MBA Cost Guide

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Location. Reputation. Career development.

There are plenty of factors to consider before applying for an MBA degree. And while the many of the elements mentioned above are important, for many, the most important may be obvious: cost.

The exact price for an MBA degree can greatly vary, due to the school, location, length of the program, and more. Below, we break what you need to know before applying.


Tuition and Total Cost

When researching MBA programs, tuition costs may be upfront. However, it is important to note that tuition is never the total amount of money one will spending on the degree. Rather, it is the base sum of what the academic institution charges for the education alone. Because of this, tuition takes up the majority of the total cost of the program, but may not include important financial factors, such as fees, cost of materials, travel expenses, and on-campus living, which can greatly vary depending upon the location of the school. For example, Columbia Business School, an Ivy League institution located in New York City, has an annual tuition rate of $74,400. However, because of the location, room and board is an estimated $21,375 per year. With added fees, the total annual cost rises to $110,978.

Location and Quality

Two of the largest financial factors in cost differences is the location of the school and quality of the MBA programs.

The aforementioned Columbia Business School is not just an Ivy League institution in New York City. It is also universally regarded as one of the best MBA programs in the world by numerous publications, such as U.S. News & World Report and The Financial Times. Higher rankings tend to directly correlate with higher costs, both inside and outside of the United States. Tuition at Columbus' Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, in contrast, is $53,642 annually and just $31,139 for in-state students. There, the cost of living is significantly more affordable than schools located in New York City, with an estimated annual room and board cost around $12,142.

Another provincial factor in overall costs is whether the school is publicly or privately funded. The aforementioned Columbia Business School is a private institution, which generally entails higher costs, in contrast to a public school, such as the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, or the University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Large, publicly-funded state schools may offer a significantly more affordable education for in-state residents in contrast to private universities, which generally offer the same rates to applicants regardless of their state or national residency.

There are, of course, some potential drawbacks when going for the more affordable option. High-ranked private schools, such as Columbia or the Stanford Graduate School of Business, often have a high return on investment. So while the immediate costs may seem daunting, the long-term returns may be more worth it.

Return on Investment

Just like attaining an undergraduate degree, earning an MBA is about playing the long game. The initial cost of a program, for many, can rightfully seem daunting. But the principle reason to earn a degree isn't initial curiosity—it's linear career progression. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. citizens with a Master's degree earn roughly 17 percent more money per year than those with just a Bachelor's degree. The specialization of the Master's degree, work experience, location of employment, and attended school can greatly affect this figure, leading to annual salaries that start at $100,000—and that doesn't include extra compensation like signing bonuses, equity, and more.

For example, according to The Financial Times, Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA graduates are the most financially successful MBAs in the world, earning an average reported annual salary of $224,628 three years after graduating. In contrast, at the aforementioned affordable state schools, such as Ohio State, MBA grads pull in almost half that amount at $128,008.

International Advantage

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the most expensive MBA programs in the world are located in the United States. This trend remains even more true for specialized Executive MBA programs, which are designed for professionals that have already been working for 10 years or more. Several of the world's highly-ranked non-U.S. business schools, such as Fontainebleau, France's INSEAD (Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires), are similar in terms of annual costs (current tuition is around $95,901 USD), but the major differences are program length. Full-time MBA programs in the U.S. are generally 21-24 months in length, although accelerated one year options have become more and more formalized at many U.S. schools, including major institutions such as the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. The shorter the program, the more controlled the cost.

In addition, schools outside of North America and Europe may offer even better financial incentives. The full-time MBA at the National University of Singapore Business School, the 17th best ranked business school in the world according to the Financial Times, costs about $45,675 USD. The 24th ranked full-time MBA at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, India costs about $49,377 USD in total.

An Affordable Online MBA

Another way to reduce excess costs is avoiding living on campus entirely. Just a few years ago, the prospect of earning an MBA online may have seemed a bit curious. However, more and more prominent academic institutions are making online learning a focal, flexible element of the MBA experience. Even major business schools like the University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business are getting on board, offering an online option to its highly-regarded part-time MBA program. Listed below are several of the most affordable online MBA options you can find right now:

Michael J. Coles College of Business – Kennesaw State University

The Micheal J. Coles College of Business WebMBA at Kennesaw State University, in Georgia, costs an exceptionally modest $24,370 for the entire program. The 20-month program is completed on a schedule of five consecutive terms, which is shorter than the average full-time MBA in the U.S. And despite its reasonable cost, the WebMBA is still ranked as the 21st best online MBA in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

G. Brint Ryan College of Business – University of North Texas

The G. Brint Ryan College of Business offers a highly-ranked Online MBA with various accelerated options. Applicants can earn an accelerated online MBA degree in the following fields: Marketing; Marketing Analytics; Organizational Behavior & Human Resource Management; Supply Chain Analytics; Supply Chain Management; and Strategic Management. In total, the 14-month Online MBA tuition at UNT costs slightly less than $20,000 USD.

Kelley School of Business – Indiana University

Indiana University's Kelley School of Business offers the top-ranked Online MBA in the country according to U.S. News & World Report. And while it's a bit more costly than the other online programs on this list ($74,460 in total), the Kelley Online MBA offers one of the best return on investments in the country, with recent graduates earning an estimated $107,000 annually right out of school. An estimated 65 percent of those in the program earn promotions even during their education.


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