Ways to Find Money to Pay for an MBA

MBA degrees can cost more than $60,000 a year.

While earning an MBA degree can advance your career path and future earnings, many people find it difficult to shoulder the upfront cost. While some programs offer options that are more affordable and cost less than $10,000 for the entire program, tuition and fees at the top business schools can soar above $75,000 for an entire full-time MBA program. Even attending a public B-school can be costly. A few public MBA programs charge more than $60,000 a year for both in-state and out-of-state tuition, according to data reported to in an annual survey. For prospective MBA students, here are 17 areas to explore to help pay for an MBA.

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Business school fellowships

A few business schools offer generous fellowships. These awards are similar to scholarships, since they are grant money that doesn’t need to be repaid. For example, nearly 50% of each class at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill receives fellowship assistance, which in some cases covers full annual tuition, fees and a $5,000 stipend.

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Graduate scholarships

“Most schools, including Bentley, offer a number of merit MBA scholarships that don’t involve a work component,” says Gordon Berridge, senior associate director of admissions at the McCallum Graduate School of Business at Bentley University in Massachusetts. Berridge says graduate scholarships are based on previous educational achievements, GMAT or GRE scores and what the student is likely to contribute to the incoming class. NCAA athletes who have eligibility left – either due to a redshirt year during their undergraduate studies or the extra year awarded due to the COVID-19 pandemic – may be able to join an athletic program as a graduate transfer, allowing them to continue playing a sport while earning or working toward a master’s degree, Berridge says.

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Graduate assistantships

Working as a graduate assistant or teaching assistant while enrolled in an MBA program is another way to pay for business school. Grad assistants typically work alongside faculty or administrators in research roles or in educational or administrative activities. “These positions are generally only offered to full-time graduate students with limited work experience and are awarded for merit,” Berridge says. The average graduate assistant salary in the U.S. was $32,371 as of Dec. 27, 2023, according to Salary.com, which collects salary data from more than 25,000 companies and organizations. The salary range typically falls between $27,825 and $38,422, according to the website. At the University of Alabama, for example, salaries vary depending on the department and number of hours worked per week.

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Most MBA programs offer tutoring help to students, particularly those who enter without much of a business background. “For example, if someone came in from the military and they were really struggling in their corporate finance class, they would then engage a tutor that was paid by the school and they would be tutored in that specific topic,” says Melody Jones, founder and co-president of Vantage Point MBA Consulting. These roles are often filled by second-year MBA students and pay between $20 and $30 an hour, she says. The jobs provide a way for MBA students to make money while working on a somewhat flexible schedule, experts say.

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External scholarships

Various scholarships based on affinity or identity are available to prospective MBA students, Jones says, citing scholarships for Native Americans and women interested in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, commonly referred to as STEM. These fields typically have strong potential for a high salary and continued growth. Stanford University in California publishes an annual list of these scholarships, which vary in requirements and award amounts. “Some of the scholarships are so obscure that they might only get three or four applicants,” Jones says. “But if you’re willing to do a little bit of work and jump through some hoops, whether it’s writing an essay or whatever the requirements are in order to apply for the scholarship, there is money out there.”

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Industry scholarships

MBA students looking at external scholarships should consider exploring niche awards such as those related to a specific business field, B-school experts say. “If you’re interested in taxation, research what types of scholarships are available for people looking to pursue a taxation degree,” Berridge says. For example, the Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting and Institute of Management Accountants each offer a $1,500 scholarship to a woman working toward an advanced degree in accounting.

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Employer sponsorship

Some companies offer an MBA sponsorship to high-achieving employees, but experts say this usually involves some type of contract or obligation such as remaining at or returning to the company upon degree completion. Other forms of employer sponsorship include tuition reimbursement with a maximum allowable amount per year. Some companies cover the full tuition amount for employees, while others cover up to 50%, Jones says. Companies such as Deloitte, Capital One, Disney and State Farm help employees pay for their MBA program.

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Federal student loans

Federal student loan options are available for U.S. grad students: the federal direct unsubsidized loan and the Grad PLUS loan. The direct loan is limited to $20,500 per year while the Grad PLUS is available for the cost of attendance minus the total of all other forms of financial assistance. Typically, the interest rates on these loans are higher than the rates offered to undergraduates. To apply for these loans, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA. “Ideally, a student should borrow only what they truly need,” Amanda Elliott, associate director of financial aid and student finance advising at Colorado State University—Global, wrote in an email.

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Private student loans

Banks and other private lenders can provide customized options such as loans at a variable or fixed rate. These loans consider an applicant’s credit score and may have lower interest rates than federal loans. Some lenders offer specialized MBA loans, including Citizens Bank and SoFi. Students who need to take out loans for their MBA program shouldn’t stress, Jones says, especially those attending a highly ranked business school. “To me, it’s not as scary as an undergrad loan, because if you look at the employment statistics and the salaries you’re going to be making post-MBA, you’re going to have everything paid off within five years,” she says.

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In-semester internship

While some students may work on campus as a teacher’s assistant or tutor, other opportunities may be available off campus in the form of paid internships at local companies. Such experiences may even lead to a full-time job upon graduation, though students looking to make money during an internship should research whether it’s a paid or unpaid position, Jones says. “Typically the intent of an in-semester internship is not to make money, but it’s to progress your career, particularly if you’re looking to pivot into a new career or gain relevant experience in preparation for a pivot,” she says. “But some of them do pay. They’re typically part time. So that’s another option to make some extra cash.”

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Individual retirement accounts

According to IRS guidelines, those who make an early withdrawal from an individual retirement account, or IRA, for a qualified education expense are exempt from the 10% penalty. Attending a business school qualifies for this exemption. But account holders who make an early withdrawal will still face income tax on those funds. “I would generally advise against withdrawing from an IRA to pay for business school unless it’s a very last resort,” Jones says. “You will lose out on valuable time in the market, gains from which are intended to sustain you in retirement. So from a math standpoint, you’re better off taking out loans versus withdrawing from an IRA.”

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529 college savings funds

While tax-advantaged 529 plans are typically thought of as a popular way to pay for a baccalaureate degree, you can also use these funds for graduate school. For example, a family can decide against tapping these funds for undergraduate expenses and save the money to cover graduate school costs. These funds can be used at any postsecondary educational institution eligible to participate in the federal student aid program administered by the U.S. Department of Education, like the direct and Grad PLUS loans. Some families use money left over from undergraduate education to pay for graduate school. “It is better, however, for the family to set up a 529 plan just for graduate or professional school after the student has graduated from undergraduate school,” Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research for Savingforcollege.com, wrote in a blog.

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Federal grants and special awards

A few federal government programs can help a student pay for an advanced business degree overseas, such as the Fulbright Business Grant. For example, Fulbright scholarship awards for business grad students can subsidize MBA studies in countries such as Finland, Mexico, Spain and Taiwan. Students who earn a Rhodes scholarship may choose to earn an MBA at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Fellowships may also be available through identity-based organizations such as Reaching Out MBA, which partners with more than 70 MBA programs to provide MBA funding for LGBTQ+ applicants.

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Operating a side hustle

Gig work and other side hustles offer a flexible way for MBA students to make money around their class schedule and program requirements. Some examples include driving for a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft, delivering food through DoorDash or Uber Eats, opening a store on Etsy or renting out a house or apartment on Airbnb. Airbnb may be subject to local laws and regulations, Jones notes, but students who can manage it can make money when they’re out of town or not staying in their house or apartment. “There’s a lot of travel in business school for extended periods of time,” she says. “In New York City, for example, there’s a lot more restrictions on (Airbnb), but in a lot of places there aren’t, so that’s always a good option.”

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Veterans benefits and scholarships

The “Forever GI Bill,” a 2017 expansion of the post-9/11 GI Bill, allows military members who serve 36 months or more to be eligible for up to 36 months of paid college credit, which can be used for graduate school. The amount depends on where a veteran goes to school, but it generally covers the full cost of tuition at in-state public schools and in some cases will cover the full cost of out-of-state schools, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In cases where full tuition isn’t covered, veterans may opt to use the Yellow Ribbon Program, where participating colleges and universities can contribute up to 50% of a student’s remaining expenses and the VA will match the amount. Some schools, such as UNC, offer MBA scholarships for veterans that help cover expenses other than tuition and fees.

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Making your case to MBA financial aid officers

An MBA hopeful who chats with a business school financial aid officer is more likely to receive a generous grant than an anonymous applicant whom school officials are less familiar with, according to admissions experts. During such a talk, a prospective MBA student should emphasize his or her interest in a particular B-school, be upfront about financial constraints and explain how much a grant or scholarship would help them, experts suggest. Though it is possible to have a productive conversation of this sort via email, experts say a phone call, video conference or in-person meeting is more likely to yield results. If you received a more substantial aid package from another school that you are considering, that is worth mentioning, experts say.

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Asking a business school for support as soon as possible

The longer an MBA applicant waits to submit a request for financial aid, the lower his or her odds of success, since there is typically more cash available at the beginning of an admissions round than at the end, admissions experts say. Some business schools have a limited pool of money to draw from that is designated for a particular application round, experts warn. For this reason, prospective MBA students should avoid procrastinating when completing the FAFSA, Elliott says. “Students should submit the FAFSA, even if they think they don’t qualify for federal assistance. Even if federal aid isn’t something a student wants, many schools still utilize the information on the FAFSA to award scholarships and grant opportunities.”

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Building on one-year scholarships

Some MBA scholarships for full-time students last for a single year even though full-time MBA programs typically last two years. One simple way for potential business school students to increase their pot of scholarship money is to request that a one-year scholarship automatically renew for the second year, MBA experts recommend. Current MBA students who want to boost their scholarship awards should strive for excellence in courses and extracurricular activities so that they can make this case in future years and be competitive candidates for awards that subsidize further study.

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Learn more about applying for an MBA.

Explore the complete Best Business Schools rankings and come to your own conclusions about whether an MBA is worth it. For more advice on how to select a business school, follow U.S. News Education on X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook.

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How to win the money you need to pay for an MBA

  • Business school fellowships
  • Graduate scholarships
  • Graduate assistantships
  • Tutoring
  • External scholarships
  • Industry scholarships
  • Employer sponsorship
  • Federal student loans
  • Private student loans
  • In-semester internship
  • Individual retirement accounts
  • 529 college savings funds
  • Federal grants and special awards
  • Operating a side hustle
  • Veterans benefits and scholarships
  • Making your case to MBA financial aid officers
  • Asking a business school for support as soon as possible
  • Building on one-year scholarships