Financing your MBA: Three tips to meet the cost

Employer support can be hard to come by, so remember to spread your net wide

WITH tuition fees of over £50,000 a year for the top programmes, MBAs don’t come cheap. Factoring in textbooks, accommodation, and the opportunity cost of foregoing a full-time salary, this figure can easily rise above £100,000. And while the return on investment for business education is often healthy (Columbia Business School reports an average 116 per cent increase in annual salaries for its full-time alumni three years after graduation), figuring out how to meet the upfront cost is a challenge.

Luckily, financing options abound, and David Simpson, admissions director at London Business School, stresses the importance of spreading the net wide: “Students should spend as much time investigating their finance options as they do choosing their business school in the first place.”

1 SCHOLARSHIPS
Almost all schools offer scholarships and bursaries based on academic achievement or financial hardship. Simpson says that roughly 20 per cent of London Business School’s students receive scholarships, with awards ranging from around £10,000 right up to full fees. But it’s vital not to restrict your search to academic institutions.

The Sainsbury Management Fellowship Scheme, for example, has supported more than 250 engineers through MBAs, with an award of £30,000 for study at Harvard, INSEAD and other top schools. Charitable foundations and other organisations offer similar funds, with websites like scholarshipportal.eu and topmba.com providing information on what’s available.

2 EMPLOYER SPONSORSHIP
The number of students receiving financial support from employers has dipped in recent years, with the percentage of self-funded executive MBA students rising from 34 per cent in 2009 to 41 per cent last year, according to the Executive MBA Council. But help is still forthcoming for those with a strong case to make. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School has a guide on the topic, and recommends approaching the issue as a business deal. Make the business case to your employer, using data to argue that your MBA will bring benefits to the company for years to come.

3 WORK AND STUDY
Some MBA candidates undertake paid work for portions of the study period, Simpson says. This isn’t always possible during term time, with assignments stacking up. But Simpson points out that many schools with a two-year programme allow students to take a more flexible approach in the second year. Electives can often be juggled around, and many find the time to work as research or teaching assistants to earn money. Moreover, candidates can seek paid experience as part of the compulsory internship most schools require. “The leading consultancies and banks pay very well.”

But Simpson says it’s also vital to remember loans, and contributions from family and friends. “Almost all of our students use a mixed portfolio of financing options.”