How Will I Fund My MBA Abroad?

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Determining how to pay for your international MBA degree is often more nerve-racking than waiting for your acceptance letter. Cameron Stevens of Prodigy Finance shares the financial obstacles he faced as an MBA student and weighs in on promising options, such as savings, scholarships, and loans.

Funding was my top concern when I joined INSEAD’s MBA programme in France. After many conversations with fellow international classmates, we all agreed that funding our education was more difficult than getting into INSEAD, which was mind-boggling! Perhaps that is why how to pay for an MBA remains the most concerning aspect and obstacle for international MBA applicants.

The four best ways to finance your MBA

If you are dedicated to researching options and filling out applications, you can find the funds you need to complete an MBA program abroad in four different ways.

1. Use your savings to fund your MBA.

This is a necessary but scarce option for many students. Whether you have your own savings or get financial support from loved ones, the amount usually covers just a fraction of the total cost. That cost could be US$73,062 per year for tuition alone, according to current figures from top US schools like Stanford Graduate School of Business. Many graduate business applicants don’t have the financial means to save enough before pursuing an international degree.

2. Explore sponsorships with companies that pay for an MBA.

MBA sponsorship is an amazing way to get an MBA for free—if you are a valued employee at your current company. Receiving a sponsorship from your current employer also frees you from the financial burden of securing a loan to pay for your international business master’s degree. However, sponsorships also have a downside. Since most companies require at least a 2-year commitment after graduation, sponsorships don’t make sense if you’re not thriving in that company or industry. If you see your MBA abroad experience as an opportunity to change professions or pursue network opportunities elsewhere, a self-funded degree is your best fit.

3. Use scholarships and fellowships to pay for business school.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of available scholarships or fellowships to help fund your MBA abroad. Fellowships are similar to scholarships in that they are awarded through grant money that does not have to be repaid. From Australia to Zimbabwe, institutions and foundations in many countries offer scholarships and fellowships based on merit and need. There are also more scholarship opportunities for minorities and underrepresented students, such as the Forté Foundation for women considering MBAs and opportunities for LGBTQ students. Additionally, Global Scholarships for International Students is a popular database for scholarships available worldwide.

4. Let MBA loans supplement your tuition costs.

Although private loans are a viable MBA cost solution, access is unfortunately an issue. More than 80 percent of MBA candidates can’t get loans because they have no credit history in the country where they’ll study, they lack the assets they need for collateral, or they live in a country without stable student loan programs or where banks are reluctant to risk lending to students studying abroad. Many banks worldwide are structured nationally, so they grapple with lending internationally.

For example, if you were born in San Francisco and accepted to Stanford, you have many financing options. If you’re from Ghana or Indonesia, your access to funds is totally different because of structural financial issues that have nothing to do with you personally. This is a problem that’s fundamentally unfair.

Prodigy Finance was created to address these issues. After my experience of being denied a bank loan after I was accepted into INSEAD’s MBA programme, I was convinced that a more accessible option—with no co-signers or collateral required—would appeal to applicants. Prodigy uses a borderless process that assesses students on their future earning potential, not just their credit history. It is backed by a community of investors looking to have a social impact that also offers a financial return.

More MBA programs, more funding options

Business schools worldwide have recently expanded to include master’s degree programs in disciplines such as cyber security, information technology, and supply chain management. Since these newer options attract a younger student demographic with less in their savings accounts, the demand for financing and funding an MBA is greater than ever.

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