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The Most Affordable MBA Programs to Help Avoid Student Debt

February 28, 2019 · 5 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

The Most Affordable MBA Programs to Help Avoid Student Debt

If your master plan involves climbing the corporate ladder you may be considering heading to grad school to get your MBA. It’s a serious investment—business school doesn’t come cheap.

But with an MBA, you could advance your career and increase your income potential by a fairly substantial amount. If you decide to go to business school, part of your search will likely involve finding the most affordable MBA program for you.

Tuition costs for MBA programs can vary dramatically. At the lower end, tuition starts at around $40,000 per year, and at the higher end, it’s closer to $80,000 per year. Elite schools like Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Chicago can leave students with around $140,000 of debt in total.

On top of tuition costs, there are other fees and expenses associated with attending school: You’ll have to account for housing, or room and board, plus books and other supplies; some clubs, which are important for networking, have fees that you may want to cover; and certain MBA programs offer study-abroad opportunities, also at an additional cost.

Affordable MBA Options

Finding an affordable MBA program may require some research, but there are options out there. Here are a few avenues to consider when looking for one of the most affordable business schools.

Affordable Full-Time MBA Programs

Take the time to do a quick search and compare the going rates of MBA programs. Attending a state school where you qualify for in-state tuition could ultimately lower the cost of earning your MBA.

For example, the University of Central Arkansas offers online, on-campus, and hybrid programs with a base tuition rate of $11,000. The University of North Alabama offers an on-campus program with resident tuition of $10,574.

Online MBA Programs

There are a variety of universities that offer online-only MBA programs , at relatively low costs. Schools like Liberty, Keiser, and Grantham have an average tuition cost of around $8,000 .

However, some online programs (especially ones that are not accredited) aren’t as well regarded by industry professionals as full-time or in-person programs, which may mean less return on investment after you graduate. Another potential downside to an online-only education is there is no opportunity to network with other students in the program.

Part-Time MBA Programs

Part-time MBA programs allow students to complete their MBA while still working full- or part-time. This allows students to continue earning an income and supplement what they are learning in their classes with the real-life experience they are getting from their work. Many of these programs can take two to three years to complete.

One-Year MBA Programs

One-year MBA options are popular in Europe, where students enroll in an intensive program to earn their degree. The average cost of tuition is decreased since students spend just one year in the program and out of the workforce. More programs in the U.S. are starting to offer one-year MBA options, including Northwestern University and Cornell University .

Cost-Benefit Analysis of MBA Programs

When it comes to applying to an MBA program, the cost of tuition (and books, housing, other fees, etc.) should be just part of the equation. It’s also worth reviewing the average salaries of graduates from specific programs you are considering. Some programs have a fairly low salary-to-debt ratio (highest average salary, with lowest debt incurred), while others leave their student under a mountain of debt with less than ideal income prospects after graduation.

At SoFi, we compiled our No BS business school rankings in 2018 that outline the potential salary-to-debt and income for a variety of popular MBA programs, so you can better determine where you may get a better return on your education investment.

Of course, there are other intangible factors that come into play, like the network you are (hopefully) building as you make your way through your MBA program plus other transferable skills you’ll hopefully gain. It can be difficult to place a monetary value on these items, but it’s not a bad idea to consider them when making your decision. If there is a strong alumni network, it could help you find a job after graduation.

How you plan on paying for your MBA should also be factored into your decision-making process. Some companies may offer to cover a portion or all of the program’s tuition.

This is relatively rare—only about 6% of graduates are able to cash in on a program like this—and it usually comes with some strings attached: You may be required to work for a specified number of years at your current firm, which could be unappealing if you’re interested in exploring a new industry.

Another option is student loans, either private or federal. While federal student loans come with attractive protections, like deferment, forbearance, or income-driven repayment plans, private student loans could be an option as well.

You’ll want to review the loans you are eligible for, including their terms, student loan repayment plans, and interest rates. Take the time to see how much you could be paying in interest over the life of the loan to get an idea of what your degree could truly be costing you.

When it comes right down to it, to help ensure you’re getting an affordable and valuable degree, do your research. Finding the best program for you may take a little time, but if you’re passionate about advancing your education and pursuing a career in business, the right MBA program can be a great step in the right direction.

Refinancing Your Student Loans With SoFi

If you do go down the student loan path, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans once you’ve graduated from your MBA program.

When you refinance your loans, lenders use your credit history and earning potential (among other financial factors) to determine your new interest rate and terms.

As a newly minted MBA holder, you’re likely on a fairly lucrative path and could benefit from refinancing your student loans. A lower interest rate would mean you’ll pay less money over the life of the loan.

If you qualify to refinance with SoFi, there are no origination fees or prepayment penalties. To see what your new loan could look like, check out our easy-to-use student loan refinance calculator.

MBA student loans can get complicated—SoFi is here to help. From helping you finance your education to helping you get out of your college debt, we’ve got you covered.

Check out what kind of rates and terms you can get in just a few minutes.


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The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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