MBA Financial Aid: How to Pay for Business School

Pursuing an MBA is a life-changing decision, and also an expensive one. Here is our guide to paying for your MBA so you can focus on what's important during your time in business school.

Posted May 21, 2024

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It’s no secret that earning an MBA can create a massive impact on your career path and financial earnings. However, going to graduate school can be extremely expensive, and securing a way to finance such a large investment can seem a bit daunting to many prospective applicants.

Luckily, many business schools and outside organizations offer a range of financial aid options for students. Still, understanding the nuts and bolts of financial aid applications can be confusing. It’s often easier to get some kind of financial assistance than most applicants think, but it takes a bit of navigation – which is where we come in! In this resource, you’ll find an outline of where you should go and what you should do at different stages of the process.

The Different Kinds of MBA Financial Aid

Financial aid for your business education can come from a number of sources. The most common types of MBA financial aid include scholarships directly from the school, grants, fellowships, loans, employer programs, and apprenticeships. In this section, we’ll go through an overview of each. Depending on your financial situation, stats (GPA/test scores), demographic info, career path, etc., a combination of these aid types may be what provides the greatest assistance. Without further ado, let’s jump in.

The School

Every top MBA program offers some kind of financial aid program, with both merit and need-based scholarships available. This is the best first place to start as applicants are usually automatically considered for aid upon submitting the application. Harvard Business School, for example, claims to award 50% of students a need-based scholarship, with an average of $46,000 a year. It considers the following factors when making aid decisions: gross income from the prior three years, assets, socioeconomic background, and undergraduate debt.

Most schools use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility (make sure to check submission deadlines!). Further on in this article, we’ve compiled the top scholarships for each of the M7 schools, make sure to check those out.

MBA Grants

Different groups and institutions provide grants for MBA students that don’t need to be paid back, making it an excellent option for most. Many of these grants are based on membership or some kind of affinity between the student and the organization, so some research is recommended to find out what you’re eligible for. Here are a couple of these grants:

To make sure you’re finding and making the most of the many grants out there, we recommend doing research upfront to find any that you are eligible for. Then, make a list that tracks the award amounts, eligibility requirements, and application deadlines. Scholarships are a numbers game; cast as wide of a net as possible.

Fellowships

Fellowships are quite common for MBA programs. Eligibility qualifications vary but most come with substantial aid packages. Fellowships, like grants and other scholarships, typically don’t require repayment, though some come with other standards like maintaining a GPA or participation in certain events. Fellowship applications tend to be more complex so give yourself

The Best MBA Fellowships

1. The Consortium Fellowship

  • For: Any MBA students
  • Amount: Partial to Full Tuition
  • Application Opens: August 15
  • Deadline: January 5

2. Forté MBA Fellowships

  • For: Female students applying to Forté partner MBA programs (see those here)
  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: Same as school deadlines

3. Goldman Sachs MBA Fellowship

  • For: First-year Latino, Native American, or female MBA students pursuing a Summer Associate position at Goldman Sachs
  • Amount: $35,000 reward in addition to the Summer Associate Salary; upon successful completion, recipients will be awarded an additional $40,000
  • Applications Open: August
  • Deadline: March

4. ROMBA Fellowship

  • For: MBA candidates who identify as LGBTQIA+
  • Amount: A minimum of $20,000
  • Deadline: Same as school deadlines

5. Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans

  • For: Immigrants and the children of immigrants in the US who are pursuing full-time graduate degrees (must be 30 years old or younger)
  • Amount: $90,000
  • Applications Open: April 16
  • Deadline: October 31

6. NAIC MBA Fellowship Program

  • For: Ethnically diverse 2nd-Year MBA students focusing in Finance
  • Amount: $30,000 over 10 months
  • Deadline: April 30

Loans

Loans–unlike fellowships, scholarships, and grants–usually require repayment. However, they’re still a good option for many students. The range in interest rates and repayment options can be extensive so, again, make sure to spend time finding the best offer if you decide that loans are the route for you. There are a couple of different sources for MBA loans. Some schools offer them through the financial aid office, while others are available through the federal government or outside, private sources.

The Best MBA Student Loans

1. Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

  • Fixed APR: ~7.05%
  • Minimum Credit Score: None
  • Perks: Flexible repayment options, subsidized loans do not collect interest while students are in school, and the interest rates are generally lower
  • See more here

2. Federal PLUS Loan

  • Fixed APR: ~8.05%
  • Minimum Credit Score: None
  • Perks: Flexible repayment options; common for parents who are taking out a loan for their child and want the safety net that comes from a federal loan
  • See more here

3. Ascent MBA Student Loan

  • Fixed APR: 5.09-14.76%
  • Minimum Credit Score: 540
  • Perks: Very flexible repayment and you can see if you qualify without a hard credit check; best for students with good credit scores or who have a cosigner with a good credit score
  • See more here

4. Sofi Private Student Loan

  • Fixed APR: 4.99-14.05%
  • Minimum Credit Score: 650
  • Perks: Comes with career planning and entrepreneurship support and allows you to refinance your parents’ PLUS loans in your name
  • See more here

5. Earnest Private Student Loan

  • Fixed APR: 5.19-9.74%
  • Minimum Credit Score: 650
  • Perks: Customizable loan payments and terms and an option to skip one payment every 12 months
  • See more here

6. Juno Loan

  • APR: Variable
  • Minimum Credit Score: 650+
  • Perks: Juno is an MBA loan negotiator – they bring together applicants and use the group as leverage to negotiate competitive interest rates from loan providers
  • See more here

7. Sallie Mae MBA Loan

  • APR: 4.99-14.48% (fixed); 6.87-16.47% (variable)
  • Minimum Credit Score: Unlisted
  • Perks: 0% origination fee, deferment options, and flexible repayment plans
  • See more here

Employer Programs

Many employers in the US offer financial assistance for their employees’ pursuit of higher education. This assistance can range from partial reimbursement to full sponsorship, depending on the company. If you work for a bigger organization, it’s definitely worth seeing if any such programs exist; though, be aware that they usually involve a requirement to continue to work at the same company for a number of years upon graduation from the program.

Some of the most common sponsors of candidates in top programs are consulting firms, especially the big 3: McKinsey, Bain, and BCG. Those accepted for sponsorship will have the total cost of their program covered and they’ll also be provided with a living stipend ($10-20k a month) for its duration. The only stipulation is that they return to the firm, usually for two years, after obtaining their MBA.

Top Companies for MBA Sponsorships:

  • Capital One: Through its Graduate Degree Sponsorship Program (GDSP), Capital One offers sponsorships for graduate degree programs, including MBAs. GDSP participants, chosen by the executive leadership team, must commit to two years with the company post-graduation.
  • Disney: Disney's Aspire program supports eligible hourly employees pursuing an MBA, covering 100% of tuition costs upfront for in-network schools. Salaried employees can also benefit from the company's educational reimbursement program.
  • General Dynamics: As part of its benefits package, General Dynamics provides tuition reimbursement and sporadically sponsors MBAs. Recipients are typically required to fulfill a specified tenure with the company, with reimbursement policies varying by business unit and position.
  • IBM: IBM fully covers MBA expenses so long as the program aligns with the employee's current role. Participants in IBM's MBA sponsorship program commit to a two-year post-degree tenure. Additionally, IBM offers the IBM Masters Fellowship Awards, granting $10,000 to students from historically Black colleges and universities, focusing on Hybrid Cloud, Cybersecurity, Semiconductors, and Artificial Intelligence.
  • State Farm: State Farm's Total Rewards program facilitates employees' educational pursuits through tuition assistance initiatives. Two programs, the Direct Bill Program and Reimbursement Program, cater to eligible employees, ensuring debt-free educational advancement.
  • UPS: Through the Earn & Learn program, UPS employees can access up to $5,250 annually for education expenses, with a lifetime cap of $25,000. Eligibility for this financial assistance begins upon hire.

Tuition Reimbursement

  • Centene: Centene’s reimbursement program covers qualified tuition, books, and select fees for approved courses contributing to mutually beneficial employee and company objectives.
  • Chevron: Eligible employees at Chevron can access up to $5,000 annually to offset tuition expenses for approved courses.
  • Deloitte: Deloitte’s Graduate School Assistance Program (GSAP) supports high-performing analysts in attending top business schools. After completing two years at Deloitte, analysts typically return to the company as Senior Consultants, with tuition reimbursement contingent upon this return.
  • Liberty Manual: Liberty Mutual’s reimbursement plan covers 100% of undergraduate and graduate course costs with manager approval, available to full-time employees after one year of service.
  • McKesson: While specific reimbursement amounts vary, former employees have reported reimbursements ranging from $5,000 to $10,000.
  • MetLife: Although their exact figures aren’t disclosed, MetLife is known to offer a generous reimbursement program for educational expenses.
  • Nationwide: Nationwide’s Educational Assistance Program provides reimbursement of up to $5,250 annually to support employees pursuing college degrees, certifications, and technical insurance courses.
  • Progressive: Progressive employees enjoy an annual reimbursement of $2,000 towards approved educational expenses.
  • Raytheon: The Employee Scholar Program covers professional certifications and degrees, including PhDs, with no limit on participants or degrees/certifications obtained. Students may study either in person or virtually at any of the 4,000 universities and schools around the world with no requirement to graduate.
  • TIAA: TIAA collaborates with partner universities to offer discounted degree programs and provides college admissions coaching to eligible employees.
  • TJX: Scholarship and tuition assistance programs are offered in the U.S. and Canada, though specific amounts aren’t specified.
  • Wells Fargo: Tuition reimbursement is available for eligible career-related classes and expenses up to an annual maximum of $5,000 ($2,500 for part-time employees) when classes are successfully completed.

Tuition Assistance

  • Allstate: Employees can receive up to $5,250 annually for pre-approved education expenses covering tuition, textbooks, course fees, registration fees, and even lab fees.
  • AT&T: Full-time employees who have worked at least 6 months are eligible for up to $5,250 annually, while part-time employees working 20 hours or more can receive up to $3,937.50 per year, and those working fewer than 20 hours can receive $2,625 per year, all for approved courses and degree opportunities.
  • Bank of America: Offers up to $7,500 annually (up to $5,250 tax-free) for eligible undergraduate or graduate courses, alongside discounts at select universities and free academic advisory services.
  • Boeing: Through the Learning Together Program (LTP), employees can receive up to $25,000 per year for graduate degrees in various fields of study, with no annual limit for eligible STEM courses. Boeing covers tuition and eligible expenses directly to the institution, with no out-of-pocket expenses for employees.
  • Ford: The STAP program provides up to $6,000 annually per employee for educational degrees that align with company interests, including additional funding for MBA expenses.
  • Humana: Associates working 20 or more hours per week can receive up to $5,000 in tuition reimbursement for approved courses related to their role and company objectives.
  • Kroger: Both part-time and full-time associates at Kroger are eligible for tuition assistance of up to $21,000.
  • Microsoft: Employees can receive up to $12,000 annually for graduate-level courses with manager approval, applicable only to classes for required credits.
  • Northrop Grumman: Offers up to $10,000 annually, with additional funds possible with management approval, for approved educational expenses.
  • Pepsi Co.: Provides up to $8,000 annually in tuition assistance for graduate degrees.
  • Qualcomm: Employees can claim full reimbursement for undergraduate and graduate programs through accredited institutes or various online courses.
  • Target: Funds advanced degrees within its network of schools, offering up to $10,000 annually for master's programs.
  • Verizon: Provides up to $8,000 annually for higher education studies from accredited schools.
  • PayPal: Employees can receive up to $5,250 annually for tuition, books, and lab expenses, contingent on manager approval and course completion. For graduate courses, students must pass with a grade of B or better in order to receive assistance.

MBA Partnerships

  • Cigna + University of Hartford:
    • Cigna's Strategic Partnership Program covers MBA program costs (tuition, books, fees) for eligible employees entering the Cohort program.
    • Reimbursement by Cigna requires students to earn a minimum grade of B.
    • Application for the program must be made through the Strategic Partnership Program.
    • The MBA program is offered in a 100% online format, accommodating working professionals.
    • Concentrations are available in Business Analytics, Finance, Healthcare Management, International Business, Management, Marketing, Project Management, and Supply Chain Management
  • United Airlines + DePaul University:
    • United Airlines employees receive a 25% tuition discount for the on-site program at DePaul, valued at $19,440. This discount cannot be combined with other DePaul scholarships, discounts, or financial aid awards.
    • Program requires completion of 11 core courses and seven additional courses focused on management.
    • Students who hold undergraduate business degrees may also qualify for other course waivers which can further reduce tuition costs.
  • Walgreens:
    • Holds partnerships with both DePaul University and the University of Maine.
    • At DePaul, Walgreens employees receive a 25% tuition discount valued at $19,440, although this discount cannot be combined with other DePaul financial aid or scholarships.
    • At the University of Maine, Walgreens team members benefit from in-state tuition rates, fast-track admissions, and professional development opportunities.

Work/Study & Graduate Assistantships

Some MBA programs offer “Work/Study” programs for eligible students that allow them to work on campus in exchange for financial assistance. Graduate assistants are a common example of this arrangement. They will often undertake a number of different responsibilities, such as teaching, working in an office, or aiding research projects, and be provided with money for their educational expenses. However, many of these programs do not begin until the second year.

Regardless of the financing route you choose, there are several things to keep in mind as you start the process of paying for an MBA:

  1. Make sure to be aware of all financial aid deadlines for both federal and private organizations. Doing so will make sure that you have plenty of time to complete applications and that you don’t miss any potential opportunities.
  2. Have a financial plan for the entirety of your MBA experience in order to ensure that you can stay focused on the academic experience.
  3. With any funding you receive, read all terms and conditions so you know what to expect and are aware of any requirements. For example, many financial aid awards do not automatically renew and require additional documents each year.

Financial Aid for the M7 Business Schools

Here is an overview of the financial aid available at each of the M7 MBA programs.

1. Harvard Business School

Harvard offers many different opportunities for financial aid, from tuition assistance to fellowships and loan reduction programs. For tuition assistance, they offer both need-based and merit-based financial aid that does not need to be paid back. The average scholarship is approximately $40,000 a year, or $80,000 total. Need is usually determined through the student’s gross income from the three years prior to the MBA, any assets, and their socioeconomic background. Scholarships are based on a standardized formula to ensure fair distribution. The financial team at HBS will also help you explore other opportunities such as external scholarships, student loans, and complementary fellowships.

HBS Fellowships:

  • Rock Summer Fellows – Funds students who are either starting a company or joining an early-stage startup
  • Social Enterprise Summer Fellows – Funds students who are pursuing an internship in arts & culture, community development, education, environment, human services, international relief, nonprofit consulting, government, and other social enterprises
  • RISE Career Fellows – Funds students who are working for a business that is creating economic opportunity for marginalized communities in the US

Read more here: The MBAid Journey

2. Stanford University Graduate School of Business

GSB wants its students to succeed throughout their academic experience and after. They offer different opportunities for financial aid including student loans and fellowship awards. Admission to Stanford is need-blind, meaning the school does not consider applicants’ personal resources when making admission decisions. After admittance, GSB calculates an expected student contribution based on your particular financial situation, and the difference between that estimate and the cost of attendance is covered by a combination of fellowships and loans. Fellowships do not need to be repaid and are available to those with demonstrated need, for both US citizens and international students. The average Stanford GSB fellowship for the class of 2023 was approximately $42,000 per year, or $84,000.

GSB Fellowships:

  • BOLD Fellows Fund – For students with financial hardship and a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program – Full degree funding for students dedicated to finding creative solutions to the world’s greatest challenges
  • Yellow Ribbon Program – For eligible military candidates
  • Social Management Immersion Fund – For students who are pursuing an internship at a nonprofit, government agency, or social-purpose business
  • Impact Design Immersion Fellows – For students who want to gain a deeper understanding of a problem and the people most affected by it

Learn more about the financial aid opportunities at GSB here: Tuition and Financial Aid

3. Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

The Financial Aid office at Wharton emphasizes that pursuing an MBA is an investment in yourself and your future. The first-year budget for the Wharton MBA Program is $115,464, which includes tuition, room and board, books, supplies, health insurance, and additional personal costs. There are different programs available to help students finance their degree, including fellowship opportunities that admitted students are automatically considered for after applying. A full list of the fellowships is available on Wharton’s website. Also, for applicants who are on active duty with the military or are a veteran, your application fee will be waived and you are eligible to grant funds through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Wharton School Fellowships:

  • Joseph Wharton Fellowship – Awarded to students with outstanding records of academic, personal, and professional achievements.
  • Director’s List Fellowship – For the Top 10% of students each semester.
  • Real Estate Fellowship – Awarded to promising real estate students.
  • Social Impact Fellowship – Offered to students with demonstrated leadership in the public and/or not-for-profit sectors.

Find out more here: Wharton MBA Tuition and Financial Aid Information

4. University of Chicago Booth

The majority of Booth’s students finance their MBA through student loans, repaying them within 10 years of graduation. Booth also offers merit-based scholarships and fellowships to admitted students. They also encourage students to look at external funding sources. Some of the funding options in addition to fellowships available to Booth’s full-time MBA students include industry awards, leadership awards, military awards, external awards, and second-year student awards.

Chicago Booth Fellowships:

  • Canfield Private Equity Fellowship – Awarded to students with prior investment banking or private equity experience who plan to pursue a career in private equity.
  • Civic Scholars Program – A full-tuition scholarship given to MBA students who work in a 501(c) designated nonprofit organization or for the government.
  • Distinguished Fellowship – Awarded to five incoming students who embody the program’s values of leadership and self-exploration.
  • The Kilts Fellowship – Given to select students who are interested in tech product management, product marketing management, brand management, and other marketing-related roles.

See more about Booth’s MBA financial aid options here: Full-Time MBA Scholarships and Financial Aid

5. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

At Kellogg, 62% of students have some form of financial aid, whether that comes in a loan or scholarship. Admitted students are automatically considered for all merit-based scholarships, and there are also need-based scholarships available to US citizens and permanent residents. They also offer loan assistance programs through the Federal Loan Programs including the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans and Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans. Active duty applicants and veterans are also eligible for grants through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Kellogg Fellowships:

  • Austin Scholars – For top students who have demonstrated exemplary leadership potential and exceptional contributions to their communities and organizations.
  • Finance Fellows – For students in the Two-Year Program who are committed to making an impact in a finance industry or function. Essay required.
  • Hawryluk Scholars Award – For students with interests and goals in healthcare.
  • Kellogg Finance Network (KFN) Scholarship – Awarded to a student with outstanding merit with an interest in finance.

Read more here: Kellogg Tuition and Financial Aid

6. Columbia Business School

Columbia offers a wide variety of financial aid opportunities and both merit-based and need-based scholarships. Need-based awards range from $7,500-30,000 for qualified applicants. Of all those who apply for need-based aid, about half receive a scholarship and the average award is $20,000. There are also on-campus work opportunities, including teaching and research assistantships, to help students finance their MBA. Active duty and veteran applicants are eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program aid.

Columbia Business School Fellowships:

  • CBS Board Fellowship – For incoming students who exhibit exceptional academic and professional promise.
  • Meyer Feldberg Distinguished Fellowship Program – For incoming students who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership potential, academic excellence, and a proven record of success in areas as diverse as entrepreneurship, finance, military, and social enterprise.
  • R. C. Kopf Global Fellowships – For students who are diverse and highly accomplished, not only in the academic realm but also in the breadth of personal, professional and highly international experience that they contribute to the School’s community.

See more information here: Columbia Business School Financial Aid

7. MIT Sloan School of Management

MIT Sloan accepts students regardless of their personal financial situation. After acceptance, MBA candidates will go through a three-tiered financial aid process. First, incoming students are automatically considered for any relevant scholarships/fellowships. Second, students are encouraged to apply for external sources of financial assistance. The Student Funding office at Sloan and the MIT Office of Graduate Education offers resources to help students find financial aid. Lastly, after submitting the Graduate Information Finance Form and FAFSA, students will be eligible for federal and private loans in collaboration with MIT Student Financial Services.

MIT Sloan Fellowships:

  • Legatum Fellowship – For students who demonstrate a commitment to starting a business in a low-income country after graduation.
  • Social Impact Fund – For students taking on important societal challenges during their summer internship period.
  • Zuckerman Fellowship – For dual degree students pursuing public service degrees.
  • Yellow Ribbon Program – For veterans of the U.S. military.

Here is more info on Sloan’s financing options: MIT Sloan Financing Your Education

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Financial Aid MBA FAQs

What types of financial aid are available for MBA students?

  • MBA students have access to various forms of financial aid, including federal student loans, private student loans, MBA fellowships, merit MBA scholarships, and graduate scholarships.

How can I cover my graduate school costs?

  • Graduate school costs can be covered through options such as federal student loans, private student loans, MBA fellowships, merit MBA scholarships, and graduate scholarships.

What about living expenses while attending school?

  • Living expenses while attending school can be managed through federal student loans, private student loans, MBA fellowships, merit MBA scholarships, and graduate scholarships.

What is the difference between federal student loans and private student loans?

  • Federal student loans are provided by the government and typically offer more favorable terms, such as fixed interest rates and income-driven repayment options. Private student loans are offered by private lenders and may have variable interest rates and fewer repayment options.

How do MBA fellowships and merit MBA scholarships work?

  • MBA fellowships and merit MBA scholarships are financial awards that do not need to be repaid. They are typically awarded based on academic achievement, leadership potential, or financial need, and can help offset the cost of graduate school.

Can I apply for multiple forms of financial aid?

  • Yes, MBA students can typically apply for multiple forms of financial aid, including federal student loans, private student loans, MBA fellowships, merit MBA scholarships, and graduate scholarships, to help cover their expenses while attending school. However, students who are receiving aid through a company-university partnership may have less options and should consult the terms of their partnership.

Where can I find more information about financial aid options for MBA programs?

  • For more information about financial aid options for MBA programs, you can visit the financial aid offices of your prospective schools or consult their official websites. Finding time to speak with financial aid advisors can also provide personalized guidance and assistance.

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