Considering applying to MBA programs, but daunted by the cost? That’s not surprising: tuition for a two-year MBA program averages $60,000 and at some schools, like MIT's Sloan School of Management, can top $120,000 or more. Even so, for many business students, earning an MBA is worth the cost. 

Affordable MBA options

That’s because, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salaries of MBA graduates are double those of non-MBA graduates in comparable positions and industries. For example, as of May 2019, operations managers earned a median salary of $100,000; for chief executives, salaries were over $184,000.

For many MBA graduates, the future looks bright. But let's consider the realities. 

Tuition Plus Opportunity Cost

When you consider the cost of tuition plus the opportunity cost in lost earnings, MBAs might seem even more costly. Additional costs, such as housing, books, computers, and travel, aren't included. Investopedia suggests that business students can accumulate between $100,000 to $200,000 in debt and expenses in just over two years.

Note, however, that these numbers are for the highest ranked business schools, like Wharton and Stanford. According to the Financial Times , MBA students at Stanford will pay, on average, $218,000 for two years; Wharton Business School estimates their tuition costs for a two-year MBA approach $215,000

More Affordable MBA Options

For many business students, there are ways to make an MBA degree less costly. Here are some ideas:

  • Top Management Degrees list 50 affordable schools, like the University of Central Arkansas, which offers online, on-campus, and hybrid programs with a base tuition rate of $11,000, and the University of North Alabama, which offers an on-campus program with resident tuition of $10,574.
  • Online MBA programs have grown in popularity and recognition for rigor. There are now more students enrolled online than in full-time residential programs (aka on-campus programs). For those seeking the most flexible and inexpensive way to earn their MBA at an accredited, quality program, The Princeton Review has compiled a list of Best Online MBA Programs
  • Part-time MBA programs allow students to attend classes in the evening or on weekends while they continue to gain experience and earn money in a full-time job. The downside is that it might take three or more years to complete a part-time MBA, and the schedule can be a difficult undertaking if you have personal commitments.
  • A one-year MBA program reduces the overall cost and you can begin to earn one year earlier. Again, however, program reputation can be an issue that affects future earning potential.

While the MBA tuition may be the biggest detractor, many business students consider it a rewarding investment that leads to additional opportunities, professional satisfaction, and higher salaries—well worth the opportunity cost. 

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