an application. Check your school’s financial aid website for more information.
- State and federal grants. Your state’s Department of Education might offer scholarships to residents, and you can apply for federal grants by filling out the FAFSA.
- Corporate grants and scholarships. Many private companies also offer scholarships and grants — especially to members of underrepresented groups in the business community. These typically require a separate application.
Federal student loans
If you still need funding after exhausting your free options, federal student loans might be your next-best choice. These come with more favorable rates and repayment plans than many private loans and have no income requirements. You have two federal loan options to pay for business school:
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans. You can borrow up to $20,500 a year or $138,500 in total through this program. Go for this one first — interest rates are on the lower end at 4.3% , and it has more repayment options.
- Graduate PLUS Loan. You can cover the rest of your cost of attendance with this loan, but you might need an endorser if you have bad credit. All students pay a 7.08% interest rate.
Apply for federal loans by filling out the FAFSA.
Private student loans
If you’re no longer eligible for federal loans or think you could get a better deal, you might want to consider applying with a private lender. Many offer loans specifically for MBA programs, while others have standard graduate student loans you can use to fund another type of business degree.
MBA loans tend to come with rates that start slightly higher than undergraduate loans — usually around 4.5% or 5%. And they often have more limited repayment terms, typically between five and 15 years.
Compare 4 private student loans for business students
|Lender||Variable APR||Fixed APR||Loan terms||Eligibility requirements|
|CommonBond||5.2% to 6.91%||5.37% to 7.2%||10 or 15 years|
|Citizens Bank||3.17% to 9.9%||4.45% to 10.59%||5, 10 or 15 years||Read review|
|Discover||3.99% to 11.87%||4.99% to 12.24%||20 years||Read review|
|Sallie Mae||4.25% to 9.87%||5.5% to 10.23%||Up to 15 years||Read review|
How much does an MBA cost?
The average tuition for an MBA program is around $60,000 a year. When you factor in fees, housing and other school-related expenses, the total cost of attendance can easily top $100,000 a year — that’s $200,000 for a two-year program.
Cost of attendance at 5 top business schools
Here’s how much it costs per year to attend some of the top business schools in the country:
|School||Annual cost of attendance|
|MIT Sloan School||$118,818|
|University of Chicago Booth School of Business||$108,822|
|Columbia Business School||$114,309|
|Northwestern Kellogg||$105,610 to $140,366|
|UC Berkeley Haas||$99,332 to $101,538|
4 ways to make your MBA worth it
A business degree is one of the most expensive graduate degrees you can get outside of medicine. These tips can help you get the biggest bang for your buck.
- Make connections. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to network with professors and other students. Knowing the right people can help you land your dream job in the future.
- Challenge the way you think about business. Going to school allows you to take a step back, reevaluate what you want to do and take a fresh approach. Don’t ignore your instincts to go off in a different direction — you could end up doing something more excited than you’d planned.
- Don’t settle for a lower salary after you graduate. Companies tend offer higher starting salaries to business-degree holders — sometimes twice as high as their counterparts with bachelor’s degrees. Don’t settle for a salary you could have earned before.
- Ask for raises. In addition to higher salaries, MBA holders are often eligible for higher raises. But they aren’t always handed to you. Sometimes all you need to do is ask.
Compare more private student loans
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Going to business school is expensive enough to make free financial aid a necessity. Without it, you can easily meet your Direct Unsubsidized Loan limit in just two semesters. But there are several options to pay for your degree, from employer-sponsored programs to scholarships and grants.
Explore even more ways to fund your MBA with our guide to student loans.
Frequently asked questions
When is it cheaper to get a business degree abroad?It depends on the school. It’s possible to find MBA programs that cost $100,000 or less for the whole program — less than half the cost of a US program. But some can still top $100,000 per year. Even attending an inexpensive program is still expensive compared to other graduate degrees.
Can international students qualify for MBA loans?
While federal loans aren’t available to international students, you might be able to qualify for a private student loan, especially if you have a cosigner who’s a US citizen or permanent resident. Check out our guide to international student financial aid to learn more about your options to pay for school.
When can I use federal loans to pay for an online business degree?
You might be able to use your federal loan funds if the degree’s offered by an accredited Title IV school. Check with the school’s financial aid office to find out if it’s eligible for federal aid. Otherwise, you might have to rely on private student loans or other means of financing.
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Finder Editorial Review Board Member: Kristin Burton, MPAS, PA-C, CAQ-HM
Certified physician assistant, money coach and keynote speaker on a mission to help others reach financial independence.
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