Your MBA can help you reach new heights in your career – but accredited programs are not exactly cheap. Starting early and researching the different ways to pay for your MBA gives you the maximum amount of time to prepare and apply. Some grant and scholarship programs have closing dates that are well before the disbursement of funds, so you may need to apply early to qualify. There is no “one size fits all” solution; chances are you’ll use several different methods to pay for your MBA as you work your way through the program.
Your Money or Theirs?
You have two basic choices when it comes to paying for that MBA – use your money or someone else’s. If you planned – in some cases, way ahead – you may already have some of the funds you need. Borrowing money that needs to be repaid is also like using your own funds; you’ll need to come up with the cash to pay your lender back after your education is done.
When someone else truly pays for your MBA, a third party (or several third parties) supply you with funds that don’t have to be paid back. You can use a combination of financial aid, scholarships, grants and even company reimbursement to fund your MBA dreams and graduate without a huge student loan obligation.
Start with Grants, Scholarships, and Financial Aid
Your first stop should be the financial aid office of your chosen institution. They will be able to clearly outline any financial options you have and apply for financial aid on your behalf. Any reduction in cost that the institution can offer will directly impact the amount of money you must come up with, so it is well worth the time to apply. Half of Stanford’s 2016 MBA students received financial aid for the 128,000+ tuition; financial aid from the school paid for an average of 59% of the total tuition cost for these students, according to the Financial Times.
You may qualify for more scholarships than you realize; there are scholarships not only for individuals in specific industries or who meet academic criteria, but for those that embody the unique spirit of an individual or group. Love horses? Their just might be a scholarship out there for equestrians who want to get an MBA. A few places to start looking for scholarships include:
- Fulbright Foreign Student Program
- Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship Program
- Open Society Foundations
- Eduardo Justo Foundation
- Institute of International Education
- International Education and Financial Aid (IEFA)
- American-Scandinavian Foundation
- The Sainsbury Management Fellowship Scheme
A scholarship comes from a school, business or individual, but a grant comes from the government. It does not have to be repaid, is sometimes based on income alone, not merit, and can be applied for by any US student.
Federal and state grants can help fund a portion of your education; start with FAFSA and work your way through the process to see how much you can acquire for your MBA. A few top places to find grant money include:
- American Association of University Women – Accenture American Indian Graduate Level scholarship
- Military MBA
- Little Family Foundation MBA fellowship
- National Society of Hispanic MBA
- Toigo Fellowship for African-American, Alaska Native, Asian-American/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, or Native American descent students
- Thurgood Marshall scholarship for African-American students
- National Black MBA Association Grants
- American Indian Graduate Center Fellowships
The GI Bill
If you have already served or are considering serving in the military, one of the benefits offered is the ability to pay for school. Explore your options with your local recruitment or VA office to learn how you could fund your MBA with military service.
Some businesses offer financial assistance for employees who are attending college. If your employer offers this as a benefit, then you could acquire additional funds here. Just make sure you read the fine print and understand what you are offering or agreeing to in return for those corporate dollars. If your company doesn’t have a formal program yet, it could be worth asking about. Brands are struggling to keep top talent in key fields, so a reimbursement program could help with employee morale and retention.
Use Your Money or Credit to Finance your MBA
Savings: If you planned ahead, you’re a rock star! Use some of that 529 savings plan to fund your MBA dreams. If you have some savings, you can use those funds as well; just don’t zero out your savings account entirely. Emergencies can and do come up while you are attending school and you may need some backup funding.
Student Loans: If you’re like most of us, you’ll need to fund at least some of your MBA with financing – or a student loan. A Federal student loan could help you pay for your MBA after you have exhausted your other options. These funds need to be paid back and are made via the Federal Direct Student Loan Program. There is a maximum limit of $138,500 for graduate students.
Start with financial aid, grants and scholarships to reduce your costs and fund your MBA in ways that won’t obligate you in the future. Once you have exhausted your scholarship and grant options, move on to funding with student loans and other, more creative ideas, like employee reimbursement. You may end up receiving funds from multiple sources, so fully exploring all your options will allow you to find the perfect mix of money to fund your MBA dreams.