You’ve weighed the costs, risks, and rewards of a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and decided it’s a smart next step for you.
Earning an MBA can open doors to opportunities such as higher pay and more senior company positions. Typical earnings for MBA graduates three years after completing the degree were a high $142,000 in 2016, according to MBA school rankings from the Financial Times.
But before you can focus on maximizing your post-MBA earnings, you need to figure out how to pay for your degree.
That’s why Student Loan Hero analyzed 116 business schools to identify the 20 programs where graduates can most easily avoid student debt and afford to repay it. Among these top-ranked MBA programs, tuition costs are low, students avoid huge MBA debt, and graduates command high pay relative to student loans.
Find out if one of the following top 20 business schools is right for you.
MBA program rankings: 20 best business schools with high ROI
The two biggest reasons MBA applicants said they’d decide against attending an MBA program were cost-related, according to the Graduate Management Association Council’s (GMAC) 2017 survey of prospective MBA students:
- 52 percent worried about not being able to afford the costs.
- 47 percent were concerned about taking out huge student loans.
Those concerns were well-founded given the average MBA debt for new grads — $53,000, according to Bloomberg. The outlet also estimated the “real cost” of a two-year MBA, including tuition, living expenses, and forgone wages, at a whopping $248,000.
By finding the best MBA loans and attending one of the MBA programs on the following list, it will help you optimize the return on investment of earning a master’s degree by minimizing the debt you owe.
1. Lehigh University in Pennsylvania
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $19,350
- MBA graduates with debt: 0 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $0
- Average starting compensation: $86,667
2. Oklahoma City University
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $16,230
- MBA graduates with debt: 9 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $11,331
- Average starting compensation: $101,090
3. University of Texas — Dallas
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $19,048
- MBA graduates with debt: 25 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $7,132
- Average starting compensation: $83,000
4. Missouri University of Science and Technology
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $15,402
- MBA graduates with debt: 19 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $11,386
- Average starting compensation: $66,667
5. Oklahoma State University (Spears)
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $12,121
- MBA graduates with debt: 22 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $18,728
- Average starting compensation: $70,700
6. University of Missouri (Trulaske)
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $14,599
- MBA graduates with debt: 20 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $20,495
- Average starting compensation: $64,252
7. Florida State University
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $18,693
- MBA graduates with debt: 31 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $14,379
- Average starting compensation: $67,308
8. West Virginia University
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $9,450
- MBA graduates with debt: 33 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $18,608
- Average starting compensation: $58,488
9. Louisiana State University — Baton Rouge (Ourso)
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $17,800
- MBA graduates with debt: 27 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $17,900
- Average starting compensation: $62,429
10. West Texas A&M
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $9,600
- MBA graduates with debt: 54 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $18,500
- Average starting compensation: $93,625
11. University of Mississippi
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $13,500
- MBA graduates with debt: 28 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $24,806
- Average starting compensation: $65,300
12. University of Florida (Hough)
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $14,859
- MBA graduates with debt: 38 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $34,426
- Average starting compensation: $115,664
13. San Diego State University
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $14,446
- MBA graduates with debt: 15 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $29,066
- Average starting compensation: $61,467
14. New Jersey Institute of Technology
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $22,690
- MBA graduates with debt: 17 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $29,637
- Average starting compensation: $78,167
15. University of Wisconsin — Whitewater
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $9,504
- MBA graduates with debt: 67 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $8,000
- Average starting compensation: $57,000
16. University of California — Riverside (Anderson)
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $29,124
- MBA graduates with debt: 7 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $41,805
- Average starting compensation: $103,041
17. University of Connecticut
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $15,368
- MBA graduates with debt: 37 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $34,161
- Average starting compensation: $107,648
18. University of South Dakota
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $8,818
- MBA graduates with debt: 31 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $23,250
- Average starting compensation: $53,417
19. University of Texas of the Permian Basin
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $6,482
- MBA graduates with debt: 53 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $18,634
- Average starting compensation: $60,750
20. University of North Texas
- Annual MBA tuition and fees: $9,327
- MBA graduates with debt: 36 percent
- Average MBA debt balance: $29,867
- Average starting compensation: $70,036
3 strategies for getting an MBA without the debt
Private student loans can be a great way to cover the costs of graduate school. But limiting how much you borrow is the most reliable way to ensure you can repay MBA debt quickly. But you’ll need to carefully choose cost-effective schools — like those listed in the MBA program rankings above.
You can cut costs further by following these three strategies.
1. Pursue scholarships, grants, and fellowships
Your net price for an MBA program could be significantly lower if you can snag free money through financial aid such as scholarships, grants, and fellowships.
There will be some tough competition for these types of financial aid, however. According to the GMAC survey, full-time MBA students expected to get around 30 percent of their MBA funding from grants, fellowships, and scholarships.
On the other hand, the GMAC survey also noted that business schools have been seeing fewer applicants overall. With a smaller pool of applicants, MBA programs are more likely to compete for top candidates and offer financial incentives such as institutional aid.
To give yourself the best chance of paying less, apply to a few business schools and pursue multiple forms of financial aid. Then compare your total financial aid package and real costs at each school.
An MBA program with higher tuition could cost less if it comes with more scholarships or a generous fellowship.
2. Earn money and an MBA at the same time
Many business schools are providing more flexible options for earning an MBA. Part-time programs and online MBAs can be a smart choice for students looking to earn a paycheck and a graduate degree at the same time.
Flexible MBA options can help make a degree more affordable in few ways:
- You can stretch out your MBA costs. Annual tuition will be lower for a part-time program.
- You can continue working and earning money. In other words, you can afford to pay as you go. By holding down a job and stretching out tuition, you might be able to cover costs out of pocket and avoid debt altogether.
- You can get your employer to pay some of your MBA costs. Many benefits packages include educational stipends or tuition reimbursements. Talk to your employer and see if it offers these benefits or would be willing to do so.
3. Consider a one-year MBA program
Many business schools offer alternatives to the traditional full-time, two-year MBA. A one-year MBA will help you graduate faster and earn the six-figure pay common for MBA holders sooner.
Interested applicants should be aware that one-year MBAs often have more specific application requirements. You’ll likely need to have a business-focused undergraduate degree to meet prerequisite requirements, according to Poets & Quants.
One-year MBA programs also tend to offer lower total tuition and enrollment costs than two-year programs. In fact, compared to a two-year MBA, the total costs of a one-year MBA can represent a savings of 25 to 50 percent.
A one-year MBA program can be a smart but intense option. You’ll need a lot of stamina and a sterling work ethic to keep up. But if the reward is saving tens of thousands of dollars and getting a jump-start on your career, it could be a bet worth taking.
With some creativity and dedication, students can limit their MBA debt. The MBA application process is long and intensive — but your work doesn’t stop there. Devote the same amount of time, energy, and research to figuring out how to pay for business school.
|Rank||Business School||Average Indebtedness||Percentage of graduates with debt||Annual tuition and fees||Average starting compensation|
|2||Oklahoma City University||$11,331||9%||$16,230||$101,090|
|3||University of Texas — Dallas||$7,132||25%||$19,048||$83,000|
|4||Missouri University of Science and Technology||$11,386||19%||$15,402||$66,667|
|5||Oklahoma State University (Spears)||$18,728||22%||$12,121||$70,700|
|6||University of Missouri (Trulaske)||$20,495||20%||$14,599||$64,252|
|7||Florida State University||$14,379||31%||$18,693||$67,308|
|8||West Virginia University||$18,608||33%||$9,450||$58,488|
|9||Louisiana State University—Baton Rouge (Ourso)||$17,900||27%||$17,800||$62,429|
|10||West Texas A&M||$18,500||54%||$9,600||$93,625|
|11||University of Mississippi||$24,806||28%||$13,500||$65,300|
|12||University of Florida (Hough)||$34,426||38%||$14,859||$115,664|
|13||San Diego State University||$29,066||15%||$14,446||$61,467|
|14||New Jersey Institute of Technology||$29,637||17%||$22,690||$78,167|
|15||University of Wisconsin — Whitewater||$8,000||67%||$9,504||$57,000|
|16||University of California — Riverside (Anderson)||$41,805||7%||$29,124||$103,041|
|17||University of Connecticut||$34,161||37%||$15,368||$107,648|
|18||University of South Dakota||$23,250||31%||$8,818||$53,417|
|19||University of Texas of the Permian Basin||$18,634||53%||$6,482||$60,750|
|20||University of North Texas||$29,867||36%||$9,327||$70,036|
|22||University of Georgia (Terry)||$34,025||43%||$15,670||$108,321|
|23||University of Arizona (Eller)||$44,654||21%||$24,100||$109,219|
|24||University of Cincinnati (Lindner)||$29,437||33%||$20,958||$77,606|
|25||Brigham Young University (Marriott)||$38,355||53%||$12,310||$121,655|
|26||Auburn University (Harbert)||$32,628||16%||$23,988||$65,558|
|27||Temple University (Fox)||$27,770||41%||$28,512||$99,539|
|28||Arkansas State University — Jonesboro State||$38,000||35%||$9,414||$74,500|
|29||Binghamton University — SUNY||$24,779||42%||$16,776||$63,808|
|30||University of Iowa (Tippie)||$44,583||30%||$23,234||$106,061|
|31||Purdue University—West Lafayette (Krannert)||$43,355||33%||$22,418||$105,524|
|32||University of Tennessee — Knoxville (Haslam)||$36,378||32%||$19,894||$79,893|
|33||Xavier University (Williams)||$28,646||33%||$19,188||$62,443|
|34||University of Massachusetts — Amherst (Isenberg)||$30,464||46%||$16,087||$74,134|
|35||Mercer University — Atlanta (Stetson)||$17,172||60%||$19,632||$62,500|
|36||St. John’s University (Tobin)||$28,291||21%||$29,160||$59,276|
|38||University of Texas — El Paso||$27,325||53%||$11,940||$64,714|
|39||Arizona State University (Carey)||$49,859||34%||$29,150||$122,250|
|41||Michigan State University (Broad)||$55,666||26%||$30,600||$121,775|
|42||North Carolina State University (Jenkins)||$40,473||35%||$25,152||$90,500|
|43||St. Bonaventure University||$19,455||54%||$17,592||$50,000|
|44||University of Southern Indiana||$49,887||40%||$8,854||$84,100|
|45||La Salle University||$21,429||49%||$24,570||$55,867|
|46||SUNY — Oswego||$16,677||65%||$16,883||$48,000|
|47||University of Massachusetts — Dartmouth||$31,824||13%||$15,312||$40,800|
|48||University of California — Davis||$52,039||27%||$38,836||$115,176|
|49||University of Washington (Foster)||$32,047||63%||$33,339||$133,299|
|50||University of Tampa (Sykes)||$41,517||30%||$23,730||$70,796|
Methodology: Student Loan Hero surveyed 116 MBA programs and ranked them by factors indicating students’ likelihood to avoid student debt:
1. The ratio of the average MBA debt balance to the average starting compensation
- Average indebtedness figures sourced from the U.S. News & World Report education rankings
- Compensation calculated as average starting salary (plus average signing bonus when listed) and sourced from the MBA program’s site or U.S. News & World Report listing if not provided by the college
2. Portion of students graduating with MBA debt, sourced from U.S. News & World Report
3. Annual 2017-18 in-state tuition and fees, sourced from each college’s site, normalized to assume two terms per year of attendance and 12 credit hours per term
Rankings weighted the first factor at half and the remaining two factors at a quarter each. All data was sourced August 28-31, 2017.
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|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
** Discover's lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
Explanation of Rates “With Autopay” (APD)
In school deferred payment is not available in AL, AZ, CA, FL, MA, MD, MI, ND, NY, PA, and WA).
2 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
(2)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
Information advertised valid as of 7/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
5 Important Disclosures for Discover.
|3.99% – 11.44%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.98% – 11.35%*,2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.96% – 11.98%3||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|3.66% – 9.64%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.87% – 11.87%**,5||Undergraduate and Graduate|