The most expensive international MBA programs can cost over $200k all-in. The way you pay for business school can affect the options available to you in your career down the line. Sure, there are cheaper options, but for a middle-class applicant from India to a top B-school in the USA or Europe, the cost factor is not always a cakewalk!

But there’s good news. Business schools are working to make MBA programs more affordable with innovative payment methods on offer. Financing your MBA degree in 2021 doesn’t have to be so difficult anymore!

Just take a look at the table below to see the recent figures regarding scholarships from the top B-schools around the world:

School Total Scholarships Average Grant % of MBAs on Scholarship
Harvard Business School $31.5 million $32,000 50%
Wharton $16.9 million $30,500 33%
Chicago (Booth) $16.3 million $30,000 60%
Stanford GSB $15.7 million $35,830 52%
Michigan (Ross) $15.4 million $22,360 48%
New York (Stern) $12.8 million $26,400 62%
UCLA (Anderson) $12.1 million $25,860 65%
Northwestern (Kellogg) $11.8 million $22,800 35%
Columbia Business School $10.1 million $20,500 46%
Virginia (Darden) $8.4 million $30,800 43%
MIT (Sloan) $8.1 million $28,220 35%
Duke (Fuqua) $7.1 million $20,950 33%
Rice (Jones) $6.7 million $33,320 94%
Yale School of Management $6.2 million $23,028 31%
UC-Berkeley (Haas) $5.8 million $29,060 50%
Cornell (Johnson) $5.7 million $12,000 33%
Dartmouth (Tuck) $5.4 million $27,550 35%
Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) $5.3 million $21,853 57%
Emory (Goizueta) $5.0 million $24,905 57%
Georgetown (McDonough) $3.3 million $30,000 27%

What these figures tell you is that you need to start the process early and figure out every possible option you have of funding your international MBA degree!

So, let’s take a look at some of the popular ones.

1. Merit and need-based scholarships

There are literally hundreds of scholarships (full or partial) available across top MBA programs. The war for talent has seen business schools offer large scholarships to attract the best candidates. Some of the best business schools, like Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB, are known for having huge scholarships that fund up to half of each MBA batch to attract the best talent.

There are also country-specific scholarships like the Chevening Scholarship to study in the UK, and external scholarships based on specific requirements or demographics. UK-based Cranfield School of Management offers a full-tuition scholarship each year for outstanding applicants from both Australia and New Zealand.

Before you apply for any MBA scholarships, make sure to watch this video to learn more about how you can tune your application to meet the mindset of the B-schools:

2. Loan forgiveness programs

Many business schools are introducing loan forgiveness programs that allow students who work for non-profits and the public sector after their MBAs to write off loan payments.

Yale School of Management’s loan forgiveness program began in 1986 and was the first of its kind at a business school. The program helps graduates follow their passions for policy, social justice, and community activism by pursuing career opportunities in the public and non-profit sectors without the burden of student loan payments.

3. Education loans

As much as international education has become a norm, even at the graduate and MBA levels, loan options for foreign students can be difficult to obtain. In some cases, it’s a matter of national fiscal policy, with governments feeling the pressure to develop the domestic financial environment. It’s also difficult for banks to comprehend the value of an international MBA education and to manage the risk appropriately. In many countries, not enough students attend top business schools in London or New York for the banks to develop the predictive models required to assign rates and risk factors to study loans.

There are exceptions, of course. American citizens can still apply for Federal Direct Loans to study at institutions registered with the US Department of Education. And, some American universities, such as Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, have taken measures to assist international students by co-signing on their loan, a requirement in the United States.

All MBA programs endeavor to provide as much information as possible through their financial aid departments. B-schools such as INSEAD often offer lists with as many country-of-origin specific resources as possible.

4. Out of the box options

Some enterprising students have turned to crowdfunding their MBA on platforms such as Indiegogo or GoFundMe, making a viable case to their wider community to invest in their future potential by helping to fund their MBA degree. This DIY fundraising tactic may be appealing to those with a particular marketing mindset and social media presence.

Another option to consider is the possibility of tuitions to be deducted from personal taxes, such as Canada, Germany and France. That said, things in the US are a lot more complex, where any deduction must meet the narrow definitions of the law in terms of improving or enhancing the skills necessary to do your job or is required by your employer.

5. Family loans

In some parts of the world, it’s a cultural norm for families to support students with finance for their education. In a country such as India, most parents consider it upon themselves to fund their kid’s education at least up to graduate or post-graduate levels. So, with a mix of scholarships from the B-school and a family loan, your international MBA may become a reality!

If your family is helping you financially to gain a top MBA program, try and treat it like an actual loan. The ROI of these programs is huge, so once you start earning pay your parents back and you will never have to look back.

Students from other parts of the world often don’t have this luxury; it’s a stretch to ask for assistance from parents and grandparents, particularly at the graduate level.

Final thoughts

It will not necessarily be the case that you will achieve all the 5 means of financing options listed here, especially out of the box options! But, even with a combination of 2 or 3 of them you can cut down your MBA costs by half and not have to worry about the large sum of money that enrolling in a B-school such as Harvard or Stanford would require.

Your best options are still the need and merit based scholarships provided by the B-schools, and external fellowships. Make sure to find out all about the financial aid provided by your target MBA programs, and start the process early so that you will have all the necessary paperwork in place.
Candidates from India have been able to study MBA in USA and Europe at quite low costs, and you should be able to do the same. Best of luck!