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Adult student budgeting for online MBA degree costs

Continuing your education with a graduate degree can be a great investment in your future. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is one of the most versatile and lucrative degrees you can hold. It supports various career goals, including breaking into a new role, becoming an entrepreneur, or working up the corporate ladder.

Although the value and benefits of an MBA are proven, you still have to consider the expense. So how much does an MBA cost?

The short answer is that it depends on various factors, including if the program is online or in-person, if it’s offered by a private or public college, its overall length, and the institution's prominence. In this post, we’ll break down all the expenses of earning your MBA.

How Much Does an MBA Cost on Average?

Many factors determine the price you’ll pay for an MBA. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average tuition for an MBA in the US is $61,800.

Although this average can give you a ballpark idea of the cost of an MBA degree, you’ll find plenty of programs with costs that fall above and below that average. It’s possible to attain this degree at a smaller financial investment. For example, an online MBA program from MVNU Online charges only $498 per credit, with 36 credits needed to graduate. That’s a maximum cost of $17,928.

What Impacts the Average Cost of an MBA?

When evaluating MBA programs and their costs, you’ll want to compare them by considering what affects the price. Some of these factors may be flexible or negotiable for you, depending on your schedule, access to education, and the type of MBA you want.

Let’s look at the primary factors that contribute to the price:

Online vs. In-Person Programs

In general, online MBA programs are more affordable than in-person programs. There’s less overhead for the college providing online programs, as no physical space is necessary. You’ll also avoid the costs associated with an in-person program, such as campus living expenses and transportation. Keep in mind that “cheaper” doesn’t equate to “lower quality.” You can join an accredited online MBA program and still reap the many benefits of this degree.

Institutional Prestige

Know that top-tier schools will always be more expensive. For example, an MBA from Harvard would cost, in total, $112,764. A higher cost doesn’t necessarily indicate a better quality education or a more valuable degree. For most students, it makes sense to find a high-quality, accredited program at a more affordable cost so they can achieve their goals without taking out exorbitant loans.

Length of the Program

Most MBA programs take two years to complete. You may need additional time if you work full time or have other obligations. In some cases, that may end up raising your total cost, but not always. This depends on the pricing structure, which we’ll look at next.

A condensed schedule of a one-year MBA program may also be an option. These typically have lower tuition rates but an accelerated learning plan with less flexibility.

Pricing Structure

Some MBA programs have a flat price per semester, regardless of the number of classes in which you enroll.

You’ll get the greatest value with a cost-per-credit MBA program. You can set your own pace as you pay for each credit. If your budget is strict, this pricing method is the best option.

MBA Costs: More Than Just Tuition

When making an MBA cost comparison, you’ll need to account for all expenses, including those that go beyond tuition.


First, some programs require you to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for admissions. The GRE test costs $220. It costs $275 to take the GMAT at a test center or $300 to do so online.

Application Fees

The next cost to be aware of is application fees. These vary depending on the school and program, with a few having no charge. Analysis from e-GMAT revealed that the price could range from $60-$275. If you decide to apply to multiple schools, this can add up quickly. However, many colleges offer fee waivers to those that qualify.

Books and Supplies

Once you begin the program, you’ll incur costs related to books and materials for each class. Textbooks are often expensive, with the Education Data Initiative reporting an average annual cost of $1,226-$1,465 in 2021. If you can use e-books, you’ll save considerably here, as they are 31.9% less expensive than hard copies. Beyond the books, you may need other supplies throughout the program.

Housing and Transportation Costs

An in-person program may require additional costs. For example, traveling to campus may require a parking pass or additional transportation costs, which are added expenses.  Some online programs have in-person intensives or weekend seminars that may require travel to campus. This is a portion of the MBA program that you would need to account for.

How to Save Money on Your MBA Costs

If you dream of earning your MBA but don’t think it’s financially feasible, here are some great tips on how to save money on your degree.

Choose an online program with a cost-per-credit model.

A remote MBA program will likely cost substantially less than an in-person one. You also won’t incur fees related to being on campus. Further, most of the online classes use e-books or open resources. When comparing online MBA programs, pay attention to the cost per credit, which will help you accurately calculate tuition.

Seek out aid programs, private grants, and scholarships.

Graduate students don’t have access to Pell Grants, as they are only for undergraduates. However, there are still opportunities to apply for aid programs, private grants, and scholarships. Grants and scholarships can be based on merit, need, diversity, or career path. For example, the Forté Foundation has partnered with many schools to offer fellowships of $10,000-$20,000 per year to female MBA students. Start the process by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and work with a financial aid advisor to identify funding avenues you should explore.

Opt for a fast-track MBA.

Spending less time in school won’t necessarily decrease your tuition. However, you can finish a fast-track MBA in about a year. As a result of the accelerated pace, you may incur fewer expenses and be ready to reap the rewards of your new graduate degree sooner.

What’s the ROI of an MBA?

Ultimately, you need to weigh the costs of the MBA with the value you receive. You can define value by the program’s quality and what you can expect in terms of ROI.

So what kind of ROI can you expect from an MBA?

In general, a graduate degree qualifies you for roles in management and leadership, which often come with a larger salary. For example, a Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) report revealed that MBA grads can expect a median base salary of $115,000. Another study from Poets & Quants and PayScale found that an MBA, regardless of where you earn it, will deliver earnings in the seven figures over a lifetime.

Those with MBAs echo the same sentiment, with 77 percent of graduates saying their degree increased their earnings.

Your earning potential could immensely grow with an MBA when you use it to change industries. For example, getting an MBA in Health Care Administration could lead to high-paying, in-demand jobs in the field.

Invest in Your Future with an MBA from MVNU Online

The cost of an MBA is an investment in yourself. Learn more about the MVNU Online MBA and financial aid options today.

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