How To Pay for an MBA: 7 Strategies (2024)

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Enrolling in a top Master of Business Administration (MBA) program comes with a hefty price tag — tuition alone costs over $76,000 at Harvard Business School for the 2024-25 school year. To bridge this financial gap, students often rely on a combination of funding strategies. From scholarships and student loans to employer sponsorships, there are several ways you can pay for an MBA degree. Keep reading to see what your options are.

1. MBA scholarships

One of the best ways to pay for an MBA is with scholarships and grants because you don’t need to repay them. Scholarships are typically tailored to specific groups of students. For example, you might find scholarships geared specifically to women or minorities. Others might be linked to your family’s employment or cultural heritage.

You can find scholarships and grants by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), asking the financial aid office at your school, using the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool, or searching online.

Here are a few scholarship and grant programs for MBA students to help you start your search:

2. Graduate assistantships

An assistantship is a form of financial aid provided by universities in exchange for part-time work. It typically involves helping faculty with teaching, research, or administrative tasks. These programs can offer practical experience and professional development opportunities while reducing your tuition costs.

Finding the right assistantship requires proactive research and networking. Check with your school’s financial aid office, professors, and department heads. You might also find opportunities by networking with current MBA students and alumni.

3. Fellowships

Fellowships are prestigious financial awards granted to students based on criteria like academic excellence, professional achievements, leadership potential, or specific demographic factors. A fellowship may cover your tuition costs and include a stipend for living expenses.

Here are some MBA-specific fellowships to look into:

4. Employer educational assistance programs

Your employer may offer educational assistance as part of its employee benefits program. This means they’ll pay your tuition directly to the school or reimburse your costs.

Depending on the employer, you may have to meet certain eligibility requirements to qualify. For example, you might have to be employed for a certain period of time, pursue a degree program that’s relevant to your work, or commit to staying with the company for a number of years after completing your degree. Make sure you understand these commitments before accepting the funds.

Ask your employer’s HR or benefits department whether they offer an educational assistance program.

How To Pay for an MBA: 7 Strategies (1)

Good to know:

As long as payments don’t exceed $5,250 per year, this assistance is a tax-free benefit for you. Any assistance benefits that exceed that amount are considered taxable wages.

5. MBA loan options

While scholarships, fellowships, and educational assistance programs can reduce your costs for an MBA, you may still need student loans to cover your remaining expenses.

  • Federal student loans: Start with federal loans for their low, fixed interest rates, flexible repayment plans, and the potential for loan forgiveness. MBA students typically qualify for Direct Unsubsidized Loans and/or grad PLUS loans. Unsubsidized loans offer lower interest rates but have annual borrowing limits. Grad PLUS loans can cover the full cost of your attendance but carry higher interest rates.
  • Private student loans: Private student loans often have higher interest rates and fewer repayment options than federal loans. However, MBA students with very good credit (FICO scores between 740 and 799) may find more favorable rates in the private market compared to federal grad PLUS loans. Some private lenders, like Sallie Mae, College Ave, and Ascent, also offer MBA-specific loans that may come with benefits like longer grace periods and deferment options.

Begin with the FAFSA to see how much you’re eligible to borrow in federal student loans. Then, consider private student loans to fill in any funding gaps. Remember to compare rates and prequalify with multiple private lenders to see which lender can offer you the best terms.

Compare student loan rates

6. Part-time jobs for MBA students

Balancing work with your MBA studies can help you manage expenses and gain relevant professional experience. Here are some part-time job options to consider:

  • Work-study programs: Work-study jobs provide part-time work for undergraduate and graduate students who need help covering education expenses. Jobs may be on-campus or off-campus, but they’re usually related to your field of study. To apply for work-study, complete the FAFSA. Your financial aid award letter will indicate whether work-study is available to you.
  • Internships: Paid internships allow you to work part-time — usually 10 to 20 hours per week — at companies in roles related to your field of study. They help you gain practical experience, apply classroom knowledge to real-world settings, and build professional connections. They might even lead to a full-time job after graduation. Your school’s career services office can help you identify potential internship programs.
  • Freelancing: Many freelancing opportunities can help you gain experience and make money to cover your graduate studies. For example, you can provide writing or editing services, design websites, or offer marketing services to businesses. Freelancing is a good option for MBA students because it usually comes with a flexible schedule and the ability to work from anywhere.
  • Tutoring: Consider offering private tutoring services in subjects you excel at, like economics, finance, accounting, math, or statistics.
  • Gig economy jobs: Driving for rideshare services, delivering food, groceries, and packages, and other gig economy jobs offer flexible hours and the opportunity to earn money on your own schedule.

7. Military benefits

Military benefits might make pursuing an MBA more affordable if you’re a veteran or active-duty service member.

GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is available to eligible people who served on active duty as of Sept. 11, 2001 (or dependent children of veterans or service members). The program covers the cost of in-state tuition and fees, and provides money to help cover housing, books, and supplies.

The Montgomery GI Bill is another program available to eligible people who served at least two years on active duty and were honorably discharged. The funding you can get through the program varies, depending on your length of service, the type of educational program you enroll in, and other factors.

You can apply for the GI Bill and other education benefits available to military members at VA.gov.

Yellow Ribbon Program

The Yellow Ribbon Program is a supplemental program that helps cover tuition and fee costs that exceed the maximum benefits provided by the GI Bill. Participating schools and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs split the additional expenses.

State benefits

Many states also offer additional educational benefits to veterans, such as tuition waivers, grants, and scholarships. These benefits vary by state, so check with your state’s Veterans Affairs office to find out what’s available.

Veteran Support Organizations

Organizations like Student Veterans of America (SVA) and AMVETS offer resources, scholarships, and networking opportunities for veterans pursuing higher education. Join these organizations to connect with fellow veterans and potentially access resources to help you make getting an MBA more accessible.

How to create a budget for your MBA

Budgeting can help you manage the cost of pursuing an MBA and avoid borrowing more than necessary. Here are some strategies to help you budget for tuition, fees, and living expenses while you’re in grad school:

  • Research tuition costs: Tuition costs vary from program to program. Research the tuition rates for different programs, considering full-time and part-time programs. You may benefit from attending an in-state school, as they often offer lower tuition for residents.
  • Factor in additional fees and supplies: Many schools have required fees, such as technology fees, student activity fees, and course material fees. Include these fees in your budget to get a complete picture of the cost of attendance.
  • Plan for increases: Tuition and fees can increase each year. Set aside extra funds to prepare for potential increases.
  • Estimate living costs: Living expenses include housing, food, transportation, utilities, and personal expenses. If you plan to move to attend grad school, use a cost-of-living calculator to estimate your monthly living expenses.
  • Look into payment plans: Many schools offer tuition payment plans that allow you to spread out payments over the academic year. Enrolling in a payment plan can help you avoid large lump-sum payments and better manage your cash flow.
  • Cut non-essential spending: Identify areas where you can reduce discretionary spending, like dining out, entertainment, and travel. Prioritizing essential expenses can free up more funds for your MBA program.
  • Build an emergency fund: Unexpected expenses can happen to anyone, so set aside funds for things like surprise car repairs, medical emergencies, and unforeseen academic costs. Most experts recommend saving at least 3 to 6 months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency fund. Without it, you may have to use a credit card or other forms of debt to cover these unexpected expenses.
  • Stick to a monthly budget: Develop a detailed monthly budget that includes all your income sources, including scholarships and part-time work. Then, subtract expenses like housing, groceries, transportation, and tuition. If there’s a big gap between your income and expenses, you may be able to make up the difference with student loans.

FAQ

How do MBA students usually pay for school?

To pay for college, MBA students usually use a combination of scholarships, grants, employer educational assistance programs, student loans, and personal savings.

How does repayment work for MBA loans?

MBA loan repayment usually starts after graduation. Federal loans typically have a six-month grace period after you leave school before you have to start paying. Many private lenders also offer grace periods, but some require payments while in school. Be sure to check with your lender to see when you need to start making payments.

Does the FAFSA cover an MBA?

Yes. You can use the FAFSA to apply for federal student loans and other forms of financial aid, like scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities to help finance your MBA degree.

What’s the average debt for MBA students?

MBA graduates leave business school with an average of $66,300 in student loans, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Meet the contributor:

Janet Berry-Johnson

How To Pay for an MBA: 7 Strategies (2)

Janet Berry-Johnson is an authority on income taxes and small business accounting. She was a CPA for over 12 years and has been a personal finance writer for more than five years. Janet has written for several well-known media outlets, including The New York Times, Forbes, Business Insider and Credit Karma. In 2021, Canopy named her one of the Top 10 Influential Women in Accounting and Tax.

How To Pay for an MBA: 7 Strategies (2024)

FAQs

How To Pay for an MBA: 7 Strategies? ›

People with strategy MBAs are usually paid well.

In addition to preparing you to lead a business strategically, this type of degree is a common gateway to lucrative and high-paying business careers.

How do I fund an MBA program? ›

How to win the money you need to pay for an MBA
  1. Business school fellowships.
  2. Graduate scholarships.
  3. Graduate assistantships.
  4. Tutoring.
  5. External scholarships.
  6. Industry scholarships.
  7. Employer sponsorship.
  8. Federal student loans.
Jan 16, 2024

How to get a company to pay for your MBA? ›

How to find an employer with MBA sponsorships
  1. Secure a job with a company that has an MBA sponsorship program. ...
  2. Learn the policies for companies with existing MBA programs. ...
  3. Specify your reasons for pursuing the program. ...
  4. Outline the benefits to employers. ...
  5. Talk about the roles you can perform successfully after completion.

How to afford to get an MBA? ›

Schools, organizations and businesses all offer programs that can make your degree more affordable, and getting a student loan can fill in any gaps.
  1. MBA fellowships, grants and scholarships. ...
  2. Company-sponsored MBA. ...
  3. MBA student loans. ...
  4. Personal savings.
May 14, 2024

Is an MBA in Strategy worth it? ›

People with strategy MBAs are usually paid well.

In addition to preparing you to lead a business strategically, this type of degree is a common gateway to lucrative and high-paying business careers.

Will financial aid cover an MBA? ›

Federal grants, subsidized loans, work-study programs, scholarships, and loan forgiveness initiatives can help reduce or even eliminate an MBA student's out-of-pocket expenses. To secure most financial aid, you need to complete the FAFSA for MBA programs.

Can I use 529 for my MBA? ›

All graduate and professional degrees are eligible, including Master's degrees (e.g., MSW, MBA, MA, and MS), doctoral degrees (e.g., Ph. D., and EdD), medical degrees (e.g., MD, DO, DVM, and PharmD), and law degrees (e.g., JD and LLB).

What is a realistic budget for an MBA? ›

According to Education Data Initiative data from February 2024, the average total cost of an M.B.A. is $56,850. Tuition for an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, for instance, costs $74,910 per year, while the same degree from Appalachian State University costs about $9,800 a year for in-state learners.

Is MBA worth it financially? ›

Most MBA graduates confirm the degree is worth it, leading to better quality jobs and better-paid jobs. When deciding on an MBA program, it helps to look at the return on investment (ROI); the salary obtained from a job once graduating compared to the cost of the program.

What should my salary be with an MBA? ›

Industry
IndustryAverage MBA starting salary
Consulting$147,178
Financial services$138,834
Technology$128,442
Health care$116,250
1 more row
Feb 2, 2024

How much does a strategic MBA make? ›

How much does a Mba Strategy make? The estimated total pay for a Mba Strategy is $258,959 per year, with an average salary of $132,892 per year. These numbers represent the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from our users.

What is the most lucrative MBA degree? ›

Management. One of the most popular, highest-paying MBA concentrations is management. These tracks prepare students to plan, supervise, and make decisions for organizations of all types. General MBA programs also typically focus heavily on management.

Is it prestigious to have an MBA? ›

What does MBA mean? A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a prestigious postgraduate qualification that provides an overview of key business practices and is highly valued by top employers.

Are MBA programs funded? ›

Most universities with business schools offer in-house scholarships; some also provide a list of external sources of aid to pay for school. Multiple scholarships, fellowships and grants are available for students enrolling in a Master of Business Administration program.

Can my business pay for my MBA? ›

The best way to get your MBA paid for is to work for an employer who provides either full or partial tuition reimbursem*nt. Some companies will pay for your education outright, including the cost of books and supplies.

How do loans work for an MBA? ›

Banks, credit unions and online lenders issue private MBA loans rather than the government. Rates and repayment options vary by lender, and they can have fixed or variable interest rates. Some lenders require in-school payments while others allow you to defer payments until graduation.

Will my MBA pay off? ›

MBAs are often lauded as one of the graduate degrees that consistently pays off, with many Master of Business Administration graduates seeing starting salaries above $100,000. And job placement for MBA grads seems to remain strong despite economic uncertainty.

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