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How Executive MBA Programs Work

Paying for an Executive MBA Program
The majority of executive MBA students receive some sort of financial and moral support from their employers.
The majority of executive MBA students receive some sort of financial and moral support from their employers.
Ron Levine/Getty Images

According to the most recent Executive MBA Council survey, the average total program cost for an executive MBA is $57,954, but the tuition at some of the top-ranked programs is much higher:

  • The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University: $148,000
  • The Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago: $134,000
  • The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania: $156,600
  • Columbia University Graduate School of Business: $144,000

In the past, a full or partial financial sponsorship was the most common way to pay for an executive MBA program. Now, because of the economic downturn, fewer employers are willing to foot the bill for executive education [source: Gloeckler]. In some cases, employers promised would-be students a certain level of financial commitment during the application process and then laid them off, leaving students to cover the costs alone (and unemployed).

A decade ago, an average of one in three students entering executive MBA programs was self-funded. Now, that statistic has reversed, with only a third of students receiving full sponsorship [source: Matheson]. Even with the recession, many executive MBA programs strongly recommend obtaining some level of financial sponsorship from your employer. It's not only a money issue, but a commitment and support issue. It shows that your employer believes in the importance of the degree.

Sponsorship is not the only way to fund an executive MBA program. Most programs offer financial aid to both partially sponsored and self-funded students. Graduate student loans are the most common form of financial aid for executive MBA programs. U.S. residents can apply for Federal Stafford Loans, Federal Graduate PLUS Loans or student loans from private lenders.

International applicants don't qualify for federal student loan programs and must go through private lenders in the United States or their home country. Some schools have special relationships with private lenders to offer competitive rates to foreign applicants. Duke's Fuqua Business School, for example, works with the Coastal Federal Credit Union to offer international student loans at five percent above the prime rate. Keep in mind that it's common for international student loans to require a U.S. co-signer.

Executive MBA programs offer a limited amount of merit-based scholarships. You can also search for graduate scholarships offered through third-party organizations. If you need help, contact your undergraduate career services office.

Keep reading for lots more information on how higher education works.