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School-by-School Cost of Online MBA Programs

As important as it is to choose an MBA program that suits your interests and career goals, it is also wise to select one that will be a good match financially. Costs can vary greatly from one school to the next, so it is important to compare carefully. The decision to pursue a graduate program will entail a huge financial commitment, no matter where you go. With the average graduate student already about $15,000 in debt after receiving an undergraduate degree, according to Businessweek.com, it’s extremely important to be aware of exactly what you are getting into financially before you enroll in an online MBA program.

Cost Differences

Many factors contribute to tuition costs, such as whether the school is public or private, the size of the student population and the amount of technology used on campus. Online MBA program costs can range from $10,000 to $91,000. For example, the tuition rates for distance MBA programs offered through public schools can be quite affordable. The University of North Dakota and Upper Iowa University have online MBA tuition costs of $12,614 and $16,263. MBA programs with some of the highest tuition rates include schools such as Syracuse University, with a total tuition of $67,446, Babson College, with an approximate tuition rate of $76,100 for its fast track MBA, and Thunderbird School of Global Management, with a total tuition of $77,940.

Most online MBA programs cost $35,000 to $50,000. Costs below $25,000 could be considered low and those above $60,000 could be considered high. Although tuition rates often reflect educational quality, is it possible to find a good program in any price range. Universities with extensive public funding or other resources are often able to offer much lower tuition rates than other schools, even though their degree programs are of high quality. Don’t assume that simply because a school comes with a high price tag, it means that its program will meet your needs or that one with a lower cost necessarily will deliver an inferior education. Be realistic about your financial picture, consider only schools that are within your price range and select a program based on its quality and how well it fits with your personal goals.

Components of Your Final Bill

Many factors go into the total cost of online MBA programs. Tuition will be the main expense, but there are also many supplemental costs, such as books and software and student fees, that can add to the overall price tag. For example, the tuition for an online MBA through the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University was $1,145 per credit hour for the 2012-13 academic year, according to the school’s website. The program consists of 51 credits, so this comes to a total of $58,395. However, required materials such as textbooks, course packs and journals and publications run an average of $100 per course. In a full-time program, this could be an added cost of more than $400 per semester. When comparing the tuition expenses of different schools, don’t forget to factor in these kinds of additional expenses. Admissions counselors should be able to give students an outline of all estimated expenses.

There are significant costs associated with even the most affordable online MBA programs, but you can avoid certain major expenses by enrolling in this form of learning as opposed to an on-campus format. The cost of finding housing close to campus or paying for transportation to and from classes is not a factor for online students. Also, online students are able to more easily integrate their course work with their job responsibilities and can propel their careers forward even while studying full time. This is a huge benefit to students in both a short-term and long-term sense. Students have the ability to dedicate more time to work and, accordingly, have the opportunity to make more money while they pursue their degrees. They are also able to set themselves up to more easily pay off student debt upon graduation.

Online MBA tuition costs can be supplemented by a combination of federal aid programs, institutional grants and scholarships, outside grants and scholarships, and private student loans. All schools will have different sets of criteria and constraints as far as what financial aid they can provide. However, most quality online MBA programs will have lots of options to help students manage their education costs.

Getting Aid

As we’ve mentioned before in a previous section, federal aid programs are available to all students, and eligibility is determined by financial need. The most common and comprehensive form of federal student aid is the Stafford Loan. According to Studentaid.ed.gov, Stafford Loans are awarded based on need, have low, federally determined interest rates and will come either subsidized (the government pays the interest) or unsubsidized (students are responsible for the interest). The government also offers Direct PLUS Loans for graduate and professional degree students. These loans provide a fixed interest rate of 7.9 percent, but students need a solid credit history to qualify. To apply for federal aid, go to the FAFSA website.

Many online MBA programs offer institutional grants and scholarships that can be need or merit based. For example, Walden University’s Commitment to Social Change Scholarship offers six $2,500 scholarships every year to new master’s students who demonstrate a high capacity and strong desire to use their education to effect social change. It is always beneficial to check out the amount of institutional aid a school will potentially provide to its students when comparing MBA programs, and to request scholarship aid during the application process so any assistance can be factored into your total education costs before you decide to attend.

Another way to supplement education costs is to seek out grants and scholarships from outside parties. There are many scholarships available from organizations dedicated to the advancement of business education. Some scholarships are available to all students and others are specifically dedicated to groups in need, such as international, female or racial and ethnic minority students, or those of a certain sexual orientation. The Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley developed the Outside Scholarships for MBA Students (pdf), which is a useful and comprehensive resource including a wide variety of scholarships available to MBA students. Another great resource for minority students is the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, which is the country’s “pre-eminent organization for promoting diversity and inclusion in American business” and awards merit-based, full-tuition scholarships through an annual competition.

Paying the Balance After Aid

After receiving federal aid and any applicable scholarships and grants, students must find a way to pay for the balance of their education costs. Most students do this by taking out private student loans, usually through student lenders such as Sallie Mae, one of the largest in the United States. To find a school that fits your budget, it is good to consider what kind of monthly payment will you be able to afford when it comes time to pay off your loans. Although student loans are some of the most lenient types of debts to pay off, the higher your rate of tuition, the higher your monthly payment will be. Students usually have a grace period of about six months until they must begin paying off students loans. It is beneficial to calculate different payment plans and stay away from tuition costs that could break your budget upon graduation.

Tuition Information for Popular Schools

The following is tuition information for popular online MBA schools. Tuition is listed by base program cost, excluding additional student fees, such as books. The following tuition information has been taken from each school’s website and is based on the 2012-2013 school year: