Some top US MBAs require a budget of over 200,000 USD for a two-year programme including tuition, fees, travel, living costs and all other related expenses. Some of the most expensive full-time MBA programmes charge over 60,000 USD just for the annual tuition, such as MIT Sloan - 65,750 USD,  Stanford - 64,050 USD, NYU Stern - 63,720 USD, Darden - 61,250 USD, Harvard - 61,225 USD. In most cases the tuition fee does not cover textbooks, case study books and other study materials.

If you begin a full-time MBA in 2016 at some of the top European business schools you should be ready to commit over 60,000 EUR just for tuition fees. London Business School (UK) will cost you 67,750 GBP (around 95,000 EUR), but the full-time MBA lasts for two years. INSEAD (France) charges 65,800 EUR for tuition, and IE Business School (Spain) 61,900 EUR. The good news is that most European MBA programmes are just one year long (or even 10 months) which easily cuts your expenses by some 50% compared to those for a top US MBA.

Affordable top one-year MBAs

One can find full-time MBA programmes with very reasonable tuition fees among the top 100 listed in the Global MBA Ranking 2015 of the Financial Times. In addition to being one-year programmes, they are hosted in countries where living expenses are also affordable, with estimates - provided by the business schools - ranging between 700 and 1500 EUR per month.

Here are some examples of tuition fees of top European b-schools which do not look that frightening. ESMT (Germany) - 29,000 EUR (38,000 EUR with textbooks and case studies), Vlerick Business School (Belgium) - 37,000 EUR, Mannheim (Germany) - 36,000 EUR, TIAS (The Netherlands) - 37,500 EUR, Rotterdam School of Management (The Netherlands) - 44,500 EUR.

Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants not only save you money, but they also bring you prestige. Especially if they are merit-based and are awarded to you because of your outstanding academic achievements, GMAT score, leadership or entrepreneurial potential, social commitments, etc. Some opportunities are targeted at applicants from specific countries, regions, or gender. For example, the Forté Foundation provides grants for women to pursue MBA degrees at over 40 top international business schools. To date the foundation has provided

Nearly 68 million USD to more than 3,000 Forté Fellows - women pursuing a full-time, part-time or executive MBA education

Yes, you should make an additional effort during your preparation for MBA application, but it will certainly pay back. For example, the average GMAT score of Forté Foundation grant recipients is on the rise and for the 2016 class it is 701, compared to 698 a year ago. If you manage to take advantage of all financial aid opportunities for which you are eligible, you can cover close to 100% of your MBA related expenses and get your MBA for free. The investment in GMAT preparation and admissions consulting (if needed) can buy you a free ride in business school.

The experts of Poets and Quants have calculated that about 30 of

The 25 top-ranked [US] business schools are handing out nearly $230 million in MBA scholarships a year.

Of course quoting just a bulk amount does not help you. So, let us see what stands behind these millions. The average amount of a scholarship ranges between 12,000 USD and 35,000 USD. The portion of students who were awarded a scholarship ranges from 27% to the really impressive 94%. Almost half of the researched schools provided scholarships to over 50% of their MBA students.

European business schools also provide generous financial aid.

The IE Foundation offers more than 60 types of scholarships in addition to different IE Fellowship Awards. Scholarship and fellowship criteria are based on merit and economic need. Every year about 40% of all IE Master Degree candidates receive some financial assistance.

INSEAD offers an impressive number of scholarship opportunities and applicants can apply for up to five scholarships for which they may be eligible.

These are just a few examples. Make sure that you research all financial aid opportunities and prepare well so that you can be among the winners. For many prospective MBA applicants, availability of scholarships is an essential factor in school selection. The good news is that the money is available. Winning a scholarship is up to you.

Employer sponsorship

Let us see how to pay less for your MBA with some support from your employer. The 2014 Prospective Students Survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reports that 14% of MBA prospects plan to use employer sponsorship to support their studies. Employer support is much more likely for part-time MBA formats such as the Executive MBA, part-time MBA, modular MBA and distance MBA programmes. In this way the supported employee can keep working for the company and furthermore will be expected to start contributing their newly acquired knowledge, skills and connections to their job immediately.

So, if you see your career progressing in your current company, check out whether you can apply for sponsorship. Sponsorship is binding. It usually obliges the employee to continue working for the company for a certain number of years after MBA graduation and/or pay back part of the investment the company made in the studies. Well, in some cases this seems actually like a good deal because you will have a stable job for several years ahead.

Many big international companies have a corporate policy on developing their key talented managers to gain an MBA degree. However, be advised that it may take several years before you become eligible for sponsorship from your employer, so conduct your research well in advance.

Local, online and part-time MBA programmes

The idea behind opting for local or online MBA programmes is that you can save on travel and living expenses in another country. Well, if you live in an already expensive location (such as Paris, London, New York or Moscow) and go to a more affordable city even for a full-time MBA, you can also save on living expenses. But if you opt for a local MBA you will certainly keep your standard of living and not have additional spending.

It is a bit tricky with online programmes because some of them are actually delivered in a ‘blended format’. This means that you will actually be required to attend some classes and networking events on campus. Naturally, this will imply travel costs. Accommodation for your stays on campus can be covered by the tuition fee in some cases. However, make sure you check carefully in advance.

Another piece of good news is that online programmes are still cheaper than full-time programmes. For example, the tuition fee for the Online MBA of the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University (USA) is 45,000 USD for three semesters compared to 118,300 USD for their two-year full-time MBA. The Kelley School of Business (USA) Online MBA charges 66,300 USD for the full programme (51 credit hours) which also includes two Kelly Connect Weeks on campus. Compare this to their Full-time MBA which will cost you 88,920 USD tuition for 2 years plus 142,000 USD for other expenses (travel, living and additional fees).

The IE (Spain) world top-ranked Online Global MBA (15 months, blended format with 20% face-to-face, 80% online study) requires 43,200 EUR for tuition, compared to the full-time one-year MBA which costs 61,900 EUR.

Part-time programmes will place less pressure on your budget, because they take longer to complete and payment is spread over time. In addition, you can also keep working and earn to pay for your education.

How to pay less for your MBA?

You really have a good number of options on which you can capitalise in order to pay less for your MBA. All the time for research and preparation for the GMAT, essays, etc. will certainly be time well invested as it can buy you over 100,000 USD or even a free MBA. Research all options carefully, prepare well and make the most of your MBA application.

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