MBA Financial Aid 101

financial aid

While most undergraduate students have a wealth of information about financial aid, graduate students may feel a bit mystified by the process of applying for aid to fund their next degree. At what point in the application process should applicants consider applying for aid, and how much aid can MBA students expect to receive? The answers to these questions can affect a potential student’s choice of program, making financial aid a crucial consideration during the application process.

Average Cost of an MBA Program

For the top ten full-time MBA programs in 2015, the average tuition is $59,839. Tuition at public business schools is less—closer to $20,000, on average—but that’s still a major investment for most students. Fortunately, financial aid can help bring your “dream” school to within your budget range.

Full-Time, Part-Time or Executive MBA

Cost Comparison

Comparing the costs of full-time, part-time and executive MBA programs requires considering a lot of variables. For instance, students in a part-time program often pay less per semester than their full-time counterparts since they’re taking a diminished course load, but the overall cost of the part-time MBA can sometimes be greater if those students have to pay additional university fees every semester.

scaleOverall, though, full-time and part-time costs on a per-class basis are typically comparable. For instance, both full-time and part-time students at the University of San Diego School of Business Administration can expect to pay $1,380 per unit (for 56 units total) for their degree.

At most programs, the executive MBA is more expensive than the full-time/part-time MBA. For instance, students at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School can expect to pay $97,542 for a full-time MBA or $171,360 for an executive MBA. It is also important to keep in mind that full-time or part-time MBA degrees are generally paid for on a semester basis, whereas executive MBA fees are typically due up front for the entire cost of the program. Many schools also build the cost of travel and lodging into the executive MBA total tuition. Overall, the costs for these different types of MBA programs can vary with respect to program length and university fees.

Types of MBA Financial Aid

MBA Fellowships

Fellowships often require students to perform a job for the university (such as teaching or research) in exchange for a monetary stipend. Some schools, such as Columbia Business School, offer merit-based fellowships on the basis of academic excellence. Others, including the MIT Sloan School of Management, also offer fellowships to students from backgrounds that are underrepresented at the school.

MBA Scholarships

coins money Scholarships are a type of aid that does not need to be repaid; they are essentially a gift of free money for education. Merit-based scholarships (based on academic records and GMAT scores) are available at many business schools, including the Rutgers School of Business. Other schools—the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, for example—even offer continuing educations scholarships. These scholarships, based on academic performance and on-campus involvement, are available to students who are already in the MBA program.

MBA Grants

Need-based grants are available for students at programs such as the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. Like scholarships, grants are a type of aid that does not have to be repaid, making them exceptionally attractive to prospective applicants.

MBA Loans

Many programs, such as Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, offer applicants access to federal Stafford and Graduate PLUS loans. Alternative Education Loans, as well as the ACCESS Loan Program, are also available at many schools, including the George Washington University School of Business. These loans will require repayment, and students need to complete a FAFSA form to apply for them.


 Many MBA students are automatically considered for scholarships at the time of application. For instance, Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business screens all MBA applicants for potential merit-based awards. At other institutions, some scholarship applications are only permitted after application to the university. For instance, at New York University’s Stern School of Business, the Harvey Beker Scholarship, National Science Foundation and NYU ASPIRE Scholarship, Toigo Fellowship and Ilene Kaplan Memorial Scholarship all require separate applications for admitted students. In general, it’s a good idea to review all application and potential scholarship deadlines for the programs that interest you.

Furthermore, students interested in federal Stafford and Graduate PLUS loans must first complete the FAFSA application. Because financial aid deadlines may vary by program, it’s a good idea to apply for this aid as soon as possible. Overall, MBA applicants will benefit from thinking about the different types of financial aid early in the application process to ensure the best aid package is available to them.


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About the Author

Lindsay Mack

Staff writer covering feature articles on higher management education issues and the MBA space in particular for MetroMBA.

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