How Business School Financial Aid Works

People use a career center at the Brooklyn Public Library to look for job opportunities or career education courses in New York City. See more college pictures.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

When the economy tanks, people go to business school. During the recent economic turmoil, programs offering a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) reported record growth in application volumes [source: Graduate Management Admissions Council].More people were expected to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) in 2009 in hopes of getting into an MBA program than had ever taken the test in its history [source: Graduate Management Admissions Council].

Why is this? MBA programs offer what people most want in times of economic distress -- good paying jobs for most graduates. Many business schools provide a return on investment of nearly $10 in salary for every tuition dollar spent per year [source: Business Week].

But, following the basic laws of supply and demand that business school students study, as the desirability of an MBA degree has increased, so has the cost attached to obtaining one. Getting an MBA is now a six-figure proposition for students at some colleges and universities, and some places charge as much as $300,000 for a diploma [source: Business Week].

If you're already in the working world, there's also the possibility of lost income if you take time off from your career to pursue your studies, though some companies provide their workers with employer-based education assistance to help them get ahead.

Before you decide whether an MBA is right for you, consider all the costs: out-of-pocket charges such as tuition, books and living expenses; income you give up by going back to school; and long-term costs including repayment of loans and the interest accrued on them.

Fortunately, you don't have to come up with all the cash yourself. Student loans, grants, scholarships and work-study programs are available to help all undergraduate and graduate students make their tuition payments. In addition, there are special categories of loans, scholarships and grants aimed directly at graduate school and business school students, if you know where to look.

In the following pages, we'll take a look at what types of financial aid are available for business school students, their advantages and disadvantages, and how to find them.